Monday, April 09, 2012

120409 - Mark 07-08 - Takin' my burden to the Lord and "leaven" it there

Monday SOAP: Jesus knew that what He taught the disciples would be handed down. (Matthew 28:20) So all of His words are full of meaning, even... or maybe especially... those you don't hear many sermons about. I have the choice: make His doctrine my practice, or mix it with the arrogance and hypocrisy of conventional wisdom.


S: Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:14-21)

O: Repeatedly the disciples show their spiritual insensitivity to Christ's teaching. (And it's because they were slow to understand that we receive the clarified instruction here!) In this case, He warns them against partaking of something related to Herod and the Pharisees and they assume He is warning them about taking no bread from them. In the parallel account in Matthew 16, it explains that He meant the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, not literal bread. But what about the way Jesus corrected them. What did it mean for Him to remind them of His feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand?

A: Some people relate this to the numerical significance of their answer. The number 7 is said to indicate perfection (in the sense of completeness) in a spiritual sense. (It's not always perfection in a morally righteous sense, as is seen in the fact that the great red dragon in Revelation 12:3 has seven heads.) The number 12 is said to indicate perfection in a governmental sense. So to remind them that perfect government can only come from a perfect spiritual source, Jesus insured that the return from His miracles in giving daily bread to the people resulted in numbers specifically symbolizing government made perfect through spiritual perfection.

And that could be another level of meaning for the disciples. I think the primary meaning, though, for them and for all disciples of Christ, is that we ought to look to Him for our supply, without presuming we have to make up for what we lack through reliance on tradition (like the Pharisees) or pragmatism or political expediency (like the Sadducees and Herodians).

We're taught that God is faithful who calls us, and "also will do it" (1 Thessalonians 5:24). We're told that "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32) We are encouraged to ask our Father in heaven for our daily bread, (Matthew 6:9-11), to ask persistently and expectantly (Luke 11:5-13). Yet, while I believe all this, how often do I work and plan as if it is to be, it is up to me? Do I rely exclusively on my relationships, the grapevine and political connections... the "good ol' boy" system" to get things done? If so, I will be limited to what they can get done. Do I rely on my own brain-power, talent or elbow-grease? I'm limited to what only I can get done. Do I rely on time-tested programs? I can't expect to do better than them.... and all of these things come up short of bread at the end of the day when the 12,000 people come asking for it.

Jesus Himself is the Bread of Life. If I could completely trust in Him for my every little need, I believe I'd say with David, "I shall not want," for nothing is impossible with God. My trouble is, I keep finding "leaven" in my own life. Actually what I find is that "leaven" everything completely up to Him such a hard thing to do! Why is that? Is it because I have this picture of my stewardships as a delegation: He handles the "big" things and I handle the "small" ones? Is it because if He doesn't come through I'll find it that much harder to continue to believe on Him? Or is it just because I still have so much pragmatism in my thinking? If a carnal solution has "worked" for me before, I might be inclined to just try it again rather than seeking the Lord on it (See Joshua 9:14).

But doesn't that limit me to carnal results? Five loaves would feed five people, not five THOUSAND, with twelve baskets left over. Seven loaves would feed seven people, not four thousand with seven left over.

Gamaliel was the one who said, “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing” (Acts 5:38) If my plan, if my work, has its origin in the will of man or the will of the flesh, it equals a big, fat zero. In fact, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength, And whose heart turns away from the LORD.” (Jeremiah 17:5)

That's because another way to characterize operation by conventional wisdom is to call it what Jesus did: hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1) It gives the appearance of results without actual results, and it alienates the believer from God.

On the other hand, Gamaliel also said, “but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it--lest you even be found to fight against God.” (Acts 5:39). If God is my source, my labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)

P: Father, how I need your wisdom and power. Even more than I realize. Protect me, divert me from my habit of trusting in mankind, in making flesh my strength. Let what brings you joy be my strength instead.

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