What is God Telling Us?

What didn't the disciples understand?

Jim Allen

The display of worry on the hearts of believers today is revealing. America's tomorrow is rooted in dependence on worldly provision with the promise of many unknowns. While the wealthy layer themselves in blankets of gold and silver, the average American struggles to do more with less. For some, investment and retirement portfolios have transformed into essential income. Full-time jobs have transformed into part time work or no work at all. The flow of undocumented workers continues unabated, taking jobs once available to Americans. The woes are indeed many.

Even so, we know about the miracles from the Nazarene who walked the dusty trails of Galilee long ago. Jesus fed the multitudes with baskets left over. When the disciples forgot to take bread on the boat, they became visibly troubled by what they perceived as privation. Jesus, witnessing their anguish, asked how it was possible for them to observe His miracles and remain troubled. He continued by saying they had eyes that did not see, ears that did not hear, and minds that did not remember the miracles performed in their midst (Mark 8:14-18).

Jesus then asked the disciples three probing questions, one of which they could not answer.
"When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?" They (the disciples) said to Him, "Twelve." "Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?" And they said, "Seven." So He said to them, "How is it you do not understand?" (Mark 8:19-21)
What didn't the disciples understand?

The disciples were so inward focused and absorbed in physical need they forgot about the source of all provision standing in their midst. These needful disciples were eye-witnesses to the feeding of the multitudes but apparently unmindful to the miracles as lessons of faith. Jesus saw their anguish over lack of food as unbelief. They were more anxious about food for the body than food for the soul. Jesus was annoyed by their display of "little faith" because they were apparently not getting it.

The disciples should have understood Jesus was their Jehovah Jireh, the God who provides. The disciples knew about manna from heaven given to sustain their ancestors in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35). But they did not understand, believe, or remember Jesus' earlier teachings about His purpose for doing the same. They forgot and sometimes we do too. Everything about Jesus' ministry "in word and deed" was fulfillment of the Old Testament. While Jesus pondered their ineptness, the disciples hadn't even identified the dots, let alone connected them.

While it is true the disciples should have made the connection between God caring for Israel in the wilderness and Jesus having compassion on the hungry multitudes, they didn't. The core truth missed by the disciples was not the bread they forgot to bring onboard, but the Bread of Life standing among them (John 6:48).

So then, did Jesus really expect the disciples to make the connection that He was their Jehovah Jireh? Should they have understood? Would we have understood? Jesus expected the disciples to understand, at a minimum, that if God cared for the multitudes with baskets left over, then surely He would care for them. The disciples' "onboard display of worry" about their lack annoyed Jesus. He had been trying to wean them from dependence on worldly provision to dependence on heavenly riches. Jesus knew that if the disciples could not trust Him for worldly provision then they would never trust Him for spiritual provision (Jeremiah 39:18).

Worry about physical need is real and sensed by people the world over. But needless to say, God is sovereign in all things, keenly aware of our occasional disciple-like faith. Like most, we struggle with the basics in life just to connect the dots. Jesus' expectation of the disciples is no less the same for us. Our God is Jehovah Jireh, the One who has provided, is providing, and will continue to provide for His own.

In closing, anguish in the heart of a believer is like a piercing arrow from the archer's bow. The cracking foundation of our "failing America" is producing thoughts of dread. The list of woes in America is like a howling wind pounding on the roof of the soul, quenching its inner peace. Anguish, like fear, is a brutal adversary that does not belong in the heart of a believer (Psalm 46:10-11).

Unlike the disciples who lost their peace over lack, we need not. We have eyes to see, ears to hear, and minds to remember the miracles performed then and today. Jesus is standing in our midst. He is our peace, provider, and refuge (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 91). We need not distress over the cares of this world.

Let the wealthy trust in their silver and gold and discover, when it is too late, these gods of shining beauty and worldly value have no power to save them. As for you and me, our trust is in the one who made the silver and gold, the God of our salvation (Colossians 1:16; Isaiah 12:2).

Photo Credit: S. Edgar

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Published 8-12-13