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  • Writer's pictureTin-lok Pong

Jesus Rebukes the Folly of His Disciples

Reverend Hong

Translated by Allan Liang


Mark 8:11-13 Jesus led his disciples throughout the cities and villages of Galilee, casting out demons and healing illnesses along the way, as well as preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God. Jesus fed even great multitudes of people, on one occasion feeding 5000 people with 5 pieces of bread and on another, feeding 4000 people with 7 pieces of bread, leaving behind 12 baskets and 7 crates of leftovers as testimony. Yet the Pharisees who saw these miracles remained opposed to the teachings of Jesus, demanding that he perform another miracle from heaven for them to see. Jesus knew of the deceit in their temptations and refused their demands of unbelief, and taking his disciples with him, left by boat for Bethsaida. If we think that the disciples who followed Jesus, seeing the prideful unbelief of the Pharisees, shook their heads in astonishment and sighed, we would be greatly mistaken. In actuality, these disciples did not know too much more than the Pharisees on matters of truth. It is possible that some of them actually felt sympathy towards the demands of the Pharisees for miraculous signs, and silently harbored dissatisfaction towards Jesus’ refusal of their demands. Others may have thought that Jesus ought to have performed a miracle in order to cut down the pride of the Pharisees and promote his own fame. Though the disciples may have had different perspectives, they were disappointed that Jesus refused the demands of the Pharisees for a miraculous sign. In their hurry, they even forgot to bring along with them bread, miserably boarding the boat with Jesus. Evidently, though the disciples followed Jesus physically, their hearts were closer to the Pharisees. Jesus knew the thoughts of the disciples, giving them this warning: “Be careful...Watch Out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” The mention of yeast here by Jesus reminds us of the exodus of the Israelites, during which God established the Feast of Unleavened Bread (bread made without yeast). The use of the word “yeast” in all the Bible aside from one positive instance (Mathew 13:33), is negative all other times. The word “yeast” describes the pervasive influence of sin and evil. Here, Jesus pointed out “the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod”, which in the corresponding account found in Mathew is interpreted as “the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Mathew 16:12). As we would find natural, these disciples did not understand the words of Jesus. They did not ask Jesus, but rather exchanged their ignorance with one another, attempting to resolve the problem themselves, coming ultimately to the conclusion that Jesus rebuked them because they “didn’t bring any bread”. But what importance lay in having “no bread”? Did they forget the miracle that Jesus had just performed earlier where they “ate breast to their contentment”? What relationship exists between not having material bread and the “yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod”? These disciples lived with Jesus day and night, listened to his teachings each day, saw with their very own eyes the multitude of miracles that Jesus performed, yet were in such state as to be blind to the true difference between the “teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees” and the teachings of Jesus. How great was their blindness! Hence, we see why Jesus rebuked seven times the folly and blindness of the disciples. Dear brothers and sisters, please meditate upon the content of this scriptural passage, reflecting upon the following: In the midst of the pandemic, we may be exceptionally careful in our efforts to protect ourselves from the virus, but are we vigilant in the spirit, having warned to “Be careful...Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod”? Do we think that we are already Christians and because we actively participate in various church gatherings, pray and read the Bible, we must necessarily be followers of Christ? If this is so, then the disciples of Jesus at the time could count more so as followers of Christ. The crux of the matter is that if we are not cautious of the “yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod” as well as its method of spreading in the modern age, we will not know the effect of such “yeast”, and the destructive effect it may have on our understanding of God’s Word. Let us pray together: may God give us his truth and wisdom, so that we may see through the wiles of Satan, and be protected from the lies of this age - the self-exalting ideologies, thoughts and theories of this age - so that we may forever follow Christ. May God help us so that we “do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] minds,... able to test and approve what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

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