A Demand for a Sign
(Mark 8.11-13; Luke 12.54-56)
1 The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tried to test him by asking for a sign from heaven. 2He told them:
If the sky is red in the evening, you say the weather will be good. 3But if the sky is red and gloomy in the morning, you say it is going to rain. You can tell what the weather will be like by looking at the sky. But you don't understand what is happening now. 4 You want a sign because you are evil and won't believe! But the only sign you will be given is what happened to Jonah.
Then Jesus left.
The Yeast of the Pharisees
5The disciples had forgotten to bring any bread when they crossed the lake. 6 Jesus then warned them, “Watch out! Guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7The disciples talked this over and said to each other, “He must be saying this because we didn't bring along any bread.”
8Jesus knew what they were thinking and said:
You surely don't have much faith! Why are you talking about not having any bread? 9 Don't you understand? Have you forgotten about the 5,000 people and all those baskets of leftovers from just five loaves of bread? 10 And what about the 4,000 people and all those baskets of leftovers from only seven loaves of bread? 11Don't you know by now that I am not talking to you about bread? Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!
12Finally, the disciples understood that Jesus wasn't talking about the yeast used to make bread, but about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
How can those who spend the most time in the Scriptures or with Jesus miss God’s point altogether? Take the disciples, for instance. Jesus is giving them another lesson about yeast and bread and, not understanding him, they immediately jump to the conclusion that he must be talking in some oblique way about the bread they had forgotten to take with them.
The problem is that they’ve been missing the point all along the way. They didn’t understand Jesus’ lesson in the feeding of the five thousand. They still didn’t get it with the feeding of the four thousand. You can almost hear exasperation in Jesus’ response, “Don’t you know by now that I am not talking to you about bread?” I am your living bread! In me you find all the sustenance to meet your deepest needs. I alone can permanently satisfy your hunger.
Meanwhile, the leading religious teachers also miss the point. Jesus points out that they make better farmers than spiritual leaders. They have no problem predicting weather patterns from the signs in the skies and yet they aren’t able to read the spiritual signs pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah. They don’t understand what is happening in front of them.
Is our spiritual sight clearer than that of the disciples and religious teachers? We have so much knowledge at our fingertips, but we know so much about the wrong things. Do we apply the same intensity of learning to understanding spiritual signs? Do we study his Word thoroughly or trust unreliable teachers to do our study for us? Jeremiah 8:7 and Isaiah 1:3 credit the birds of the heavens, the oxen and donkeys for knowing their times, their place and the rules of the Lord. How much more so should we, who have the Word of God, know the spiritual signs of our time.
Bread of Life, you alone meet my deepest needs. Make me a lifelong student of your Word, your character and your ways, so that I can understand my times and my place. Give me eyes to read the spiritual signs. For the sake of your name, Lord Jesus. Amen.