Daily Reading & Meditation

 Tuesday (February 18):  "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod"

Scripture:  Mark 8:14-21

14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 And they discussed it with one another, saying, "We have no bread." 17 And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not 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 take up?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

Meditation: What do you do when you come to the end of your resources – when you feel inadequate, shorthanded, or empty? Do you wring your hands, complain, fret, and give in to worry, fear, and despair? Mark tells us that the apostles set off in their boat across the Sea of Galilee only to discover that they forgot to bring enough food for their journey. What were they to do miles away from land and any place where they could buy food and supplies? They were anxious of course, and this was right after Jesus had performed the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes where the disciples fed more than four thousand people (Mark 8:1-9). Jesus knew the trouble in his disciples' hearts even before they could speak. Jesus dealt with their anxiety by first warning them to not fear what can harm the body rather than what can destroy the very heart and soul of their being.

Jesus cautioned the disciples to beware of the bread that corrupts and leads to death, such as the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Our "daily bread" is whatever nourishes us, not just physically, but spiritually, intellectually, and morally as well. Why did Jesus tell his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod? To the Jew leaven was a sign of evil. It was a piece of dough left-over from a previous baking. In due course it fermented and this fermented dough became leaven. Fermentation was associated with decomposing rot. Jesus warned his disciples to avoid the evil influence of the Pharisees and of Herod who sought their own counsels rather than the will of God. As the apostles continued to worry about their lack of bread, Jesus reminded them of his miraculous provision of bread in the feeding of the four thousand. He then upbraided them for their lack of trust in God. Do you not yet understand? It's easy to get preoccupied with the problems and needs of the present moment and to forget the most important reality of all – God's abiding presence with us and his abundant provision for our lives as well. Do you pray with joyful confidence, Father, give us this day our daily bread?

"Lord Jesus, you alone can sustain me with your life-giving Word and Spirit. Give me joy and strength to serve you always and help me to turn away from the leaven of sin and worldliness which brings corruption and death."

Psalm 94:12-19

12 Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law
13 to give him respite from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;
15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it.
16 Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers?
17 If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the land of silence.
18 When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up.
19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.


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