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Beware the Yeast



I didn’t start this post with sourdough in mind, but I just got done fretting over the sourdough starter I put together yesterday. It’s not acting very lively, and I’m afraid the cold snap and our drafty windows have something to do with it.

Anyway, what I did have in mind this morning was a story fro Mark 8. I was struck by this story in a new way this morning. Allow me the liberty of retelling this ridiculous, and yet telling, story for you:

Setting: Jesus has been teaching 4,000 men and their families for three long days. Thinking about how hungry they must all be and how they still have a long journey home ahead of them, Jesus produces enough food for the people plus an additional seven basketfuls of food out of seven loaves of bread and a few fish. He sends the people on their way and he and his disciples travel by boat to the region of Dalmanutha.

Upon arriving in Dalmanutha, a group of Pharisees swarm around Jesus.
“I don’t think you’re really the Messiah who was to come,” one of them sneers at Jesus. “If you really are what you say you are, send a sign from heaven.”
The other Pharisees nod in agreement, snickering to each other.
Jesus sighs wearily and says, more to himself than to the Pharisees, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? Well, I tell you what, they are just going to be disappointed. Let’s go,” he says, turning to his disciples.
They climb back into the boat and cross again.
“Shoot.” James looks at Peter. “We forgot bread. There’s one loaf here…” he pulls a stale loaf out of a cloth bag in a corner of the boat.
The disciples all stare at the loaf longingly. Andrew’s stomach begins to growl.
“Be careful.” Jesus interrupts their contemplation of the bread. He’s watching them carefully, and he glances once at the loaf James is holding. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. And that of Herod.”
James looks at the hard loaf of bread in his hands.
“What’s he mean?” John asks.
Peter takes the loaf of bread from James and turns it over, thoughtfully. “Did we get this from the same place that the Pharisees buy their bread? Or did someone make it for us?”
A few disciples shrug. No one says anything.
“Well, if no one knows whether this came from the same shop that the Pharisees buy bread at, how can we eat it?” Peter growls angrily. He darts glances at each of the disciples in turn. Suddenly, he pulls his arm back and hurls the loaf of bread into the sea. It makes a small splash and then bobbles on the top of the water, a small lump in the distance.
James sighs and rubs his stomach. “Well, I guess we don’t have to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees now, with that loaf gone. Now we have no bread.”
Jesus had been staring off toward land, not participating in the conversation. Now he turned to the disciples. “Why are you still talking about having no bread? Did anything I just said have to do with bread? Moreover, are you really afraid of starving to death? With me? Have you seen nothing I’ve done?” Jesus is obviously exasperated, his expression almost pained.
Philip raises his eyebrows and mutters to Thaddaeus, “What’s eating him? I didn’t think he got so crabby when he was hungry.”
“Don’t you remember? Just a few weeks ago, when I broke up the five loaves for the five thousand men and their families, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve!” John says, confidently.
“Yes…” Jesus says slowly, coaxingly. “And yesterday. When I broke up the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Oh! Seven!” Peter shouts with a smile.
“Exactly.” Jesus stares hard at Peter, like the matter is decided. He meets the eyes of each disciple, and then he turns his eyes out of the boat and toward the shore.
A few minutes pass, and the disciples wait, watching Jesus.
“I’m still hungry,” James whispers to Philip.
“Me too. But we need to be careful when we land not to buy the same bread that the Pharisees buy,” Philip whispers back, urgently.
A few disciples nod their agreement.
Jesus sighs and shakes his head, still looking toward shore. As the disciples look at him and then at each other, Jesus murmurs, “Do you still not understand?”

Thanks for indulging my reflection on Mark 8. Maybe that was helpful to you too, but I have a sneaking suspicion that re-write was more for me than for anyone. How often does God show his faithfulness to me, show me what he can and will do on my behalf, and I still don’t understand?

To be honest, very often. Every time I’m confronted with a new challenge (really, any change to the tried and true security of my routine and way of life) I balk and question how it will work, how we’ll make ends meet. And I ask, how, how, how? But God is faithful. Jesus Christ is who he says he is. He can do what he says he can do. And he loves us the way he says he does. God is trustworthy.

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