Daily Devotion 20 November 2020
Mark 8: 14-21 ‘The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod’
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ 16 They said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ They said to him, ‘Twelve.’ 20 ‘And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?’ And they said to him, ‘Seven.’ 21 Then he said to them, ‘Do you not yet understand?’
This piece of Mark’s Gospel never crops up in our usual lectionary system of readings so don’t be surprised if it seems a little unfamiliar. Jesus has fed the 5000 – we remember that one; he has also fed the 4000 – oh yes, that rings a bell; and now it seems the disciples need feeding too – bringing only one loaf with them across the Sea of Galilee. Like a weary parent chiding a small child for forgetting their drink and snack on a family walk, you can imagine Jesus shaking his head in disbelief at the disciples’ lack of thought and preparedness.
Feeding miracles are an important feature in the Gospels and they convey all sorts of meaning. We’d be very much embracing only a partial understanding of them if we only thought of the people’s bellies going from empty to full. Jesus is the living bread, one from whom nourishment is to be received at a far deeper level: life, forgiveness, hope, wisdom, and that near-indefinable word, salvation.
Hungry bellies have become a vexatious issue in our country of late. Economic problems abound, and poverty is increasing. Marcus Rashford’s high profile campaign that children who receive free school meals should be supported in the school holidays has generated great debate. One MP disagreed with Rashford and said: “I do not believe in nationalising children”; the opposing view was expressed by our Emmanuel Patron, Leslie Griffiths, who gave a passionate speech in the House of Lords in October supporting Marcus Rashford’s campaign.
Forget the political party, whether it’s Commons or Lords, footballer or friend – our Christian mission is abundantly clear, and that’s to be on the side of those who are vulnerable, disadvantaged, and in need. Poverty matters, hunger matters, children’s stomachs matter, and you’ll have a very difficult job, in my view, if you try and weave an argument that we as a nation should not be there for people in need. Jesus didn’t only preach God’s kingdom, only teach the scriptures: he fed bodies, healed, and raised. Lives matter to God and they should matter to us, and as easy as it is to make other people’s lives someone else’s problem, perhaps we as God’s people need to spend more time thinking about how other people’s lives can be our concern.
Grant us, God of all, hearts that are open to you and generous to others.
May your kingdom come – through the lives we lead and the love we share. Amen.
Reflection & Prayer © 2020 Paul Tabraham.
Image freely available online.
A printable version of this Daily Devotional can be downloaded from here
All material within this order of worship is reproduced by permission under CCL 1226356