When they arrived, the Pharisees came out and started in on him, badgering him to prove himself, pushing him up against the wall. Provoked, he said, “Why does this generation clamor for miraculous guarantees? If I have anything to say about it, you’ll not get so much as a hint of a guarantee.”
He then left them, got back in the boat, and headed for the other side. But the disciples forgot to pack a lunch. Except for a single loaf of bread, there wasn’t a crumb in the boat. Jesus warned, “Be very careful. Keep a sharp eye out for the contaminating yeast of Pharisees and the followers of Herod.”
Meanwhile, the disciples were finding fault with each other because they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus overheard and said, “Why are you fussing because you forgot bread? Don’t you see the point of all this? Don’t you get it at all? Remember the five loaves I broke for the five thousand? How many baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
They said, “Twelve.”
“And the seven loaves for the four thousand—how many bags full of leftovers did you get?”
He said, “Do you still not get it?”
They arrived at Bethsaida. Some people brought a sightless man and begged Jesus to give him a healing touch. Taking him by the hand, he led him out of the village. He put spit in the man’s eyes, laid hands on him, and asked, “Do you see anything?”
He looked up. “I see men. They look like walking trees.” So Jesus laid hands on his eyes again. The man looked hard and realized that he had recovered perfect sight, saw everything in bright, twenty-twenty focus. Jesus sent him straight home, telling him, “Don’t enter the village.”
“Do you still not get?”
During this section of the story I have written a bit about grace, truth, and time. It seems like that what we’ve seen mostly is Jesus extending grace and time. Yet, here we see the truth part.
The disciples are so worried about their bellies and the issue of bread that they are missing out on the more important teaching that Jesus wants them to understand.
The Pharisees and religious scholars are cynical. They do not trust, not even their own eyes. They only see and hear what they want to see and hear. If what Jesus says and does fits their narrative then they are in alignment with him, if it challenges their presuppositions and power then he’s wrong. This is what cynicism does. It undercuts our ability to enter in with others at any kind of depth. Cynicism erodes trust, faith, and hope.
This was the yeast of the Pharisees. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand how infectious the disease of cynicism is. You can catch it too easy and when you do, it’s almost impossible to get rid of.
But they couldn’t hear it.
They were worried about their daily bread.
Their concern was with the immediate.
Jesus will eventually teach his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” When we pray this we are acknowledging our need and the reality that God will provide for that need. This prayer was not taught by an upper middle class pastor from the comfort of her suburban home. No, this was taught by a poor, traveling, Jewish rabbi who existed on the fringes of his community. This was taught in a time when daily bread was a real concern. Yet, Jesus needed his disciples to understand that there was more to life than the finite need for daily bread. He needed them to learn to trust him.
Cynicism leaves us in a place like the blind man. We see dimly through it as though through a fog. Faith, trust, and hope make things clear and we can see the world as it truly is.
I am going to be thinking about two questions today. The first, where am I cynical? If I can identify that, then I will be able to see the areas of my life where trust, faith, and hope are eroding. Then I can intentionally seek to trust God in the midst of those areas. Second, how am I more concerned about my belly, my finite need for daily bread, than I am about the deeper things that bring about a flourishing life?
Perhaps those questions resonate with you. Maybe they don’t. But, nonetheless, let us together move beyond the finite need of the moment and embrace a deeper sense of the infinite game that we are part of.