Lent Week 4—Wednesday
Psalm 101 Genesis 50:15-26 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 Mark 8:11-26
The Gospel reading for today seems very familiar and timely. Mark relates an encounter between Jesus and the Pharisees–sanctimonious experts on Old Testament scripture. Mark makes clear that the Pharisees didn’t come out to listen or to learn. They came out to argue. It is obvious that they have become totally blinded by their arrogance. Here they ask Jesus for a sign after they have already seen hundreds of signs He has done.
Jesus sighs in exasperation. One can imagine he shakes his head as he says, “no signs for you” who are willfully blind. Later, when Jesus and his disciples come to Bethsaida, some people bring a blind man to Him and ask Jesus to touch him. Jesus restores the man’s sight.
The Pharisees are just as spiritually blind as the man Jesus heals is physically blind.
But at the end of the story, the blind man goes away with his eyes opened; the
Pharisees are still blind. They have all the knowledge but no spirituality and no belief. They keep asking Jesus for proof that he is who he is, and Jesus basically says, “what is with you that you’re always asking for proof?” They were offended because He did not affirm them but called for their repentance and spoke of their vanity and hypocrisy. They were offended because the teaching of Jesus Christ did not square with their style or expectations of the Messiah.
On the way to Bethsaida, as Jesus saw his disciples worrying over their shortage of bread, He recalled the Pharisees’ demand for a sign and used the situation as the basis for a lesson. They should not be concerned about lack of bread, he tells them, but about the true bread (the real sign they had been privileged to witness), and how to avoid the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod, tainted yeast that would spread from batch to batch contaminating the bread. The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees and Herod would spread to them if they were not careful.
Isn’t this like so many of us today? In our piety and arrogance, we have our own idea about what Jesus is supposed to be like. We become spiritually blind so that our beliefs are not really about Him; they’re about us.