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The Yeast of Unbelief


Have you ever purchased one of those small packets of yeast for baking bread? That tiny bit of granulated yeast is living and active, and it’s the key ingredient needed for bread to rise. In today’s passage, yeast is used as a warning about disbelief.

At this stage in Mark’s narrative, you would hope the disciples were able to recognize a pattern in Jesus’ ministry and learn. If you compare the accounts of the feeding of the 5,000 and then the 4,000, both have many similarities. In both, the setting is described as a “remote place” (6:35; 8:4). In both events the disciples encouraged Jesus to “send the people away” (6:36) and to “send them home hungry” (8:2–3). In both encounters the disciples raised the question of the scarcity of “bread” (6:37; 8:4). Even if the disciples did not recall the similarity of the words within these two exchanges, you would think that when Jesus asked the very same question (“How many loaves do you have?”) they would have recalled the feeding of the 5,000 (6:38; 8:5).

Instead of saying, “Hey, wait a minute. This should be no problem for you,” they did not seem to understand. When Jesus directed the crowd to “sit down,” there was another opportunity for the disciples to trust Jesus. Just as He had done in the past, He would again use their meager resources to show compassion for the oversized crowd.

Apparently they have bought into the skepticism or “yeast” of the Pharisees and failed to understand Jesus’ true identity. However, just as Jesus refused to give the Pharisees a sign from heaven to assuage their unbelief, so He warned the disciples against adopting the Pharisees’ posture of unbelief. Disbelief, like yeast, has the ability to grow and multiply. It would require faith to recognize that Jesus is God the Son.

Apply the Word

Only after giving thanks did Jesus give the fish and loaves to the disciples to distribute. In looking to heaven, Jesus taught the disciples that the current inventory of our earthly resources does not limit the power of God to meet needs. Faith in God’s ability to go far beyond our resources is important. Will you trust God to meet your needs today?

BY Eric C. Redmond

Eric C. Redmond serves as a professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and as associate pastor of adult ministries at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Ill. He is married to Pam and they have five children. He is the author of Say It!  Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody Publishers), Where Are All the Brothers? Straight Answers to Men's’ Questions about the Church (Crossway), a commentary on Jonah in the Christ-Centered Exposition Series (B&H Publishers), and a study guide on Ephesians in the Knowing the Bible series (Crossway).

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