Pastor’s Weekly Message 13th June 2021
“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? And don’t you remember?’” Mark 8:17-18
There are some very stark and challenging questions contained within our Bible reading for today’s service. If these questions were aimed at the Pharisees or Teachers of the Law, then we might more easily dismiss them as irrelevant to us. But they are aimed at Jesus’ disciples, at those who had given up everything to follow him.
Firstly, Jesus was amazed at their lack of understanding of his words. He had warned them of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod, i.e. of their faithless teaching and their opposition to Jesus. Yeast was commonly used in the Old Testament as a symbol for evil, most notably in the Passover Festival which they celebrated every year, so it should have been a familiar metaphor to them. Yet, somehow they completely missed the point and thought that Jesus was bemoaning their lack of physical bread – despite having twice seen him feed thousands of people with just a few loaves! They did what we can also be guilty of – grasping at an immediate explanation, however ludicrous, rather than doing the hard work of thinking through teachings we don’t at first understand.
Then Jesus asked some even harder questions: “Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” A hardened heart was a terrible thing. Pharaoh’s heart was hardened through unbelief and ruthless self-centredness, and so he stood opposed to God and his purposes for his people. Similarly, Isaiah used the image of dulled ears and blinded eyes to describe those of his day who had abandoned their faith in the true God and were merely following empty rituals. Likewise, the Pharisees’ hearts were hardened against Jesus and his claims to be the Messiah, and Jesus applied Isaiah’s words to them. But, at this moment, it seems that Jesus was warning his disciples that they were also at risk of becoming like the Jewish leaders in their unbelief, if they could not or would not make the necessary connections between what they experienced with Jesus and the new situations they faced.
Yet, we can so easily slip into the same pattern of failing to recall the lessons we have learnt time and again of God’ faithfulness to fulfil all his promises to us. We can so easily look at the situations around us and let our fears govern our responses rather than choosing to trust in God. We can so easily skim over the harder passages of Scripture to understand (or avoid reading them altogether), rather than wrestling with them in prayer and / or in discussion with others. We can so easily fall in with the beliefs and practices of the world around us for fear of standing out for Jesus. God calls us, rather, to invest time and energy in growing in our knowledge and love of God, such that we bear fruit in every good work, and such that Christ is formed in us more and more day by day (see Colossians 1:9-12; Galatians 4:19). I encourage you, as I encourage myself, let this be our primary focus in our lives no matter what life throws at us.
My love to you all.
Trinity Bexleyheath is made up of a growing diverse group of Christians of all ages gathered from across the borough of Bexley, Kent. We want to be a genuine family of enthusiastic worshippers who are passionate about the truth and relevance of the Bible. We desire to live out the Bible's message in authentic Christian lifestyles, representing and proclaiming the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world around us.
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