The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8, verses 14-21.
“So you ride yourselves over the fields and you make all your animal deals and your wise men don’t know how it feels to be thick as a brick.” Those are lyrics from an old song by Jethro Tull. Now Jethro Tull’s front man, Ian Anderson, would probably say the song is about art and that we each should interpret it as we would. Me, I see that, while the song isn’t about the Disciples of Jesus, those last four words could definitely describe them. They really do seem to be thick as a brick.
Except that they probably weren’t. They were just typical. The Disciples? They’re you and me, baby!
Think about it: Jesus is saying this cryptic thing talking about yeast and the Disciples are thinking about food already. It only makes sense that they would grasp the obvious instead of the eternal. Jesus is talking about pride, talking about God’s blessings of abundance, talking about how He will provide despite our sinful attitudes and the Disciples are thinking Panera Bread. Would we be any different? Doubtful.
Jesus is harsh: He really is. He’s up-in-their-face-confronting-their-ignorance harsh. To those who favor the touchy-feely lovey dovey kind of Jesus, here’s your splash of cold water. Face it: this is a harsh world and sometimes harsh rebuke is appropriate, especially where there are bigger matters concerned. Notice, though, that, once again, Jesus is harsh with His friends but He doesn’t demean them. He doesn’t belittle them or make them look small. Instead, He confronts them, He reminds them of the self-proving miracles He performed (and in which they participated), and He puts the question to them: “do you still not understand?”
Well, do you?
I’ll admit it: I sometimes don’t. In fact, I usually don’t. In more ways than a good Christian man should have to honestly confess, I’ve been around the block. I’m worldly, street-wise in many things, experienced in too many venal and mortal sins, and I’ve been a damned dirty dog in way too many ways. Sadly, I’m thick as a brick. Cue Jethro Tull.
Jesus could have been talking to me, asking me yet again, “do you still not understand, Dave?” If you look in the mirror, I’m betting you’ll have to admit He could be talking to you as well. Or Ian Anderson; any of us, in fact. So what are we going to do about that? Perhaps the better question ought to be “what did Jesus do about that?”
Jesus, forgive my stupid self. Forgive my thickness and how I turn from Your ways and Your understanding. Teach me anew today.
Read Mark 8, verses 22-26.