The Bread and the Yeast – Mark 8

During His time in the gentle region, there was another large gathering which caused Jesus to have compassion over the people. Again due to the remoteness of the place, there was no way to feed everyone who had gathered. Jesus asked His disciples to gather up all the bread and fish that they could find and gave thanks for them and told them to distribute among the people. They were about four thousand people present that day who were fed as a result of this miracle but the hearts of the disciples seemed to become more and more calloused as they witnessed Jesus miracles. After feeding the people both earthly and heavenly bread, Jesus got into a boat with His disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. Now that He was back in the Jewish region, the Pharisees resumed tailing His every move.

The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven.

Mark 8:11

Surely the Pharisees would have heard of the countless miracles Jesus was doing in the lives of the people in the countryside. However, no amount of healings and miracles was ever going to convince them. Jesus knew their hearts and their intentions and did not humour them by performing any parlour tricks in front of them. Rather, He rebuked them as their hearts were hardened to the extent that they could not see the very Messiah that they had preached their entire lives about.

He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”

Mark 8:12

He could never win them over, as, if He had performed a miracle or given them a sign that they had asked for, they would label Him as one in cahoots with evil spirits or criticize Him for breaking their traditions for the umpteenth time. Jesus was gaining followers every day as crowds drew to Him because of the various signs He performed. But the Pharisees treated Him as an amateur magician and kept asking Him for a new magic trick. Are we in the same position, do we only believe Him when we see signs? Jesus labels the Pharisees and the people demanding science as a wicked and adulterous generation to whom no sign would be given (Matthew 16:4).

Beware of the Yeast

After this, Jesus got into a boat and crossed over to the other side. During their trip, the disciples suddenly realized that they had brought only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. Just then Jesus started warning them about the yeast, which once again, the disciples misconstrued to mean something completely different.

“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

Mark 8:15

The disciples were perplexed, and rather than asking Jesus about the meaning of His warning, started discussing amongst themselves that would be of no benefit to anyone. They thought this is a review from Jesus because they have again forgotten to bring bread along for the trip. While Jesus was revealing the secrets of heaven to them, the disciples were busy focusing on their stomachs. 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?”

Mark 8:17-18

Seeing the line of questioning of the Pharisees and how they had already made up their minds, Jesus wanted to educate His disciples so that they don’t waste time with such people after He’s gone. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted control of the people and both saw Jesus’ inclusive message as a threat to their goal. They sought to divide the people by splitting them up on grounds of religion, region, tribe and so on. Just like the yeast mixes up with the bread and makes its way through the whole batch, these Pharisees and Herodians were making their way through the minds of the people and corrupting them with their ideas.

Loaf of Leavened Bread

During the annual festival of the feast of the unleavened bread, the Jewish remember that exodus and the days in the desert eating manna. In memoriam, they would eat only unleavened bread for 30 days and would even clean their house for the minute traces of yeast, lest it should make its way into their daily bread. With such dedication, they knew how to separate themselves from the yeast, the tiniest quantity of which could corrupt their entire batch of bread, but were not wise to the ways of the Pharisees and Herodians, and allowed them to enter in their fellowships without realizing the repercussions of their associations with them.

The Messiah at Work

After reaching Bethsaida, some people brought a blind man to Jesus begging for His healing touch. Jesus took the man outside of the village and in a similar fashion in which he healed the deaf man, he spat on the man’s eyes and asked him what he saw.

Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

Mark 8:23

The man could not see clearly but said that he saw people who looked like trees walking around. Again Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes and when this time his eyes were opened, his sight was also restored to him as he saw everything clearly.

Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

Mark 8:26

The time had not come for Jesus to reveal His identity and perhaps that is the reason why He took this man away from the crowds before giving him his sight. Usually, the receivers of Jesus’ miracles were impatient people just begging to spill their guts out to anyone who would hear them. But what we must understand is that if Jesus asks us to remain quiet we must sincerely obey Him and wait for His instructions rather than throwing a wrench in His plans.

The Path of the Cross

When Jesus was alone with His disciples, He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” when the disciples promptly narrated back all the theories of the people where some thought He was John the Baptist, others saying that He was Elijah reincarnated. But Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought.

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark 8:29-30

Seeing their faith, Jesus began to teach them many things about His path to the cross. He told them that he must suffer a great deal and be rejected by the elders, the chief priest and the teachers of the law only to be killed by them. He also told them that He would rise again just three days after His death. At this, Peter, who had just called Jesus the Messiah, didn’t listen to his master’s words but wanted to take the opportunity to show how affectionate he was to Him. No matter what our intention is, if we do not listen to Jesus’ words, we are indirectly obeying satan’s instructions. By rebuking Jesus and trying to become a hindrance in the Path to the Cross, Peter faced another sharp rebuke himself when Jesus compared him to satan.

“Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Mark 8:33

Sometimes our words are totally divorced from our actions. One moment Peter is calling Jesus the Messiah and in another, Jesus is calling him satan because of his priority for human concerns. Peter was only saying the words which he thought Jesus wanted to hear when he called Him the Messiah. And when rebuking Jesus he thought he was showing his love for Him as he was not going to stand for anyone killing Him. What we need to realise is that everything we have and will have we owe to God. There is nothing that we can offer Him except our obedient hearts.

Jesus calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him. He does not ask us to leave our cross behind but bring it along with us. During Roman times, the punishment for a grave crime was to be hung on the cross. Everyone who saw the lifeless body hanging on that piece of wood would know the sinful life that that person had led. The cross represents our sinful life, our temptations, our desires to do evil, everything that we think separates us from God. But Jesus took not just a few but all our sins and died for them on the cross. If we wait to leave our sinful ways and then follow God, that day will never come. God is not calling us as perfect human beings but as sinful people who are completely dependent on Him.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Jesus warn His disciples against the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod?
  • Why did Jesus take the blind man away from the village before healing him?
  • Why does Jesus call Peter satan?


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