Artist: Timothy Walsh
- Vito Baldini
The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.
Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." They said to one another, "It is because we have no
bread." And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to 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 collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
- Mark 8:11-21
The Pharisees are adamant: they demand a sign from heaven. But they’re not really looking for a sign - they’re looking for an argument. After all, their teaching, power and authority are being questioned. Jesus tells them no sign will be given to this generation and the story transitions to the disciples.
On a boat, the disciples realize they have only one loaf of bread. Jesus is on the boat, too, and had just miraculously fed more than 5,000 people, as well as more than 4,000 in the previous chapter. It seems like the disciples would have started to see that something was up, something was different. As you can tell by Jesus’ response, they haven’t. They are so focused on their material wellbeing that they fail to see what is happening beneath the surface. Jesus’ miraculous provision is only the beginning of what he would and will do in this world.
We can identify with both of these groups in different ways. The Pharisees want to shine a spotlight on what’s wrong with Jesus, because they certainly don’t want it shining on themselves. We do this too, don’t we? We try to justify our thoughts and actions by telling ourselves the problem is ‘out there,’ or ‘in that person.’ We are so concerned with what everyone else is doing that we never take a look at ourselves.
Then we have the disciples, who are so focused on external issues that they seem oblivious to the real issues at hand. We’ve been there. We want to fix the surface stuff, not the stuff that’s down deep. If we could just drink less, not sleep around, stop looking at porn, get a better job, exercise more, eat better ... then we’d be good, happy, healthy. We focus so heavily on all the outside things, things that cannot fix us.
Jesus is inviting us into a much fuller, and more honest life. We’re called to stop placing blame on others, and look deep within - past the surface. Oftentimes it takes a ‘dark night of the soul’ to drive us to this place - but even then, we need to choose to do the work. We need to turn the spotlight on ourselves, dive deep, and gain an understanding of our true identity and what it means to know, follow and rest in Jesus.
Will you stop making excuses and blaming the world around you? Will you stop looking for easy, external fixes to try to feel whole? Finally, will you stop focusing on the surface issues of your life, and dive deep to see what God wants to show to you in the darker corners of yourself?
This is an excerpt from our 2015 Lent & Easter Prayerbook. To download your free copy click here.
Vito holds a Masters of Divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary and serves as the Mercy Ministry Director for Liberti Church Center/Main Line. He loves to fly fish and camp with his wife, Amrah. They have two rabbits, Jr. and Hazel, and live in Philadelphia.
TJ Walsh received his BFA Graphic Design/Painting, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia. TJ is currently obtaining his MA in Counseling Psychology at Eastern University. Walsh has written on the topics of art, culture, faith & mental health. His work has been exhibited and published internationally. See more from TJ on his website.