Updated: Sep 29, 2020
When my husband and I first got married, one fun new thing we did together was pick out furniture. It was a unique experience because we were choosing our style while also making some of our first big purchases together. We knew we wanted kids and pets, so we decided to go with lots of dark colors and leather to lessen stains from inevitable spills. Shortly after we were married, we had a baby girl. She was sweet, dainty, gentle, slightly mischievous, and kind. Our furniture remained mostly intact, and we thought we had this parenting thing down. Then we had a son. Now that he’s three, we realize we know nothing about parenting, and the first child’s successes must have been luck. My couch now has chunks missing from it and the padding is misshapen, a result of its new role as part-time race track/part-time trampoline. When my daughter was a toddler, I’d warn her about dangers, telling her she could get hurt if she does certain things. She might have tested it a few times, but she generally listened and wound up being appropriately cautious. These days, I warn my son about the dangers of his household acrobatics (which are hilarious and quite impressive, just don't tell him), and he laughs at me and tries something even more ridiculous. Minutes before I started writing this, he was jumping on the couch, and I told him he needs to stop because he’s going to get hurt. So naturally, he needed to go out with one more, even bigger jump before obeying. He jumped up high and did a full seat drop onto a hard part of the couch. He immediately regretted his choice, cried, and looked at me like, “Why didn’t you tell me this would hurt?” I have told this boy so many times not to stand on, let alone jump on the couch. And so many times he has ended up with bruises and tears. With him, it’s hard not to think, “I have told you this SO many times. You have ears—can’t you hear? Don’t you remember anything at all?”
There are many lessons we teach our children. They may hear us, but sometimes it takes hearing the same lesson over and over, or living with the consequences of not obeying, for them to finally understand. It’s very frustrating, because we’re not being obeyed, and we want the best for our kids. It’s baffling when we give them sound advice, they choose to ignore it, and then they come crying to us when their ill-advised plan didn’t work. We want them to succeed and be equipped to be decent adults. We can try all we want, but if they don’t listen and remember what we say, our words just fizzle into the ground, and we’re left looking a bit dumbfounded.
It seems like such a barrier between kids and parents; we don’t understand why they don’t just heed our advice. But we shouldn't be too surprised. We do it with God all the time.
In Mark 8:1-21, Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish. You’ve probably heard this story before, and I think we tend to get a bit jaded in the Jesus miracle department. But just think about it for a moment. I’m trying to picture a room full of 4,000 people, and then I picture how many loaves of bread my family of four goes through in one sitting at a spaghetti restaurant. Not only did he feed all of the people, but they ate as much as they wanted and had leftovers! (verse 8) Shortly after this, Jesus and his disciples continued their journey. Jesus has two encounters with silly humans: the Pharisees who demanded he give them a sign to prove his authority (verses 11-13), and the disciples who were arguing amongst themselves over forgetting to bring food…after they literally just saw Jesus feed thousands with little (verses 14-21). Jesus reacts to them both with frustration and disbelief.
The Pharisees are those pesky bad guys of the Bible, the rule-following, do-gooders that wanted everyone to be as miserable as them. They disliked Jesus because he was redefining the role of the laws they held onto so dearly. So they followed him, waiting and hoping for a misstep on his part, so they could get him arrested and get rid of him. Here, in verses 11-13, they taunted him by essentially saying, “If you’re really the Son of God, show us a sign from Heaven!” You can almost feel the eyeroll coming from Jesus in response: “When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, ‘Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign?’” (verse 12) From where we stand, it’s easy to be like, “Yeah, they don’t know anything, let’s keep walking, Jesus.” We look at these Pharisees, and we write them off as the bad guys, and therefore unrelatable. But we are the Pharisees. We get caught up in our rituals, our distractions, our self-righteousness. This Jesus guy came and uprooted everything: we’d be cranky, too.
Probably the most interesting interaction here is between Jesus and his disciples. The disciples are the good guys, the ones who are trying to soak in what Jesus says, but they still seem to have memory problems. As they continue their journey, the disciples realize they forgot to bring food onto the boat. Jesus knows where their minds are going and warns, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (verse 15) He is warning them not to fall into the same mindset as the Pharisees, getting caught up in the laws of the world and of nature, doubting Jesus’ authority. It is kind of like the parent saying, “Don’t jump on the couch because you will get hurt.” So like any child, the disciples disregard the warning and begin fighting amongst themselves because they forgot to pack food. (Now I’m picturing siblings fighting in the back of a minivan.) Look at how Jesus handled their childish behavior:
Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
“And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
“Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.
Jesus had reached his tipping point. He worked so hard and long to display his authority and the power of God, yet the people around him still didn’t understand. He didn’t tip-toe around revealing his frustration either. He didn’t respond with a carefully worded, kind letter or with a quiet smile. He furrowed his brow and facepalmed. We humans require a lot of metaphorical smacks in the face in order to understand things. We look at the disciples and think, “You were right with him to see all the miracles! How do you still not get it?” But we are the same. We may not have Jesus visibly right in front of us, but he teaches us the same things over and over, and we still go back to our old habits. We still question his trustworthiness, whether we are willing to admit it or not.
Jesus became human. He knows how we think, what we’re tempted by, and our physical limitations, yet we still surprise him at our ability to revert to old ways of disbelief and self-centeredness. Jesus forgives, loves, and saves, but we also baffle him with our ability to almost forget his power and goodness. He will redirect us, but he may do so in a stern voice from time to time. He wants us to listen and listen well, to hear him with intentions to uproot old routines.“Don’t you understand yet?” I want to surprise Jesus, but not because he’s shocked that I still haven’t grasped what he’s teaching me. I want to surprise and impress him with my faith in him.
I want to surprise Jesus, but not because he’s shocked that I still haven’t grasped what he’s teaching me. I want to surprise and impress him with my faith in him. Click To Tweet
I want to surprise and impress him with faith like the Roman Officer who asked Jesus to heal his servant, knowing Jesus had the authority to just speak the words instead of having to go to him physically. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed.” (Matthew 8:10)
I want to surprise and impress him with faith like the woman who grabbed onto Jesus' robe, knowing he was so powerful that even just touching his robe would heal her after years of suffering from constant bleeding. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked... “Daughter,” he said to her, “your faith has made you well. Go in peace.” (Luke 8:45,48)
I want to surprise and impress him with faith like the sinful woman who worshipped at Jesus’ feet. She boldly worshipped him in a place she wasn’t welcome. The people at the dinner were disgusted and shocked, but Jesus was pleasantly surprised. “Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume…And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:44-46,50)
“Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:50 Click To Tweet
When encountering these people, Jesus was so impressed by their faith. For him, that is the priority. They were imperfect people. They each had their own problems and sins. It is when we put our faith in Jesus that change can really happen in our lives. When we try to do it the other way: doing all the “right” things but without faith (like the Pharisees), we fall short, and we miss the point.
When it comes to my son, my husband and I have been putting him through a bit of a toddler bootcamp, hoping to teach him the upside of following our rules and advice. On top of his couch acrobatics, he had been getting up a lot at night, mostly just asking for silly things. So, we’ve been utilizing different night-time tactics, and seeing results. He now goes to bed and says, “I’m going to stay in bed and be a good boy!” I have to say his improvements and attitude have surprised and impressed me. He really does want to impress us. The times he doesn’t obey seem to be the times he doesn’t quite believe us in our warnings. We want our son to not only obey us, but to understand that even though our rules and advice might not seem like the most fun options, they are the best for him. He needs to learn to trust that we know more about life (and physics) than him right now, and that because we love him more than he knows, we wouldn’t steer him wrong.
We’re going to fumble when it comes to following Jesus and his teachings. But we can work on the underlying problem: trust. When we begin to understand that we can fully trust Jesus, knowing the power and authority he has, we can begin to truly follow him. The Pharisees doubted Jesus was who he said he was, so they didn’t even try to follow his teachings. They received a sigh and an eyeroll. But even more fascinating was Jesus’ own followers’ lack of understanding. They saw the miracles and had the will to follow him, but they were so caught up in the laws of the world that they couldn’t grasp the limitlessness of Jesus’ power.
Let’s make our goal to surprise and impress Jesus with our faith, not to surprise him with our lack of trust and understanding.
When we begin to understand that we can fully trust Jesus, knowing the power and authority he has, we can begin to truly follow him. Click To Tweet
Who do you relate to most?
The Pharisees, who cling to rules, morals, and religion, but lack trust?
The disciples, who hear good teachings, but still doubt when hard times hit?
The Roman officer, who hasn’t really been following Jesus, but still understands his power/authority?
The woman who grabs Jesus’ robe, who lives in shame and fear, but craves the healing of the savior?
The weeping woman, who has many sins, understands the value of Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, and can’t help but worship him?
Have you ever given advice, only for the recipient to go forth and do the opposite? How did you feel?
Have you ever felt Jesus saying to you, “Don’t you understand yet?”
Do you think you’ve ever surprised and impressed God with your faith?
Could you pray with me?
I want to trust you. I know that I can say I trust you, but that I don’t always live as though I do. Please help me to have a trusting faith so big that I surprise and impress you. Sometimes we think we can only disappoint you, and that all of the good things we do only prevent you from being upset with us. But that is not you. You delight in us and our successes. I want to remember how it feels to not be listened to when I give sound advice and to know that you must feel the same when I disregard your teachings. Help me to understand that what I desire is not always what is best. Help me to stay Kingdom-minded instead of stuck in the rules of the world. Thank you for your grace and your love.
Ashlee is a wife and SAHM, an eager follower of Jesus, and a chronically loud-laugher. She loves finding new ways to look at the Bible, in hopes to grow closer to Jesus and to find fresh ways to learn and teach others.
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