Hearing, But Not Understanding

Mark 8:14-21

I think we have all had those breakthrough moments in life, when that which we have been conditioned to accept as the norm, takes on a totally new meaning.

The disciples where becoming conditioned to the things Jesus was doing. The problem was, they witnessed what he said and did without truly understanding.

These first disciples, as we know, were fishermen. In this story Jesus was with them in a boat as they were plying their trade, when they realized everyone had forgotten to bring food. It was going to be a long, hungry night of fishing.

Just then Jesus spoke saying; “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”

The “listening-but-not-hearing” disciples immediately though he was referring to the bread they had forgotten to bring, but Jesus was using this moment to teach them something.

Firstly, why would he mention the Pharisees and Herod?

Because the Pharisees where the group of people who demanded that every single commandment in the Bible be kept. There were, in total, 613 of these commandments. They even went beyond these commandments to make sure there was no chance of breaking any of them. In their obsession with the letter of the law, they had missed the true intent of the law, namely, to help guide God’s people into meaningful life.

Secondly, Herod and his supporters defiled the Temple service and its intent by defiling it in their collaboration with the Roman oppressors.

So, when the topic of bread comes up, Jesus seizes teachable moment and the disciples blow it. They miss the entire point.

It appears as though Jesus loses it for a moment. His impatience causes tension in the boat: “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?”

I am pretty sure there was total silence in the boat at that point.

“Its not about the bread we eat”, Jesus appears to be saying.

“Haven’t I proven that I can easily solve the problem of a lack of bread?”

“Will you never understand?”

When you go for an eye test, you will have experienced how they do it with their fancy equipment. You look through these lenses and the person asks; “which of these are the best?” –and they go “click”—this one, or, “click” this one. And you respond to that one that enhances your sight.

They go through an endless number of clicks before they know what prescription you need to restore your ability to see better.

The process of teaching the disciples was something like this. Jesus acts or says something and then he expects people to have a clearer vision of what he trying to reveal to his listener but sometimes the listeners test his patience.

“Do you not understand” can also be interpreted with “what will it take to make you understand?”

I have to admit, it takes a lot for me to understand. I think Jesus might have considered throwing me overboard if I were in that boat. Probably would have looked at the others after tossing me overboard saying, “you win some you lose some.”

Only joking!

Can you think of a time when you knew, with a sense of clarity, what Jesus would want you to understand or do? And then the really tough question; “did you act accordingly?”

I think we will all respond to that question by saying, “sometimes.”

We all have our moments when we chose to do the right thing. When we understood that our faith compels us to act in a certain way and we did, accordingly.

There are moments when we have a clear vision of what God’s intent is only to see this clear vision fade as the reality of our lives begins to eat away at it.

We also know that there is probably too many times when we have turned our heads away or shut our ears, because we were too afraid to do the right thing, or, too selfish or too angry or too—and we can all fill in that gap.

In the story about Jesus and the rich young man the young man understands what Jesus is saying to him when he says; “you have kept all of God’s commandments, but you must just do this one thing. Sell you possessions and give it to the poor.”

His comprehension, however, did not lead to the right choice. What was the young man’s reaction? He became very emotional and turned away from Jesus and his invitation. He saw and heard but chose to remain blind and deaf to God’s moment of truth.

What is it that God’s love is teaching us today? When we see or hear, will we understand? And if we understand, will we act?

May God’s love guide us to hear and understand. May God’s love grant us courage to embrace the moments of clarity so we may experience the life God’s wishes for us.

Amen.