You probably don’t think of the Bible as humor reading, but there is a passage in Mark that always makes me laugh. Before the hilarity ensues, we need to take a brief walk through what’s happened so far in Mark.
It starts with him being baptized by John, and then chronicles some of his miracles: driving out evil spirits, healing people, including a man with leprosy (one of my favorite stories because of the great compassion Jesus shows here); he calms a massive storm; he teaches people. Let’s hone in on two stories though.
First, Mark 6:30-44 tells us Jesus is teaching a crowd of 5,000. The disciples are concerned because it’s getting late, and they figure Jesus needs to adjourn the meeting for the day so people can go eat. Jesus says to them, “You give them something to eat.” Poor disciples, they are flabbergasted as often happens: “That would take eight months of a man’s wages!” Keep reading this on your own, but you know that Jesus proceeds to make five loaves of bread and two fish enough that “they all ate and were satisfied,” and there were plenty of leftovers too.
We have another large crowd in Mark 8:1, and guess what? They’re hungry again, and Jesus tells the disciples he will again feed them. Let’s hope it’s been longer than what only about a chapter later would seem to imply because the disciples apparently have short-term memory loss. I imagine them kind of sputtering the words recorded: “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” It doesn’t tell us if Jesus sighed or rolled his eyes, but he simply says, “How many loaves do you have?” This time he stretches seven loaves and a few small fish to feed 4,000 men. Again there are leftovers.
It’s kind of funny that the disciples didn’t seem to understand how the second feeding was going to work, even after witnessing the first. But it gets even better: right after this second feeding, (Mark 8:13-21), Jesus and the disciples leave the crowd via boat. Here are excerpts from the story (in italics), starting in verse 14.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.
Hello, hilarity: the fact that they even mark this down.
“Oops, we forgot to bring bread, you guys.”
“Oh, shoot! Now what? Hmm, guess we’ll just be hungry.”
“Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed it with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
This is where I start laughing. Because moments after Jesus fed 4,000 men, and maybe a few days after he fed 5,000, his disciples are worried to death because they only brought one loaf of bread aboard the boat. I picture them whispering amongst themselves, trying to figure out what Jesus meant, and they still come back to the food issue! “You guys, I think he’s upset we forgot to bring more bread!”
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied. (In my brain this is answered sullenly, like I sound when I have to admit to something I don’t want to.)
“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
That whole last section gets a little less funny because we all know we do this. Even moments after we witness the hand of God at work, we still fail to see, fail to hear, fail to trust.
Are you sick with worry about an earthly issue today?
The good thing is, even though Jesus longs for us to trust and believe and remember, he is not rolling his eyes at us in anger or exasperation. He is patiently waiting for us to remember the things he has already done and will do again.