In Mark 8:11-21, the Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
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 basketfulls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfulls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
As a former teacher of youth (and currently all ages), I can understand the frustration of students not “getting it”. Even when you ask them about the topic, or something they experienced and they respond with the correct answer, and still don’t get it, it becomes frustrating.
The disciples thought Jesus was upset about their forgetting of bread. But if they had remembered with glad hearts the TWO times that Jesus fed the thousands, and how many leftovers they had each time, then they should know that the lack of bread was the least of Jesus’ concerns. He wasn’t upset at them, but at the Pharisees.
When the Pharisees had asked for a sign from Heaven, Jesus “sighed deeply”. This is a sign of being agitated. The appropriated, added response today would be, “really?” Jesus had been doing nothing but performing signs from Heaven. His reputation was all about His signs (this was not His intention though); Jesus’ miracles were supposed to show people who He is. Jesus IS that sign from Heaven. His signs, miracles and words were supposed to reveal this to them, especially those who studied the Scripture. For example, I’m guessing that everybody pretty much knows who Santa is, right? Well, maybe you’ve seen it, maybe not, but there’s a car commercial on TV where one of the salespeople looks TOTALLY like Santa. I believe last year they had him play it off like he didn’t know what everybody was talking about. This year he sort of jokes about it with people in a way where you’re not sure if he gets it or not. But either way, the point is that he looks exactly like what we would expect Santa to look like. The only difference is he’s wearing modern-day clothing like the rest of us…no red and white suit. He doesn’t even talk like we would expect Santa to talk, but yet, when we look at him, we see nothing but Santa. He could be wearing anything, and just looking at him we would think “Santa”. Why? Because all our lives we’ve grown up with a Santa figure in our homes, in the stores, from stories we heard about him, background information about who the real guy may have been (or was), etc. So when we see somebody who looks so remotely close to what he’s supposed to look like, we recognize it as him.
Similarly, the Jews, Teachers of Religious Law and the Pharisees were supposed to have been preparing for the Messiah’s arrival. They were supposed to have read and studied the scriptures that point to the Messiah, the signs He’ll perform, the things He’ll do, etc. and therefore recognize Him when He arrives. They’ve got their noses in the scriptures all the time! There should have been no reason for them not to recognize Him. But for some reason, they actually didn’t. In fact, not only did they not recognize Him, but they accused Him of being a phony and plotted His destruction. Understand, if ANYBODY was to recognize the Messiah, it would be them. But they didn’t. And so when they came and asked for a sign, Jesus let out a big sigh of agitation. ‘Really? A sign? Have you still not figured it out? Do you still reject Me? You of all people…’ (I also find it interesting how some people thought that Jesus was Elijah, and were now asking for a sign, because if Jesus was Elijah, then they would all soon be scorched).
Watch out for their yeast.
- Don’t be tempted by their tests
- Yeast = rises up the dough (“puffs up”)
Don’t allow their yeast to cause you to become “Puffed Up”. (Such happened later to the believers in the Corinthian church. It soon led to divisions and other sins. Also with the Galatians, they insisted that others either assimilate to their ways and beliefs or they’d be rejected).
When challenged with a backdrop of doubt, you may want to prove yourself. But don’t, for it’s just a trap.
- It takes your focus off God and onto yourself
- If they want to believe, they will (by means of the Holy Spirit). If not already, then it’s not your fault for their disbelief.
- Focus on self = sin and leads to pride
- Those who ask for proof won’t even believe if given it (Atheists are good examples of this)
And so Jesus was no doubt still agitated when He got into the boat.