That’s right. I have never had a case of Bieber fever. I may have had that strange Carly Rae Jepsen sing along in the summer of 2012, and “Hmm Bop” from Hansen is certainly in my iTunes rotation, but somewhere, someplace, a man has to draw the line. I have drawn my line with Biebs.
I may know what he looks like, may recognize a song or two on the radio, and may even tune in to see him on SNL tonight (who knows, the night is still young), but I certainly do not “get” him. I don’t understand the incredible fascination with this young pop singer . . . after all, he’s no Jon Bon Jovi . . . but I digress.
You know what else I don’t “get” sometimes? – The Christian life.
That’s right. Even as a Pastor sometimes I forget what it is all about. Sure, I walked the aisle of a worship service and gave my life to Christ. Sure, I had Petra’s “Petra Means Rock” greatest hits cassette always cued up in the summer of 1990. But sometimes, I just fail to “get” it.
I may know what the Bible says, have the Lord’s prayer memorized, and know all five verses to Amazing Grace (you heard me), but sometimes I fail to “get” it. What do I mean? Well, maybe looking at Mark 8:14-21 will help add understanding.
Mark 8:14-21 follows a series of miraculous demonstrations of Jesus’s power. In Mark 6, He feeds the 5,000 and walks on water. In Mark 7, He casts out demons and returns sound to the deaf. In the beginning verses of Mark 8, He feeds the 4,000 . . . and the disciples see Him do ALL OF THIS. So, after seeing Him do all this stuff, do you know what they were fixated on? Food. Really? Yes . . . food.
This is demonstrated in Mark 8:14-21:
Now they (the disciples) had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And He (Jesus) cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not 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 take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
In these verses, Jesus is teaching the disciples an important truth. They are to beware of the “leaven” of the Pharisees and Herod. “Leaven” is a substance added to bread (like yeast) to make it rise. It was also a common idiom in Jesus day referring to false teaching. Jesus was warning the disciples to not be tempted to incorporate the false teaching of their day into their understanding of the spiritual life. The Pharisees in particular were a group that practiced a self-earned type of righteousness . . . believing that if a person followed their rules strict enough, they could earn the approval of God. Not needing Jesus as their Savior, the Pharisees sought out Jesus merely for the show. Mark 8:11-13 tell us that the Pharisees came to Jesus demanding to see signs (as if the feeding of 20,000+ people, casting out demons, walking on water, and healing the deaf was not enough). The “leaven” of the Pharisees tempted people to focus on the food. To them Jesus was a sideshow, not a Savior.
But, the disciples were too preoccupied to “get” Jesus’s point. All they heard Him say was “leaven” and (like the Pharisees) they became fixated on the food – what they had to offer. Jesus realizes this and strongly rebukes the disciples. By looking only into their own napsacks, the disciples illustrated their lack of understanding. They had seen the miracles, but had missed the point. They thought the miracles were about the food. They thought the miracles were just a part of the show. They missed the message Jesus was preaching to them through the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000. They were still focused only on what they had, not on Who they had with them.
In our Christian lives, all too often we get focused on ourselves. Our shortcomings, our plans, our dreams. We can spend way too much time fixated on the lack of “food” in our spiritual backpacks. We study the “food” of our ambition or the “food” of our religious activity. When we focus on this food, we miss the reality that Jesus is calling us to have faith in Him.
Jesus was trying to train His disciples to understand that living in relationship with Him is not about how much we pack in our backpack. It is all about faith in Him who takes our “one loaf” and makes it enough. Our good works do not fill our spiritual backpacks. In fact, on our own, we can never be good enough to satisfy the holy hunger of a perfect God. We need a Savior, not a sideshow. As we place our faith in Him, He fills our packs and then some . . . even if we brought far too little onto the boat.
When it comes to the Christian life, sometimes I just don’t “get” it.
I reveal my lack of understanding so many times in private moments that none of you see. Moments when I think my sermon was terrible or my counseling appointment was a disaster, or that I have somehow missed my calling and should be writing for someone’s sports page instead of leading Wildwood Community Church. When I have these thoughts, I am merely looking into my backpack instead of looking at who is in the boat with me. Jesus is with me. The One who fed the masses through His disciples wants to feed others through me as well. I need to stop fixating on my food and start having more faith in Jesus Christ.
The same may be true for some of you who are reading this and have spent a lifetime waiting until you had a “full backpack” before you “got in the boat with Jesus.” If this is you, then maybe you just don’t “get” Christianity yet. Sure you may have attended church, own a Chris Tomlin CD, and support a Compassion child in South America, but if you are looking at your own spiritual resources to save you instead of to Jesus, then you are treating Him like a sideshow and not a Savior. He is calling you to get in the boat and follow Him, allowing Him to provide the food if you will just reach out in faith.
Here’s hoping we all “get” it tonight.