MUSINGS – October 23 2018


Mark 8:14-21
The disciples had forgotten to take any bread along and had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus warned them, “Be careful! Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod!” They had been discussing with one another that they didn’t have any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying and asked them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you catch on? Are your minds closed? Are you blind and deaf? Don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets did you fill with leftover pieces?” They told him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many large baskets did you fill with leftover pieces?” They answered him, “Seven.” He asked them, “Don’t you catch on yet?”

There it’s something surreal about this story. There is a lot of talk about bread that isn’t really about bread at all. Unfortunately the disciples take it took literally.

Yeast or leaven throughout the old and new testaments is a symbol of sin. Modern bakers use yeast to make the bread rise. In ancient times most bread was what we would call sour dough.

My mother would make sour dough bread. Before you could make the bread, you first had to make the starter. Mom called the starter Herman I don’t know why, but it was Herman. This was done by mixing flour and water (no yeast) and letting it sit at room temperature for a day or so. It would start to ferment as yeast and bacteria in the air began to digest the dough and produce carbon dioxide bubbles within it. Herman would need to be fed with new flour for several days until the entire dough was full of the bubbles and spongy. Finally a small portion of the fermented dough could be added to fresh flour and water. Then the dough could be seasoned, shaped, and baked. The remainder of Herman would continue to be fed until she was ready to bake more bread.
The key is that you only need to add a very small amount of fermented dough to make new dough rise. (Leaven/yeast is basically old, fermented dough that is placed in new dough to make it rise. The key is that you only need to add a very small amount of fermented dough to make new dough rise. (Gal 5:9) describes this saying, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

So Jesus was warning his disciples to avoid the sin of the religious and political leaders, as in Luke 20:45-47 “Beware of the scribes! They like to walk around in long robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces, to have the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at dinners. They rob widows by taking their houses and then say long prayers to make themselves look good. The scribes will receive the most severe punishment.” However, the disciples completely missed the point and think that Jesus is actually upset because they set out on this trip with only a single loaf of bread.

He asks then to recall the two times he has fed thousands with just a few loaves. He asks then to think of the excessive abunance leftover. And even then they still miss the point.

How frustrated Jesus was when he said to his disciples, “Are you blind and deaf?” How frustrated he must still be when, those who called themselves by his name, begin to act smug in their supposed righteousness while behaving like the Pharisees if old.

Are you blind and deaf?

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All content (except quotations) © 2018 Thomas E. Williams

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