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 8:14-21
You know, I think I’m pretty spiritual, until I am in a different environment, away from my usual routines. A couple of weeks ago, I went to California to help my dad and stepmother, Mom C, while she was in the hospital.
I had good intentions of doing all kinds of great stuff while I was there. I planned to text friends and encourage them in my free time. I found myself reading a book instead. I planned to get on the computer in the evenings and work on the church newsletter, but slid into the comfort of watching TV with my dad. I wanted to have good conversations with people there, and sometimes said what they wanted to hear, instead of sticking to my convictions.
It was good for me to be reminded how hard it can be to stay kingdom minded. Right now I can sympathize more with sisters who live with unbelieving husbands, people who work all day in a worldly atmosphere, and others in challenging circumstances.
I say all this because I think that being kingdom minded is what this passage in Mark is all about. Jesus had one way of thinking. His disciples had another.
The disciples cared about food. Jesus cared about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod — the effect of false teachings and hypocritical lives. He knew that Satan was always working, trying to get people away from a pure heart and faith. Later in the chapter he rebuked Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he told his disciples, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?”
Being kingdom minded means being more concerned about the soul than the body. It’s realizing what is really important.
The second thing that impresses me about this passage is that Jesus was so confident that God was going to take care of him. It wasn’t even on his radar to make sure and take along bread. He wasn’t at all worried that they only had one loaf. He had great certainty that God would provide for their needs.
Being kingdom minded really is the conviction that if we seek the kingdom first, we don’t have to worry about our physical needs. (Matt 6:33)
This was a great thing to be studying while I was in California. I remembered it when I felt like I was getting a UTI, and instead of freaking out, I just kept on going and trusting in God. I remembered it when Mom C was about to be sent to the rehab center and we didn’t know what that would be like. I told her, “God’s taken care of you this far, and he’s going to keep on doing it,” and we went forward.
I remembered it when I got with my friend Ashley. Now that was a serendipity! I happened to text her before I came to California, and mentioned that I would be in San Diego. She responded, “I am there too!” It turned out that she was doing one of her medical school rotations at the children’s hospital there.
So Ashley and I got together for dinner. I shared with her about this verse, and how it can give us confidence that God will provide for our futures. For her, that means that when she graduates, God will lead her to just the right residency and just the right church where she can have great spiritual relationships. For me, it means that God will lead me to the best way to use my time in the future, something I’ve been praying about a lot.
And here is the best breakthrough I had about how God takes care of us. My father and I had a very nice time visiting and talking. One conversation we had was about how he provided child support for me after my parents divorced when I was eight. He said that the agreement was that instead of paying just a flat monthly amount, he would pay a lower regular amount and then pay for everything I needed — clothes, my flute, my braces, etc. As I thought about this, I realized that this is how my father has shown his love to me over the years. He lived in one state and I lived in another, so I saw him twice a year and talked on the phone, but it didn’t feel like he was involved in my life as much. But he was pouring out his love for me by providing for me. Realizing that made me feel so warm inside because for all those years I had just taken for granted that my needs had been taken care of. I hadn’t really seen the love behind it.
And my greatest insight was seeing that God is the same way. He loves me like a father, by providing for my needs. I am feeling more loved by God!
The third thing I see about the passage is that Jesus seriously expects his followers to be kingdom minded. He totally got onto his disciples for not understanding what he was saying about the yeast of the Pharisees.
That always seemed harsh to me. But then I remembered what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? . . . pagans run after those things.” (Matt 6:25, 31) That’s a strong statement. It means that when his disciples had tunnel vision about the bread, they were acting like pagans, like base unbelievers!
What about us? Do we have tunnel vision too? Where is it focused? On our job, achievements, home, security, relationships, leisure pursuits or retirement? On politics or issues?
This verse came to me last week: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” What a scary verse! It implies that most believers aren’t going to make it to heaven. For those of us with faith, the bad influences of the world are always working on us. Satan is using all these things to leech away our faith and convictions. He doesn’t have to come up with a fancy new weapon to use against us. He can just rely on the influence of the stuff all around us!
We probably don’t even see it happening. That’s what is so scary about the story of the disciples and the loaf of bread. They were oblivious. Surely that’s why Jesus was sharp with them.
Jesus knows that it is essential for us to continuously fight for our heart, mind and soul!
“There is a battle we have to face every single day. There are weapons we have to pick up and be ready to defend ourselves with — every single day. To live in this world and not allow ourselves to be bullied and enticed by a mindset that is not biblical, we have to be seriously engaged, and seriously on our guard.” (Lisa Chan, “You and Me Together)
And that is what was a little clearer to me when I was in California. It would have been so easy to give into the comfort and let God drift to the back burner. I had to really push myself to be even a little kingdom minded.
Yet I am so glad I did, because doing so gave me the greatest rewards. You know, like the disciples, we think we need the bread of the world. But what we really need is to look to God, who provides the richest fare — things that are good, satisfying and meaningful.
Here are a few ways God fed my soul. I woke at 4:30 AM, which was what my body was used to in my time zone, and the Spirit whispered encouraging truths to me as I lay in bed. I had one of the best visits ever with my parents, with many good one-on-one conversations. I got with Ashley. I saw prayers being answered. I took a walk and discovered God’s beauty.
After I returned, Mom C wrote on a Facebook, “Kat,your visit with us has been wonderful! I so enjoyed the times that you and I had together, especially the spiritual moments. I think we have created yet another bond.”
Let’s take the leap, a hundred times a day, away from our needs and worries, into God’s arms. He WILL provide. He will take care of us. Only HE can be our sufficiency, our source, our answer.
It’s hard. It’s a battle. But it is worth it.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Matt. 5:6