24 July 2008

Facts, understanding, faith, and discipleship

by Dan Phillips

Ladies and gentlemen, consider if you will Mark 8:14-21 —
They had forgotten to take bread and had only one loaf with them in the boat.

15 Then he commanded them: "Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod."

16 They were discussing among themselves that they did not have any bread.

17 Aware of this, He said to them, "Why are you discussing that you do not have any bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Is your heart hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and not see, and do you have ears, and not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the 5,000, how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?"

"Twelve," they told Him.

20 "When I broke the seven loaves for the 4,000, how many large baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?"

"Seven," they said.

21 And He said to them, "Don't you understand yet?"

Now, reflect:

First, did they lack information? No; the disciples had all the facts they needed to have both understanding and faith.

Second, what was the problem? The problem was that they did not remember nor reflect on the facts in evidence, the information they all possessed.

Third, what was the result? The result of the disciples' failure to make use of the information they had was that they had neither understanding nor faith. In fact, they were about as dim as one of Mr. Edison's original bulbs would be, today.

Fourth, what do we learn of Jesus? A couple of things. For one, in dealing with them, Jesus did not give up on them. They were dim, dense, and dumb; but they had not rebelled and rejected. They were still enrolled; and He still taught.

But also note: Jesus did not spoon-feed them. He did not baby them, nor coddle them. Rather, He challenged them. He poked them. He jabbed at their thinking, by a series of brief, terse, pointed, rather confrontive questions.

He was not the feminized Jesus of popular, religious sentiment. He did not say in effect, "Oh, my precious 'iddle oojie-goojies! Is 'ums puzzled? Aww, let Uncle Jesus make it better!" Far from it. He did not hand them the answer. He forced them to bring out the facts and do something with them; He rebuked them; and He left them with a challenge.

Our Lord's attitude would be better captured by "Boys — you've got to grow up!" (We'll later see the same reflected in Apoll... er, the author of Hebrews, 5:11-14.)

Now, ask yourself this:
  • Might this cast any light on how Jesus has dealt with you, in your Christian walk?
  • Does it give any instruction for how we should deal with ourselves, as we strive to grow in Christ?
  • Does it give any instruction as to how we might deal with others whom we disciple?
Dan Phillips's signature


Anonymous said...

At a minimum the passage demonstrates that discipleship requires effort, physical and mental.
We need to recognize that we need to give the effort.
We need to recognize that God is demanding an effort.
We need to demand an effort of those we are discipling.

Kim from Hiraeth said...

I'm leading a study in the book of Hebrews and I started out thinking the author was Paul (that's what I'd been told) but now I think it was likely Apollos.

Glad to see someone agrees with me. Won't it be fun to find out?

(I'm preparing for Hebrews 7:1-3 right now and it'll be fun to have some answers about Melchizidek, too!)

DJP said...

I'll briefly step aside for a moment with you, Kim, and relate something Piper said at the T4G this year. He was lamenting/explaining that he'd never preached Hebrews. One reason he said was, "...and it has Melchizedek, and nobody knows what to do with that...."

Everyone laughed. Kind of nice to hear Piper say it; though, frankly, when I did in fact preach through Hebrews verse by verse, Melchizedek was not the hardest part.

James Scott Bell said...

You hit the key, Dan. We are raising generations that simply do NOT want to "grow up." Protracted childhood is the norm.

That's why people are eating up the God and Jesus of Osteenism and "The Shack." No demands at all. Just soft gush, all the time.

I trace this to the feminization of our culture and, increasingly, the church.

Even So... said...

There you go again, DJP, my text for Sunday is Hebrews 5:11-14...

Perhaps Barnabas...

donsands said...

Jesus often allows me to see my sinful heart, and He then brings me to repentance, and he then, many times, has answered my prayer request.

Each new lesson, and/or trial that comes, I try to reflect, and remember how Christ has helped me through the past trials.

I always try to encourage others in the truth of the Word, and not flatter their egos.
To be built up in the faith, and the genuine love of Christ has a fullness to it, and it stays within the heart through the Spirit.

I just this morning shared Hebrews 13:20-21 with someone who was in a bad motorcycle accident.
Seems like Paul to me, but then again, not. I guess we'll never know? Hint.

Strong Tower said...

When teaching, a teacher wants his student to ask questions. Jesus accomplishes this with instruction and examination. The sign that a student is progressing is marked by them asking the right questions. "I am sorry, my programming is limited. You must ask the right question." What the right question demonstrates is that the disciple has payed due attention to the lessons that came before. Those lessons lead somewhere. For a faith that is fact based it does no good to merely espouse concepts or opinions. We all have often heard the formula, Who, What, Where, When, Why. To this we might query Next? It is tempting to follow the lesson plan and present the "book". But, what of the test? When was the last time you took a test in bible class? In the real we have practical application lessons. The reason they fall short is often due to the fact that the disciple really hasn't learned what was necessary to apply the lessons.

Timothy was instructed to pass along what he had learned, full orbed. It was not just doctrines of facts and figures. Instead he was given instructions on how to recognize those who had learned. So he was given instruction on the family and that equated to rule of the church: "He must rule his family well..."

When asked why, father, why do we do this... it is to recall what has gone before, and lining up those lessons up, it directs the question to where are we going.

Tim Brown said...

Another good post. And encouraging to me as well.

Over the past ten years, the Lord has had to deal rather harshly with me, kicking out props. . .the things I lean on instead of Him. Yes, I still do it but now at least I'm aware of my tendencies to want the easy way out. The verse from the KJV "...quit ye like men" comes to mind. Grow up, endure hardness.

He does this because He loves us. It produces the spiritual muscle we will need to persevere.

candy said...

Our pastor has been in Hebrews WELL over a year and we are just finishing up chapter 4.

Granted, a few months ago he sidestepped into a series of topical sermons on our community together as a church.

Solameanie said...

DJP: "Oh, my precious 'iddle oojie-goojies! Is 'ums puzzled? Aww, let Uncle Jesus make it better!"

Oh. My. Lands. That was a coffee-spew over the keyboard if there ever was one. Thanks, Daniel. Now, while I go clean up . . .

Seriously, the more I study the art and science of exposition, the more I get amazed at the reluctance to preach or teach from some books of the Bible. There is so much there from Genesis to Revelation (even Hebrews and Numbers). You could never exhaust Scripture after a lifetime of three-score and ten.

Michael said...

OK...I'll ask the question I suppose, if only to show my ignorance. What was the significance of the numbers 12 and 7 in the scripture reference given...?

DJP said...

They answer the questions, "how many baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?" and "how many large baskets full of pieces of bread did you collect?"

Or am I not understanding the question?

Michael said...

Let me try a different way. He (Jesus) asks why they are discussing bread...don't they understand. He then leads them to 2 "clues"...how many baskets were left over from the feeding of 5,000 (12), and how many large baskets did they collect from the breaking of the seven loaves for the 4,000 (7).

He then looks at them now that they have provided the "facts", and asks them..."Don't you understand yet?"

I'm afraid I don't understand myself...what is the significance of the 12 baskets and the 7 baskets....or am I reading too much into the text and the numbers are irrelevant (in which case, why did Christ even ask about the numbers)...?

CR said...

Let's not forget, Jesus said, "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your rememberance all that I have said to you." (John 14:25-26).

We also have the account of Jesus with the disciples on the road to Emmaus after His resurrection where Jesus purposely was in a form where they did not recognize him immediately until after He broke bread with them.

And we know the story, Jesus calls them "foolish ones" and He begins with Moses and all the prophets and he interprets to them Scriptures (Old Testament) the things concerning Himself.

What does it mean in our own Christian walk is essentially the same, the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and bring to rememberance all things. It is essential (since Jesus, the God-Man is in Heaven right now sitting on His throne) that we rely upon the Holy Spirit in our walk. While Jesus was on earth He explained things to the apostles before and after His resurrection, but after He ascended, we have His Spirit.

How does the Helper accomplish His work on our walk? Through what means - prayer, Bible reading, fellowship, teaching, etc. etc. etc.

It's funny, when we pray before opening up Scriptures or pray for our day, it's not an abra cadabra thing. We have real life examples of what happens when we don't rely on the Spirit.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I'm leading a study in the book of Hebrews and I started out thinking the author was Paul (that's what I'd been told) but now I think it was likely Apollos."

What do you and DJP think of the following opinion?

"As an independent researcher, Ruth has written and lectured on scripture pertaining to the status of women. For many years her focus has been on Priscilla as author of the epistle to the Hebrews. Her article "The Book of Hebrews Revisited: Implications of the Theology of Hebrews for Gender Equality" appeared in Priscilla Papers, the journal of Christians for Biblical Equality in the Winter 2003 edition."

Excerpted from God's Word to Women

Anonymous said...


I think you're reading too much into the text.
Jesus was just asking a question (How many?) to prove a point. The point was "Why do you think I'm worried about not having enough bread? I can always make more anyways. That's not what I was talking about."

Numerologists try and make too much of numbers in the Bible and that has bled into lots of preachers' thinking which, in turn, leads us to look for numerical nuance when it just isn't there.

DJP said...

TUAD — it's a stupid idea, without any merit I've ever seen, and about as likely as saying that the Olson twins wrote it.

Further, the author refers to HIMself in 11:32, using a MASCULINE participle — not a feminine.

Susan said...


1. "He did not say in effect, 'Oh, my precious 'iddle oojie-goojies! Is 'ums puzzled? Aww, let Uncle Jesus make it better!'"

I'm sorry, man, but that just gave me the CREEPS.... *_* (IOW, what Solameanie said...except I don't have coffee anywhere near me!)

2. Yes, I do think that as we have more and more information about our Lord, the more and more he expects us to grow. (And growing has been really hard on my end.)

Susan said...

Jesus wouldn't even speak to real children like that, I don't think. Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.....

(Ah, nice to get THAT out of my system!)

Strong Tower said...


DJP said just prior, "He poked them...he jabbed them"

...to see if they were done...

Or was it to keep them awake... so that they might not fall asleep and fall into temptation?

There are a lot of questions the teacher prods with like, "Who do men say I am...Who do you?"

The question that really gets all of us though is "what are you doing?" I think that is true because we are always asking him the same question and he is always doing what is right, we on the other hand... The one that really really gets us is, "Are you still unbelieving?" Usually asked just about the time we need the waves to subside and the storm to go away and he appears to be asleep. He finishes off with, "How long must I bear with you?"

The answer to the last one is easy...

But, I think this wasn't a lesson on God's faithfulness and our desperations so much as on what it means to be a disciple... study and due diligence will produced those probing, poking, prodding questions as we pour over the texts. The sign of a disciple is a good head-scratching, (for bald guys a more excruciating experience). We have this promise though, that if we keep knocking the door will be opened, for God is not like the mean magistrate, but a good Father who gives us bread in due season if we faint not.

Susan said...

I need to be painfully honest: it does take a lot more effort now for me to "hack my Agag [sin] to pieces", now that I have more information than before at my disposal. Yes, I really think the Lord refuses to spoonfeed me. He wants me to trust him and exercise my faith in him despite my circumstances. Kinda like Habukkuk, I suppose.

Strong Tower said...


One thing the Lord does very well that we find impossible is to beat a dead horse to life. He does it so he can ride it in triumphal procession.

It often wearies people to read or hear the same things over and over and over, and to the writing of books there is no end...

But that is not a bad thing. It takes sixty-six books to say in a kaleidescopic way, one thing. That is because unlike men, God can teach old dogs new tricks. Repetition, repetition, repetition explains a lot, like why we fall seven times but still get up. What scares me is when it gets quiet and still and bogged down. I would rather be boiled alive than wait in silence without even the drive to strive.

trogdor said...

On the authorship of Hebrews, one of the things I really enjoy when I teach it (and it's my favorite book, so I try to teach it whenever possible) is that we don't know who wrote it. So instead of saying "Paul says" or "according to James", it's always "the Holy Spirit says".

Hebrews is to Christology what Romans is to justification. It's hard and heavily logical, but if you're willing to put the thought into it, what a treasure of truth is there. Unfortunately, how many churches are willing to put in that kind of effort?

Susan said...

Beating a dead horse to life, eh, Strong Tower? Let me chew on that....

Shaun Marksbury said...

Great insights, Dan. Jesus shows us a great deal ocompassion and grace, but that does not mean He is content to leave us as spiritual babes.

I had a pastor preach a message entitled "Who the Heck was Melchizedek?" and promised a message on Jezebel the following week. Oddly, it never came...

Susan said...

I'm really blabbering today, but this should be somewhat uplifting. Just now I enjoyed some coveted inner joy and peace because 1) I decided to chisel away at one of my sins (i.e., surfing the net way too much when I have more worthwhile things to do); and 2) I was listening to The Master's College chorale's pre-release album "Stayed on Jesus" (John MacArthur coined it the "bootlegged version" one evening service almost two months ago at Grace). Engaging in these two activities simultaneously revitalized me in an indescribable way. Our Lord really does give us strength and peace when we try to stay on track, however feeble those efforts may be.

(BTW, now that my mind is quite clear, I find it ironically funny that Strong Tower should use the phrase "beating a dead horse to life"--because I'm about to do the opposite! Dan, you know that fabricated "Uncle Jesus" response actually reminds me of something C.S. Lewis had written in his sixth Narnia book, The Silver Chair. The Nurse giant said to the children when they refused her toys [Chap. 8]:

"Tut-tut-tut-tut. You'll want 'em all right when you've had a bit of rest, I know! Te-he-he! Beddy bye, now. A precious poppet!"

Now how about that....) :)

John said...

Great post, Dan. Why don't you come to Texas to be a Pastor? We need more expositors.

ChiefsSuperfan said...

Our elder team evaluated one another's strengths and weaknesses in a very candid meeting yesterday morning. My glaring weakness it seems is my weight. Whereas I've always known it to be a problem, I had underestimated the degree to which it distracts from my ministry. I love the ministry and hate the notion of something taking away from its effectiveness.

Point being: I take it that the Lord was giving me one of those "Grow up" rebukes.

Your prayers on this easily besetting sin are much appreciated.

Ed Franklin said...


I really do not understand all the fuss about the authorship of Hebrews!

Page 1291 of my Old Scofield KJV clearly states: The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews.


Arthur Pink makes a good defense of Pauline authorship in his Exposition of Hebrews, btw. I'll go with him while in this world, always subject to correction later.