NRSV14 Now the disciples[b] had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.”[c] 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

At first I thought Jesus means his caution from v. 15 (which otherwise remains unexplained), but the word still seems to refer to something they should have understood a while ago. While searching online, I found an interpretation that he meant the fact that he can conjure food - but what is here to misunderstand? The disciples saw Jesus do that, so it's obvious he was capable of that. And what does the number of baskets with bread have to do with that?

I also read about the significance of numbers 12 and 7 - e.g. numbers of tribes of Israel and gentile nations of Canaan respectively, but I still I have no idea what they are supposed to explain.

  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for this excellent question. Please take the tour below. – user25930 Jul 1 at 23:14
  • The Stack Exchange here is not ready for the real answer on this, but if really wanting the answer, first learn the attribute of existence labeled the "Son of Man", for if your conclusion answers WHO, indeed continue looking. The helper teaching is in Mark 4. – Decrypted Jul 3 at 1:22

It is helpful when reading the incident in Mark 8:14-21 to also read the parallel account in Matt 16:5-12. The salient points of this incident include:

  • Jesus warns about the "leaven" of the Pharisees and Sadducees (and Herod). So the main point here is what does the metaphor of "leaven" mean?
  • The disciples misunderstand and thought they are being chided for not bringing bread. But this was clearly not the case.
  • Jesus then illustrates his point by reminding the disciples that with 5 loaves He had fed 5000 people with 12 baskets of scraps; but with 7 loaves Jesus had fed only 4000 with 7 baskets of scraps.

That is, Jesus is contrasting the work of God with the corruption of Man. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees is their teaching (Matt 16:5, 12). Both groups were supremely legalistic as opposed to Jesus' teaching of free grace. In the spiritual world, the more we try to accomplish in our own strength (the leaven or teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees) the less we actually achieve. But the more we depend on divine aid, the more God does for us as perfectly illustrated by the two incidents of the loaves feeding the crowds.

Later, Jesus told them the parable of the vine (John 15:1-11) where this idea is further reinforced. The point of this parable is simple, "without me you can do nothing" (v5).

  • Although this is a very nice answer. I suggest reading the question again. I almost glossed over the question also, but the questioner is very specific, and has already taken this information into consideration. – Decrypted Jul 3 at 1:14
  • @Decrypted, what is the specific question? The Title question is "What is it that the disciples misunderstood?". In the parallel Matthew account, the answer is explicitly given: "Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.". If you are referring to some other question, then the Title should have been that question. – Ray Butterworth Aug 1 at 21:24
  • @RayButterworth The question is good, but God must walk you to the answer himself. And I may tell you, the journey starts with Mark 4. Each time reading it, he will bring you closer to seeing, and when you do see, you'll see why that is God's journey to walk through. – Decrypted Aug 2 at 5:19
  • Perhaps if you spoke directly rather than elliptically, we might get the point. Otherwise, I have no idea what the question is nor what you are referring to. – user25930 Aug 2 at 5:37

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