“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.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”” (Mark 8:19–21, ESV)
One thing that you cannot miss as you read through the “Case of the Forgotten Bread,” is Jesus’ emphasis on the fact that the disciples do not understand. He barrages them with a host of questions all related to comprehension:
- Do you not yet perceive or understand?
- Are your hearts hardened? [TEV translates this: Are your minds so dull?]
- Having eyes do you not see?
- Having ears do you not hear?
- Do you not remember?
- When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?
- And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you pick up?
- Do you not yet understand?
Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I can figure out that Jesus is saying, “You guys are missing what you should be seeing!”
[Short rabbit trail: Is this not yet another instance proving the veracity of these gospel accounts? This gospel was written by Mark working under the authority of Peter (according to tradition). Do you think Peter would have written how dull the disciples were if it weren’t true? Nor do I.]
This seems to be the heart of what Mark is getting at in relating this story. Bob Utley in his Bible study guide puts it this way:
This entire context of Mark reveals how hard it was for “friend and foe” to comprehend Jesus’ radically new message. His disciples, His family, His hometown, the crowds, and the religious leaders all did not have spiritual eyes or ears!
F. F. Bruce comments here: “For the time the Twelve are way-side hearers, with hearts like a beaten path, into which the higher truths cannot sink so as to germinate”
Jesus simply did not meet the expectations of anyone with whom he came into contact. He was always, as it were, upsetting whatever apple cart lay directly in front of him without regard to family, friend, or foe. This must have been quite disconcerting to everyone involved. [except for Jesus himself]
As I study this passage it makes me wonder where/how I am like the disciples. What assumptions am I making about Jesus and his work that are incorrect? Where am I not understanding his life and work? Where are my expectations upset by the reality of Jesus himself?
If nothing else, this passage should humble us. If the disciples who saw Jesus’ miracles and heard his teaching day after day were misunderstanding him, then it is quite conceivable that my own carefully crafted theological positions might be wrong also.
We should always be prepared for God to crash into our lives and change what we thought we knew about him. If there is anything that the life of the disciples should teach us, it should be that.