Written by Rachel Denison
I was reading in Mark 8 one morning, and my heart was suddenly struck. I had just read through several stories of Jesus’ miraculous provision for his people – stories of healings, miracles and deliverance – stories that will knock your socks off truth be told, if you’ll actually believe them. In the context of said heart-striking passage the disciples had been walking side-by-side with Jesus and seen these recent miracles first-hand, i.e. Jesus feeding the five thousand and later another four thousand.
Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:14-21 ESV)
Now, for this blog I had to call upon my trusty father-in-law for some Bible interp. Dr. Denison essentially explained to me that leaven in the New Testament often symbolizes moral impurity, sin, corrupt teaching or doctrine, hypocrisy or influence. Jesus is warning his disciples from the get-go that they’re coming dangerously close to unbelief after just leaving an encounter with the Pharisee’s in verses 11-13 where they demand Jesus for a sign from heaven to test him. Like I said earlier, this comes right after seeing Jesus feed FOUR THOUSAND people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.
No wonder Jesus came at them with so many questions: “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember. . . Do you not yet understand?”
To be completely honest, as much as I want to disdain the disciples for this insanity, my heart looks a lot like theirs did. I cannot begin to even recount to you all the ways God has been faithful in my life. His provision, loyalty, healing and guidance have not once failed me. And yet, I am easily set into a similar state of panic as if I only have one loaf of bread while the King who multiplies in my time of need sits before me. Perhaps I need to begin to actually, thoughtfully recount all the ways he has been faithful to me. Jesus calls his people to remember. Through remembrance our hard hearts will be softened and we will begin to understand.
The leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod is still alive and well in our world today. Those particular people may no longer exist, but their spirit and influence are still as pervasive as ever in our churches and our culture. “Watch out,” he says to us. “Beware.” If we are not careful, we will become just as dangerously close to unbelief as those who were closest to him.
I need to take time today and when seemingly desperate times come my way to remember the miraculous provision of my Jesus. God has been urging his people toward this sacred act for ages. And he has perfect peace for us today because this truth does not change. He has us. He is limitless. He is a God of miracles. And he will always be faithful. May our hearts be free of leaven as we fully believe this God at his word and track record. All we need sometimes is a little reminding.
“Then take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” –Deuteronomy 6:12