Mark – God is On Our Side
Nothing deflates your spirit more than when we give multiple explanations in different ways to our kids, showing and telling them why they should do what we have asked them to do, and their response is “Huh?” After a deep sigh, we naturally raise our voice as we tell them again…for emphasis. Their response? “What are you mad?” They still don’t get it.
So, it is not too hard for us as parents, teachers and leaders to understand Jesus when He “sighed deeply in his spirit”. We’ve been there. We take heart, though, as parents and teachers because even Jesus had a hard time getting people to understand the deeper meaning of Who God is and what He wants. God is on our side! Get that, first. Love Him back with all our hearts, minds and souls. Only then will we begin to “get it”. When we believe, trust and obey, we discover we don’t need a “sign” that tells us God is on our side.
Mark 8, NLT
Pharisees Demand a Miraculous Sign
11 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.
Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod
14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. 15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.
First, let’s take a deeper look at the previous miracle of feeding four thousand men and their families just before this conversation. Twelve baskets of fragments were left over after the five thousand were fed, but only seven baskets after the four thousand were fed. There were even two different lands of baskets used: for the five thousand, small wicker lunch baskets (kophinos), for the four thousand, large hampers, big enough to hold a man (spuris, see Acts 9:25).
Once again, we are encouraged by our Lord’s compassion and His complete control over the situation. However, we are discouraged by the blindness and unbelief of the disciples. Had they completely forgotten the previous miracle? Let’s not be too hard on them. How many times have we forgotten the mercies of the Lord? We need to remind ourselves that Jesus Christ is still the same and has the solution to every problem. All we need do is trust Him, give Him our all, and obey.
Jesus and the disciples crossed to the western side of the Sea of Galilee, where they were met by the Pharisees who were still angry at Him because of His earlier indictment of their hypocrisy (Mark 7:1–23). This time they tempted Him to prove His divine authority by giving them a sign from heaven. They did not want an earthly miracle, such as the healing of a sick person. They wanted Him to do something spectacular, like bring fire from heaven or bread from heaven (John 6:30–31). This would prove He was indeed sent from God.
Our Lord’s response was one of deep grief and disappointment (see Mark 7:34). How tragic that the religious leaders of God’s chosen people should be so hardhearted and spiritually blind! Their desire for a sign from heaven was but another evidence of their unbelief, for faith does not ask for signs. True faith takes God at His Word and is satisfied with the inward witness of the Spirit.
Jesus left them and crossed to the east side of the Sea of Galilee, and en route taught His disciples an important spiritual lesson. It appears that they were almost as blind as the Pharisees! The men were having a private discussion about their food supply, because somebody had forgotten to pack bread. Who was to blame?
It must have grieved Jesus that His hand-picked helpers were so spiritually obtuse. The fact that He had multiplied bread on two occasions and fed over ten thousand people had apparently made little impression on them! Why worry and argue over one loaf of bread when you have Jesus in the boat with you? Their minds were dull, their hearts were hard (see Mark 6:52), their eyes were blind, and their ears were deaf (see Mark 4:11–12).
God’s people often have a tendency to forget His blessings (Ps. 103:1–2). He meets our needs, but then when the next problem arises, we complain or become frightened. As long as we are with Him, we can be sure He will care for us. It would do us all good to pause occasionally and remind ourselves of His goodness and faithfulness.
But the main lesson had to do with leaven (yeast) and not with bread. In the Bible, leaven is consistently a symbol of evil. Each Passover season, the Jews had to remove all leaven from their dwellings (Ex. 12:18–20), and leaven was not allowed with the offerings (Ex. 23:18; 34:25; Lev. 2:11; 6:17). Evil, like leaven, is small and hidden, but it spreads and soon infects the whole (Gal. 5:9).
The Bible uses leaven as a picture of false doctrine (Gal. 5:1–9), unjudged sin in the church (1 Cor. 5), and hypocrisy (Luke 12:1). In this context, Jesus warned them about the teaching (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and the followers of Herod. The Pharisees “said but they did not”; in other words, they practiced and encouraged hypocrisy (note Mark 7:6). The Herodians were a worldly group who catered to Herod, accepted the Roman way of life, and saw in Herod and his rule the promised kingdom for the Jewish nation. If this false teaching got into the hearts and minds of the disciples, it would infect them and pollute the truth Jesus had given them to proclaim about Himself and His kingdom.
We can never be too careful about detecting and avoiding false doctrine. Only a small deviation from the Word may get into an individual or a church, but before long it will grow and infect everything. Our Lord did not often say “Beware!” but when He did, it was important!
Listen to God. Ask for clarity. Don’t assume. Dig deeper. Ask God what HE wants for HE is on our side.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for ways to go deeper into your word so we won’t become dull and worse yet, polluted by the “yeast” of deceit that can worm it’s way into Your Truth. Thank you for Your Word that is Truth. Thank you for be patient with us as we learn to “get it”. May we continue to be teachable. I pray I can avoid your deep sigh when I don’t get it, but I know you will help me understand when I ask. I love you, Lord with all my heart, mind and soul. Thank you for all you have done, are doing and will do in my life so that I can be all you intended for me to be. I’m not there yet, but with your help I am farther than I was yesterday. Continue to transform me.
In Jesus Name, Amen