In Mark 8:11-21, we read that the Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. So to test Him, they asked for a sign from Heaven. But when they asked this, Jesus sighed deeply, and then responded by asking, “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. While in the boat, the disciples realized that they’d forgotten to bring bread (except for 1 loaf, which was already in the boat). Jesus said, “Be careful. Watch out for the Pharisees’ yeast and that of Herod.” The disciples didn’t understand, and thought that Jesus was upset at them for forgetting to bring bread. But Jesus, aware of their discussion, asked “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? Don’t you remember when I broke the loaves for the 5,000 and had 12 baskets of leftovers, or the 4000 people and had 7 basketfuls of leftovers? Do you still not understand?”
As a teacher of youth (and adults, too), I can understand the frustration of students who sometimes just don’t seem to “get it”. Even when you ask them about the topic or something they’d experienced and they respond with the correct answer, sometimes they still don’t get it, and it becomes frustrating.
The 12 thought Jesus was upset about their forgetting of bread. But if they’d remembered with glad hearts the TWO (2) times that Jesus fed the thousands, and how many leftovers they had each time, then they should have known that the lack of bread was the least of Jesus’ concerns.
Keep in mind, Jesus NOT upset at His 12, but at the Pharisees. Notice that when they asked for a sign from Heaven, Jesus “sighed deeply.” This is a sign of being agitated. The appropriate, added response today would be, “Really?” or “Seriously?”
Jesus had been doing nothing but performing signs from Heaven; His reputation was all about His signs (though not His intention). His miracles were supposed to show people who He is. Jesus IS that sign from Heaven. But instead, everybody saw Him simply as a miracle-worker. So Jesus was no doubt agitated by the Pharisees, and still so when He got into the boat. So now, when He tries to warn His disciples about such a trap and those who set it, they’re completely lost about what Jesus is talking about…frustrating indeed.
- What sort of sign from Heaven do you suppose Jesus could have performed that would’ve caused the Pharisees to actually and finally believe?
- Why do you suppose Jesus mentioned Herod in the mix of those whose yeast they should avoid? How were Herod and the Pharisees similar?
- After experiencing the feeding of the 9000+ (total) and mega-leftovers, why do you suppose the disciples were worried about not having bread with them? How could they forget so quickly?
- The hardening of Jesus’ disciples’ hearts seems to be a big issue among them. Think of and give some examples of times when your heart was hardened. How did Jesus soften it up, or what did He use to chip away at the stone?