Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be a concrete thinker. Simile, metaphor, analogy and other figures of speech can trip you up if you think people are talking on one level and they are really somewhere else. When Jesus spoke this morning about “the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod” (Mk 8:14-21), the disciples were worried because they only had one loaf of bread with them in their boat. Not exactly his point. The flurry of questions that followed (seven in all) reveal how frustrated Jesus became with their misunderstanding.
I have sympathy for everyone in this scene. Jesus was unlike anyone the people had ever known. They were simple (not to say stupid) people who were drawn to the light emanating from the person of Jesus but his language spoke a deeper message than even their rabbis offered! It wasn’t their fault! But it must’ve been very hard for Jesus as well, to speak their language when he was trying to make them understand by using examples from their lives – farming, fishing, baking, etc.
There are so many moments in my life now when I can stop in the midst of a frustrating situation and hear Jesus saying, “Do you still not understand?” You would think I would have learned certain patterns by now, certain behaviors that work (or don’t) in certain situations…but I still catch myself wondering how I could be so dense! I guess the progress can be seen in the fact that I actually do catch myself and see the lesson on occasion! It’s those moments that hold the possibility of self-forgiveness and gratitude for so compassionate a teacher as Jesus who will keep on teaching regardless of how many times he needs to explain!