Saturday, October 27, 2012

Distractions, Distractions

"And He was giving orders to them, saying, "Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod."They began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?" (Mark 8:15-17)

Jesus was talking to his disciples as they crossed the Sea of Galilee. The disciples, according to Mark's account, had only one loaf of bread between them. Jesus began to talk to them about the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod. Leaven was a well known euphemism for sin. While the Pharisees would have been mightily offended at being included in a conversation about sin (they would have understood the reference) that involved them and Herod, in their own way they exhibited a hardness of heart no less than Herod's.

As Jesus was talking his disciples either missed the point or were not paying attention. They missed the point a lot so that would not have been surprising, but it is also possible that they were hungry and forgot to bring bread and were not really paying attention as Jesus was talking. Jesus jars them back to reality by asking, "Do you not yet see or understand? Do you have a hardened heart?" 

It's easy for us to miss the point. Sometimes we do have a hardened heart and just don't want to hear it. We want to be angry or bitter. We don't want to hear about forgiveness. We have a finely tuned theology and we don't want the Word of God to interfere with that. A hardened heart can blind us to a truth that is right in front of us. A truth that will set us free if we will only let it. Selfishness, anger, sin, and pride all contribute to a hardened heart.

But sometimes we are distracted too. Ever been in a conversation and someone was talking and you realized you had zoned out and just missed a big part of what they were saying? It happens to just about everybody at some point. Sometimes we're just distracted. I think the disciples were distracted. They were more focused on the fact that they forgot bread than on Jesus. If they had been paying attention to Jesus they wouldn't have been worrying about bread. Ironically, this was right after Jesus had fed 4000 with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.

The enemy will try to get you into hardness of heart, but he works in distraction too. He has a lot of weapons available.  He'll use life, good things, bad things, fear, worry, resentment, entertainment -- the list could go on and on. He wants to rob us of the powerful and get us hung up on the mundane. I'm reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha was hustling and taking care of everyone while Mary was sitting at Jesus' feet and listening. Martha complained to Jesus that Mary wasn't helping. In Luke 10:41-41 we read Jesus' response, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."

Sometimes we do have to get things done. That's obvious, but the dishes and the cleaning and the food or whatever Martha was doing could have waited. She was so focused on the mundane that she was missing a powerful moment.  We're not told Martha's response. I like to think she threw down her dishrags and sat down next to Mary. Hopefully she didn't go off grumbling about how Jesus just doesn't understand.