They had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. He enjoined them, “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”Mark 8:14-21
Warning Against the Leaven
Sailing on different wavelengths, Jesus and his disciples pulled out to sea. Mark cryptically writes that the disciples had “forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.” Mystically interpreted, the loaf was Christ himself.
Despite witnessing the feasts of loaves and fishes, the disciples remained clueless. Lest they follow the blind Pharisees, who demanded a sign from heaven, Jesus warned them. “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” By leaven, he meant their faithless hypocrisy. But Jesus’ words penetrated no further than the disciples’ stomachs. Famished, they assumed Jesus meant they had no bread.
Do You Still Not Understand?
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?” Jesus asked. Seeking to move them toward spiritual insight, he asked them directly, “Do you not yet understand or comprehend?” Marvel after marvel had passed before their eyes and ears. Yet they failed to grasp their messianic significance.
Jesus jostled their memories. How many baskets of fragments did you pick up from the feasts? he inquired. Twelve and seven, they answered. Universally recognizable to a Jew, the numbers symbolized Israel’s tribes and the Gentile nations (Deuteronomy 7:1).
“Do you still not understand?” Jesus’ question echoed as they headed toward Bethsaida. When they disembark, he will heal a blind man in gradual steps rather than instantly. The image mirrored the slowness of the disciples’ dull hearts.
The Twelve set sail with one loaf of bread:
The Lord Jesus Christ who thousands fed.