Recently, I decided to buy a nice sour dough loaf from one of the local cafes. To my surprise the person serving asked me which sourdough would I like. Because, you see, they had several options. It was like a whole new world of sourdough was opening up to me.
A key part of the bread making is letting the bread rise, and letting it prove. And what makes it rise, is yeast. The yeast, just a tea spoon or two of it, will change the dough from being a flat lump of scone into a soft airy delicious loaf of bread.
In Mark chapter 8, Jesus uses the metaphor of yeast in bread to teach us about the nature of unbelief. He wants to show us what the influence of just a little bit of unbelief can have on us.
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 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? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
The disciples had forgotten to pack lunch and they’re out on the boat in the open water. So when Jesus starts talking about bread and yeast they miss his point. They think Jesus is blaming them for not bringing enough food. Rather, Jesus is using this moment to teach them something. Jesus is revealing what is going on in their hearts.
The Pharisees and Herod weren’t exactly two peas in a pod. But they did have one thing in common. The Pharisees and Herod didn’t like Jesus. And so the point that Jesus makes here, is that their leaven can spread. A lack of trust in Jesus, even just a little bit, can work it’s way through us like yeast in bread. It can have an huge influence in us. Just a little bit do a whole lot of damage to a person.
Instead of being full of joy. Rejoicing that they are with Jesus, they are distracted and discontented about their lunch.
They are full of anxiety at not having enough food with them for the journey.
And so, what does Jesus do?
He leads them away from their grumbling stomachs, to see their spiritual condition. That the yeast has been spreading. He brings them to remember what he has already done for them. He’s already fed them before. He’s already done amazing miracles in their midst, feeding miracles no less. They hadn’t missed out or gone hungry. In other words, Jesus wants them to remember and to believe. He wants them to trust in him, and know that he has the resources to meet their need. Jesus has and is all that we need.