A few weeks ago I lost my cellphone. Instant panic. I couldn’t call people and they couldn’t call me. Besides, my entire phone directory as well as my calendar were gone. My mind raced trying to remember where I have left it. All other agenda was shelved as I scurried around trying to find the phone that has become such a centerpiece in my life. The many lessons I’ve heard and taught about trust flew right out the window, as I dedicated myself to retrieving the phone.
I take comfort in today’s gospel story when I read that Jesus’ disciples were just like me. Jesus had just delivered two of his most powerful messages on the Kingdom of God and was extending this teaching as they rode together in a boat. Where do you think the minds of the disciples were? No, it wasn’t on Jesus, nor was it on cellphones ; it was on food (Mark 8:14-21).
“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Jesus enjoined them, ‘Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’ They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread.”
Jesus had just multiplied bread twice. Why did he do this? Was he just trying to feed the hungry or was there some greater message involved? Surely the disciples were wondering about this. Sadly, they weren’t. They were preoccupied with lunch. How could one loaf of bread feed their entire group? Whose fault was it that there was almost no food? Why didn’t one of them think to bring one of the extra baskets of bread fragments from the last miracle? They forgot about Jesus’ teaching, and focused on food. So when Jesus brought up the leaven analogy, they assumed he was just as upset over the food problem as they were.
Jesus then backed up his lesson plan with important review.
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Twelve” (and) “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
He must have felt discouraged. The leaven he was warning them against had already invaded their systems. They were so preoccupied with the things of earth that they no longer thought about the things of God
Did they ever wonder why Jesus was so wasteful? It made sense to work a miracle that fed the multitude, but it made no sense to overdo it and have so much left over—twelve baskets, then seven. Was there a point to this?
Sure there was. The perfect numbers indicated that the new era had begun, and the old was fading away. “Twelve” and “Seven” indicated that the age of fulfillment had arrived. God was visiting the earth in a spectacular way. It was a day to shift from focusing on what preoccupies the minds of religious and civil authorities, and get caught up in what preoccupies the mind of God. Man-made systems were collapsing; God was now taking charge. Seeing that his chosen ones got something to eat was not his top priority, even though he would arrange for it (did any of the disciples die of hunger?).
Jesus was hoping they were catching on to what God was doing—that they were beginning to understand about the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. All the incidentals would be taken care of if they sought first his Kingdom. They failed the “trust” test. They quickly went back to relying on themselves instead of the providence of God. Even though Jesus sat right in their midst, they didn’t know how to turn to him, seek his wisdom, and put their trust in him.
Are we blushing? What are the things preoccupying our minds? Cellphones, food, money, family problems, health benefits? What happened to the lessons we’ve been taught on “Kingdom thinking” which gives us one rule—trust in God who even takes care of lilies and sparrows?
So, here we go again. We join the disciples in repenting and reminding ourselves of the “12-7” lesson. We live in the age of the Holy Spirit! We are daughters and sons of God! Would the Father ever forget to care even for the smallest needs of his children? “Jesus, forgive us; teach us to practice living a life of trust.”
“For the Lord will not cast off his people, nor abandon his inheritance” (Psalm 94:14).