Friday, October 05, 2018

Devotional: The “Leaven” of Unbelief, Mark 8:11-21

Mark 8.11-22 outline

The next passage (8:11-21) is a critical hinge passage, along with 8:22-9:1, to conclude the previous section, in which Jesus provides the signs that the promised King and God’s Kingdom were then present, but also records the misunderstanding and rejection of these signs by the Jewish leadership and most of the people. It then introduces the next section of Mark (8:22-10:52) in which Jesus will explicitly reveal himself to the disciples as the Son of God and Messiah, but correct their misconceptions of what that means. The big point is that the Jewish leadership’s unbelief and lack of openness to what God is doing through Jesus will permeate their lives, like yeast in dough, and cause them to miss God’s blessing. He calls the disciples, and us, to really look at what Jesus has done, exercise discernment and follow him, even though, it will mean a cross, persecution and difficulty before resurrection, blessing and victory.

We see the “leaven of the Pharisees” in 8:11-13. They ask Jesus for a “sign from heaven” to prove who he was. You might be asking, “What else does he have to do?” This guy has already defeated demons, healed many kinds of disease, calmed the chaos of nature and raised the dead, but the Pharisees were looking for a sign that would have validated their own agenda for what a Messiah should do. They wanted God on their terms, not God’s terms. Thus, they repeated the sin of Eden, Babel, and that of the majority of Israelites throughout their rebellious history. With sadness, Jesus refused their request. They would get a great sign, the cross and resurrection, but God would not give them the kind of sign they wanted. At this point, Jesus “left them,” “gave them up (Romans 1.24, 26, 28), and left their country.

On the way across the lake, Jesus warns the disciples not to make the same mistake as the Pharisees. He calls them to watch carefully and discern what God is doing through him. They should not allow their preconceptions of who God is and what they thought he must do cloud their discernment about what Jesus is doing right in front of their eyes. The new greater than Moses was there revealing God’s Presence and offering life in a way that had never happened before. To understand God and what He was doing in the world would require ears that really hear what Jesus is saying and eyes that really see what Jesus is doing.

This is what Jesus calls us to do as we experience him in the Gospel of Mark. Look at what Jesus does. Listen to what Jesus says. Then let go of your own agenda. Let go of your own striving to please God in your own power. Trust him to provide the daily bread of life and follow him no matter where he leads.

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