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Tony's Reflection 68
What is your favourite cooking aroma? You come into the kitchen and the gorgeous smell instantly arrests you and makes you feel hungry, no matter how recently you last ate?
One of the most mouthwatering has to be the scent of freshly baked bread, or puff pastry.
Of course, without yeast, this would never happen. Bread would be flat and dry and puff pastry stodgy and lifeless. The ancient Egyptians knew all about yeast making bread and pastry rise, but they didn’t understand the food science behind it. They thought bread rising was a miracle from the gods.
The science, though, isn’t very appealing. Yeast is a living organism. When you add it to dough or pastry mix, it feeds on the sugars. To use scientific language, the yeast produces carbon dioxide gas as a biproduct and that causes the dough or pastry to rise. So it is yeast flatulence that causes the “miracle” of rising. Having read that piece of science, I don’t think I will smell rising bread in the same way, ever again. The old Egyptian explanation seems far more attractive.
Jesus is talking about yeast in this week’s episode from Mark (
), but this is not a lesson in domestic science…
We left off where Jesus has just fed the crowd of 4000 men (women and children were not counted, it seems).
He left the scene by boat, with the Twelve disciples. The buzz of excitement on board that boat was immense. The disciples can hardly believe what they have just seen. Food appearing out of nothing – and Jesus has now done this not once, but twice.
As they come ashore, the disciples are still full of laughter and amazement, as they tell each other once again stories about the astonishment they have just seen in the crowd, as that astounding miracle unfolded. The people thought they were there for teaching. They had got a whole lot more than they expected, hadn’t they?
The balloon is burst for the disciples, the moment they catch sight of the “welcome party” waiting for Jesus.
The exuberance is silenced.
It’s the Pharisees. They have come in force. A proper theological hit squad. They are here to put Jesus to rights. He was causing quite a stir, that was beyond doubt. But that was among the common rabble. What did they know about true religion, anyway? Very little, as far as the Pharisees were concerned. No, they were the experts and they were going to well and truly vet this Galilean rabble-rouser.
Jesus had no formal education at all. He was just a carpenter. He had never been to any of the fancy theology schools Pharisees went to. What credentials did Jesus have, then?
Of course, the Pharisees would generously overlook his lack of proper religious schooling, if Jesus would perform a miraculous sign, there and then, in front of them and for all to see.
If he really were something special from God, this would not be a problem.
“Come on Jesus, just call down some fire from heaven. Go for a stroll on the water. Maybe go for a fly along the shoreline. Anything. Just show us you really have got God’s power in you.”
Jesus had, of course, just done one of the most spectacular miracles ever. But that was for people in need, it wasn’t just to prove a point to cynics, on demand.
Jesus is crestfallen. If only these Pharisees had eyes to see what was really going on around them.
“Why do you always ask for a sign?” he sighed. He turns and leaves. The disciples follow him into the boat. There is nothing more that can be said.
Jesus is heartbroken that these Pharisees who are so zealous for God just don’t get, or won’t get, what he is doing. He unburdens himself to the Twelve, there in the boat.
“Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Herodians,” he says. Mark has just shown us the Pharisees. The Herodians (followers of the Herod who had executed John the Baptist) were a worldly bunch. Like the Pharisees, they wanted God’s kingdom, but on their terms. Their unbelief made them blind to God’s kingdom breaking in through Jesus’ teaching and miracles. Just as yeast permeates a whole batch of dough, this unbelief of the Pharisees and Herodians could permeate through Jesus’ disciples, too, if they don’t watch out.
The disciples pick up that Jesus is seriously rattled, but they don’t get why. The mention of yeast makes them think of bread. They put two and two together and get five. Of course, Jesus is fed up because they have forgotten to bring enough bread with them.
Jesus can’t believe how dimwitted they are. He has just fed thousands of people out of thin air… twice! Why would someone who could do that ever need to worry about lack of bread?
Here he is, trying to warn the Twelve against hardhearted unbelief - and they don’t believe in him either.
The Pharisees had drawn a sad, resigned sigh from Jesus. This latest lack of faith from his disciples drives him to despair. He lets loose with a tirade of questions. Don’t they remember how much bread was left after those miracles? Why would he (or they) have to worry about having enough bread? Do they really still not get who he is or what he can do?
Unbelief and unnecessary worry, especially among his followers, is what upsets and bewilders Jesus the most. Do we not understand who he is and what he can do?