But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear? Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said. “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.– Mark 8:14-21
I think it’s fair to say I would have been among the puzzled in this passage. This has always seemed like a math problem to me, a sort of equation. “Five loaves of bread feeds 5,000 and yields 12 baskets of leftovers, so six loaves should feed…? Anyone? C’mon, guys. We covered this…” Flashback to every high school math class I ever took. Jesus and the loaves, the ultimate of Mr. Dowdy’s Challenge Problems.
Can’t you hear the disciples now?
Andrew, resigned: “This is because we forgot to bring food again.”
Nathaniel, pointing a finger: “It was Peter’s turn!”
James, confused: “Wait…what about that Pharisee’s yeast?”
Huh? Remember all those extra bits to a math word problem that give you pause yet add nothing to the solution. They merely distract from the answer. If John’s hair is green and Mabel has freckles, how many cats does it take to climb a flag pole?
In the two chapters I read today, Mark 7 and 8, Jesus sighed once in each chapter. I have to wonder if another sigh didn’t escape him after this exchange with his disciples. I’m sighing even now.
Because, after all this time, I can see it’s never been an algebra problem. X times Y does not equal Z. This is not about Jesus’ ability to exponentially multiply whatever is given to Him, although He does it all the time. No. It’s about trusting with what you have, surrendering it to Him. It’s about believing your little bit multiplied by God’s omnipotence equals more than enough. In fact, your little bit doesn’t really matter in the material sense. The greatest factor in the equation has always been your heart.