Matthew 16:7-12 (NIV) They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The minds of the disciples were on the things of this world. Before Jesus spoke to them about “the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” they had noticed that they had forgotten to pack any bread for their journey, and were focused on where they could buy some before they went too far outside civilization. That internal context led them to hear Jesus through that filter; they thought He was giving them instructions about where NOT to buy bread.
Jesus was understandably perplexed. They were worried about what they would eat, concerned that they might somehow go hungry. It was as if they hadn’t understood Jesus at all when He had taught them on the mountain “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:31-34 NIV) They had also missed two key real-life illustrations of this principle in the feeding of the 5,000 and, just a few weeks later, the feeding of the 4,000. After seeing how God had provided not just for the needs of the people, but for their needs as well through the baskets of leftovers they had collected, how could they let the issue of food ever be a concern for them?
Of course, this promise was never an invitation for God’s people to kick back and wait for Him to produce food out of thin air. But, as Jesus tried to teach them, and as he lived out in His own life, when God’s people are on duty for Him, doing the work of His kingdom, He will provide for them in all kinds of way, including miracles. And, of course, that goes far beyond just food and drink. Jesus knew that God’s provision of power and discernment enabling Him to work His mission was actually more essential than food at times (see John 4:32). And Paul discovered that, even in times of deprivation, imprisonment, and suffering, the provision of God’s presence and power to persevere enabled him to be perfectly content (see Philippians 4:11-13).
Father, I know that Jesus’ disciples ultimately learned these lessons. But we need to learn them, too. I admit that I sometimes allow myself to get caught up in a focus on making sure I have enough food, not just for today, but for future uncertainties. And I sometimes worry when unexpected expenses eat into my savings. It’s strange that we, who have been blessed with so much compared to most of the rest of the world, have such a hard time really trusting You enough to not worry, to be generous and even sacrificial in giving and helping others and in trusting You to provide all that we really need. Help me to learn this lesson well, Lord, and apply it in my whole life. Amen.