When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
12 When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” 13 So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake.
14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat.15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread.17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in?18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’[a] Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
21 “Don’t you understand yet?”he asked them. – Mark 8:11-21
I suspect Jesus knew the answer to the question he asked his disciples, “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?”
Perhaps it goes something like this:
“Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? A: Because we’re getting hungry and don’t know how we’re going to fee ourselves – not to mention this crowd. They’re probably hungry as well. And we don’t want to presume upon you to do another miracle.
Do you not yet perceive or understand? A: What do you mean understand? We understand pretty well. We’ve just explained why we were discussing our current situation. We perceive and understand pretty well, as far as we’re concerned. It seems pretty simple to us.
Are your hearts hardened? A: Not sure why you would accuse us of having hardened hearts. We’re on your side, remember. We’re not challenging you at every turn. We’re not scheming to get you killed. We’re not trying to discredit you in front of the people. We’re following you. We’re your guys.
Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? A: We have hears. And we have heard. And we know you’re referring to the prophet Isaiah. But he was speaking of those proud people who want no part of you and your ways. They, not us, are unable to see what’s right in front of them or hear the truth you speak.
And do you not remember?” A: Remember what?
Precisely. Remember what? What was to remember? We might remember what God has done in the past, but that’s no guarantee of his future actions. What’s more, it’s very dangerous to suggest to the One who sees the hearts and knows the minds of men that we are more knowledgable than we really might be.
The better discussion would have been, “How is Jesus going to deal with this situation?” Or how about, “Wonder whether Jesus is trying to teach us something about the importance of bread. There is something in Deuteronomy about man not living by bread alone. Is this a lesson about that? Wonder how Jesus is going to deal with this situation.”
Perhaps we are to ask these questions of ourselves even as we read this account. We know how it ends. But therein may lie the problem. Because we know how the story unfolds and how Jesus feeds the multitude, we can easily dismiss these questions as only a record of what Jesus said, and miss their point in being reported to us.
Let’s sit with the disciples. Let’s listen to Jesus’ questions. Let’s see if he has something to say to us. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be stronger in faith, and more dedicated to his ways by doing so.