Jesus arrived at a new town ready for more ministry. For three days he was with people who were like Mary. They sat at his feet, so to speak, soaking up what he said. It would seem that the Pharisees had not come to that place. Perhaps it was too desolate for their tastes. Surely those moments were pleasant and refreshing for Jesus. That crowd received spiritual and physical food from Jesus. The time came, though, for him to leave that region and with that we come to verse 11.
11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.” 13 And he left them, got into the boat again, and went to the other side. (Mark 8:11-13–ESV)
Back to the grind
No sooner had Jesus arrived at the next village or town than the Pharisees met him. They did not come not to sit at the feet of Jesus, but to test and trap. Their style was not one of inquiry and learning, but one of arguing and tempting. The testing of the Pharisees was one of ill-intent.
The first Trump-Clinton debate occurred this past week and the closing shot on Clinton’s part was more of a trap. It dealt with Alicia Machado. Mrs. Clinton laid a trap to fire Trump’s rhetoric for Ms. Machado is Latina. In short she won the 1996 Miss Universe title, but when she, as an 18 year old gained a bit of weight Trump publicly applied some very hurtful nicknames: Miss eating machine and Miss piggy. The trap that Clinton hoped would spring did. Shortly after the debates, early the next morning, there began a prolonged Twitter tirade that would churn a negative news cycle around Trump. It worked.
This is the type of approach that the Pharisees were laying around Jesus. They wanted to trap him. That was the grind that Jesus returned to, but the schemes of the Pharisees fell short, and he discarded them. Jesus did not perform for the Pharisees, but did feel their motivations, and they hurt. The hungry were fed by Jesus to meet their needs, but those same abilities would not be fodder for the Pharisees ill-intent. In effect he said, “No. I will not give you a sign” and left.
Jesus left but did not forget the Pharisees
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” 16 And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. 17 And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:14-21–ESV)
Leaven might be a weird word; it is yeast. Yeast spreads through bread dough and through fermenting causes the bread to rise.
Bread is made better by using yeast, but yeast’s effect on bread was not Jesus’ point. His point was that the Herodians and the Pharisees were bringing words and questions into to conversations as traps. Christ had not been derailed but discarded them. The disciples were not Christ, though and they needed to be prepared to avoid falling into future traps.
Donald Trump would do well to take this lesson to heart. He actually would do well to move toward a compassionate heart for what is better subtlety with intrigue or being as wise as a serpent and as gentle as a dove?
What about the disciples on this?
The issue here is that the Pharisees and Herod approached Jesus with ill-motives. They did not want to learn, but rather to lynch. These troublesome leaders were trying to built up a repertoire of pseudo-misdeeds that could then be turned into blows.
The disciples missed the eternal analogies; they were too earthly minded. Jesus, it is interesting to see here, does not seem to explain this. The disciples were already talking among themselves. He drew their minds to their experience say, “It must not be bread because I have in your presence taken care of those needs in rather dramatic fashion. Think more deeply on this.” Hopefully by having drawn them to think differently they would discuss it out among themselves.