“Why are you debating about having no bread? Do you not see or understand? Have your hearts become hardened? Do you have eyes yet don’t see? And ears, yet don’t hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets of fragments did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when the seven were distributed among four thousand, how many baskets of fragments did you pick up?” “Seven,” they replied. So he said to them, “How is it that you still don’t understand?” (Mark 8:17-21)This conversation takes place following Jesus' disciples not understanding the previous statement by Jesus:
So he instructed them, saying, “Be careful, beware of the yeast of the pharisees – and the yeast of Herod.” (Mark 8:15)Jesus' students didn't understand this, so they debated its meaning:
They debated among themselves about this and concluded, “This is because we have no bread.” (Mark 8:16)This is what prompted Jesus' discussion in Mark 8:17-21 above. But what is Jesus talking about? Why is the number of loaves and pieces important to the issue of the "yeast" of the pharisees and Herod?
The yeast analogy and the loaves
As shown in Mark 8:15, the "yeast" of the pharisees and Herod is the influence of their misleading teachings. This is the pretense of spirituality without substance. This is the contrition of worship without the devotion. It is the pretense of following the Prophets such as Abraham and Moses and David without actually following their teachings or their example - which was to devote oneself to the Supreme Being and love and serve Him.
To claim positions that supposedly represent them yet at the same time misrepresent their teachings is a spiritual crime.
Hearing from such teachers is like drinking from a poisoned well. Following such teachers blocks our ability to regain our innate relationship with the Supreme Being. It inhibits our path towards loving and serving the Supreme Being because it encourages confidence without substance.
What is confidence without substance?
Let's say, for example, that a person was to rent a private jet, dress up with pomp and circumstance, hire some rent-a-cops and fly to another country. When the plane lands, he comes off the jet and proclaims he is the ambassador of his country and its leaders. Because of the private jet and the guards, some of the people in the other country might be fooled. They might think the man is really the ambassador of his country. They might roll out the red carpet and receive him as ambassador.
But officials with that government can simply telephone the other country and find out. They can immediately know the man is a fraud. Why? Because they could connect directly with the source - the government and its president.
However, those who had no facility to contact the government and its president could not tell. They could easily be tricked by the private jet and the guards. Such a trickery, of course, would be deceiving. And anyone who believed the fraudulent man would not be connecting with the other government if they were accepting a fraud as the ambassador.
Jesus is discussing the same issue with his students. He is warning them not to be fooled by the appearance of official positions claimed by the pharisees and Herod. They might look like and dress like they are the official representatives of God - but they were not. They were frauds. They didn't have a connection with the Supreme Being. They were not representing Him.
Jesus was warning his students: By following them, they would be misled.
Loaves illustrated Jesus was real representative of God
Meanwhile, Jesus is representing the Supreme Being. And because he has a connection with God, Jesus knows the pharisees and Herod are not representing God - even if they hold such titles. Herod claimed to be in line with the prophets via ancestry, and the pharisees, through appointment, claimed to be representing God and the prophets.
Jesus is detailing that these claims are false. As such, they have no power. The pharisees and Herod were not empowered by the Supreme Being. They had no authority. Just as today's sectarian priests, reverends, and popes among the many modern sects have no real authority from the Supreme Being to represent Him. Even though they may hold titles given to them through appointments and elections by men.
By feeding the 5,000, Jesus was illustrating his authority empowered by the Supreme Being. How? Because Jesus offered the bread to God before distributing it.
Therefore, he was illustrating the power of devotion. Jesus only offered a few loaves, but those loaves fed so many people. More pieces were left over compared to what was originally there.
This illustrates how the Supreme Being shows the power of devotion. It is not that Jesus was trying to prove his own power. God was showing His power, along with the position of His representative, and how He may empower others. Such empowerment is seen with the heart. It is seen through devotion to the Supreme Being. This is why Jesus said:
"Do you not see or understand? Have your hearts become hardened? Do you have eyes yet don’t see? And ears, yet don’t hear? And don’t you remember?"The goal - the objective - of Jesus was to please the Supreme Being. Such an objective comes from love. He wasn't interested in claiming an official title. He wasn't interested in being respected and glorified. He was pleasing God by trying to help others redevelop their innate loving relationship with the Supreme Being:
"By myself I can do nothing; As I hear, I make choices, and my choices are just because I do not seek to please myself but to please Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
“My teaching is not mine, but comes from He who sent me." (John 7:16)And what was Jesus' most important teaching?
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’" (Mark 12:30)