“Do you still not see or understand?”
Scripture: 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?" Mark 8:14-18
I recently started my training course to become a writing coach. Part of the program is going on practice calls and recording the calls to watch back and notice what we might have missed the first time. This isn't new to me, because I've also watched my husband be coached and he has had to record calls to listen back to.
The first time when you're on a call, you might be so present in the situation or caught up in your own emotions and thoughts on how to respond, that you aren't really listening and you miss what's being said.
In coaching, there is a lot of learning of psychology. What someone is saying is often just a hint at what they really mean. And if you aren't paying attention, you might miss it. That's why these recordings help. When you listen back to the conversation, you realize you might have answered the question the other person asked, but maybe their question was a hint at a deeper concern that you could have addressed.
This reminds me a lot of Jesus' conversations with His disciples throughout scripture. They were trying to pay attention, but often they were on the surface level while Jesus continually tried to direct their attention to deeper things.
In this passage, Jesus was trying to warn the disciples and give them responsibility for discerning what leaders are worth following. This was an important and timely message for them to grasp, but they assumed Jesus was addressing their practical, surface level problem of needing food.
Jesus was "aware" of what the disciples were talking about, and so he addressed it. He was asking them why the bread was getting their attention at that moment. They were focused on the wrong thing. He was trying to get them to pay attention to a teaching they really needed to understand, and they were focused on bread. When Jesus asked, "And don't you remember?" He was asking the disciples to remember that they had been in this position before and it worked out fine, it shouldn't get their attention again now.
I wonder how often Jesus directs similar questions to us, because our attention is on something that doesn't really matter. Often, I think God is trying to reveal deeper things to us, and our focus is on things that don't really need our attention. That was the case in this passage. Jesus had a profound and important truth to teach the disciples, and they missed it because their focus was off.
With my coaching training, I get to rewatch my calls and see myself become focused on the wrong thing. I wish I could do the same thing with my prayer life! Although I can't rewatch an entire day, or an encounter with the Lord on a recording. I can think back to how the day went.
Where was my attention? What might God have been trying to teach or reveal to me? Was I paying attention to what truly mattered, or did my day get consumed with distractions?
A "hardened heart" is a by product of someone who is spiritual unaware. In scripture, we learn a "hardened heart" is full of misdirected desire, a lack of understanding, and missed opportunities to acknowledge and encounter God.
Jesus asked the disciples if their hearts were hardened because based on the conversation they were having, it was clear to Him that their attention was directed at the wrong thing. I think when Jesus' question, "Do you still not see or understand?" can be directed at us today.
Phrased another way, it might simply be, "are you paying attention to what I want to teach you and how I want to lead you today, or is your attention somewhere else?"
This can be a helpful question to consider as we focus our attention on God and on His ways, and allow our day to be shaped by what He wants for us, rather than our own concerns or expectations.
-What has your attention today? What emotions are you experiencing?
--How can you refocus throughout your day and bring attention back to God?
-What do you think God is revealing to you and teaching to you in this season?
Breathe in: You are doing a new thing.
Breathe out: Let me perceive it!
– from Isaiah 43:19
Lord thank you for always being aware and attentive to what is going on in our hearts and minds. Help us to be attentive and aware of what you are doing in our lives and how you are moving. Lead our thoughts and minds away from our daily distractions and lead our focus to you and your ways. Help us to pay attention to how you want to speak and move in our lives this week. Amen.