I've been reading Mark 6 over the last couple of weeks. A little part of this story has troubled me since I stumbled upon it. 6:52 "for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened."
What has that got to do with being afraid of being in a boat in rough weather and seeing a "ghost Jesus" walking on water? I thought heart hardening is something that happens to slave keeping Pharaohs and ruthless killer Kings, not disciples of the bread of life who are charged with ushering in the Kingdom of God.
"They had not understood" is the words syniēmi. It is actually used twice here "syniēmi syniēmi." When something is repeated in the ancient world it is the writers way of saying it is important, as in "Saul Saul why do you persecute me..." And " Holy Holy Holy is the lord God Almighty."
Syniēmi means to put a perception together with the thing perceived.
And when the text speaks of hearts being "hardened" it is the word pōroō.
Pōroō means to grow callous become dull and lose the power of understanding.
The disciples could not put together what they were seeing with what they knew, and so they were becoming dull or loosing their power of understanding.
The obvious meaning of this "not understanding" verse seems to be that the disciples were too hard hearted to realize that Jesus had the power of God. If He could multiply the bread, surely He could walk on the lake and calm the wind.
But, Jewish Patriarchs and Prophets had done many miracles in Israels history and historians like Josephus tell us that there were Jewish "wonder workers" or miracle workers at that time too. And Jesus had already shown his power over nature by calming the storm in Mark 4.
So, maybe there was more that they "had not understood" about those loaves...
John records a detail about the "feeding of the five thousand" that Mark does not:
Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. - John 6:2-6
In Mark 7 Jesus refers to himself and or his healing power as bread as he deals with the Syrian Phoenician Woman and her daughter. there is a hint of this being a test for his disciples, but more on this in another post.
A little farther in his narrative Mark tells us Jesus recounts the incident with his disciples:
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no 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 basketful's of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketful's of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" - Mark 8:14-21
You can almost feel Jesus frustration, "Do you STILL not understand!"
They didn't syniēmi syniēmi (understand) about "The Bread".
There is this other time Jesus tried to teach something else about "Bread" too...
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them. - Mar 14:22-24
This time Jesus doesn't hint around, he comes right out and says my broken body and spilled blood will be a new covenant for a new kingdom. He goes on to instruct the Disciples to "Do this in remembrance of me..." He knows that his time is short and he passes the baton to them.
So Now back to our original text... In light of all this talk of bread, and seeing how Jesus uses bread to represent the coming of the kingdom in other places. How does this help you syniēmi syniēmi what is going on here?
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. - Mark 6:45-52
We understand His body was broken so that the nourishment He had to offer could feed our souls. Or at least we think we understand. But, are we more like the first disciples than we care to admit?
Jesus is not trying to teach about HIS power! He is trying to teach the disciple about their power through him.
Think about it...
He was asking them to test them about the loaves and fish after already showing HE had the power to multiply the loves. He purposely stayed on the mountain and sent them into the storm after already showing HE had the power to keep them safe in the storm. He traveled around with them teaching and healing then sent them out in twos and threes to do the same.
He knows they believe in him, but he wants to know if they believe in themselves. Do they trust in the power of the kingdom of God even when they cannot see Jesus?
Do we still not see or understand?
Are our hearts hardened?
Do we have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?
And don't we remember?