Reflection on Mark 8.14-21

Jesus said: Watch out – beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.

Yeast is one of those wonderful substances that bring about seemingly miraculous changes to other ingredients in order that we might enjoy our breads, our cakes, and our beers. Of course, through modern scientific investigation, we have developed an understanding of how yeast actually works and, through that growing knowledge, we have been able to maximise the effects of the different types of yeast in our brewing, our baking and in other forms of cooking. In the context of Jesus’ words today, however, we need to set aside our desire to become a master baker or brewer and consider just one aspect of the use of yeast – it makes things grow.

Today’s reading opens with a very everyday dilemma: the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus’ response to this moment of ‘crisis’ had nothing to do with feeding the disciples or the vast crowd that had gathered around him. He had just fed four thousand people from seven loaves and a few small fish so perhaps the disciples might be forgiven for focusing their attention on the yeast which is used in cookery. But, Jesus was speaking of the yeast which feeds, nurtures and helps our relationship with God to grow.

When we begin our human lives we enter into an unending cycle of education and experience. As we learn and experience things we develop into the people we are destined to become in this world. As we travel that path of education and experience we will become closely affiliated to some teachers more than others. Some will open doors for us, whilst the words and demonstrations of others will leave us feeling cold and on the outside of life. Those with whom we will engage on the closest level are likely to be those who help us fulfil our innate gifts and talents, the gifts and talents that were bestowed upon us by God. The issue being highlighted today is that we need to be careful which teachers we follow.

Too often we are led astray by the glamorous and the extrovert. We dream of fame and fortune rather than of being faithful disciples and apostles of Christ. We seek the adulation of those amongst whom we live, rather than loving and serving them as we were commanded by Jesus himself. Today we are being called to pray that we might not stray from the straight path, the path that leads directly to God. We are being called to pray that we might not seek to outgrow the image of God that was planted within us at our conception. Today we are being called to turn our backs on those whose teaching is a distraction and a route map to eternal damnation.