SOME critics have argued that the disciples could not possibly have been as stupid as they appear in Matthew 16:7. It was just after the feeding of the four thousand; Jesus had been interviewed by the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they were on His mind. The disciples had forgotten to take bread on the boat by which He had left His enemies, and that was on their minds. So, when our Lord said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees,” one can understand how the disciples, with bread on their minds, could say, “It is because we have taken no bread.”
Still it was stupid of them, and our Lord says to them, “O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?” Gentile leaven was regarded as unclean, and since Jesus had pronounced Pharisees and Sadducees even lower than Gentiles, the disciples thought He might be advising them to beware even of their bread. But our Lord reminds them of His miraculous feeding of the multitudes, as if to say, “If I could do that, would I be bothered now about the lack of bread?” Then He tells them that He has in mind the false doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
But how like many of us today were these weak disciples! They had seen the Lord feed multitudes miraculously, but now against a practical difficulty they forgot all that and saw only the immediate circumstance. So Christians today theoretically believe that Christ can work miracles, believe that God can supply all our needs, but when an actual problem looms they lapse back into fear and doubt and faithlessness. We have no bread today in more ways than one: like the man in Luke 11, our friends come to us on their journey and we have nothing to set before them, and we grow panicky. Preachers have no bread to feed the congregation, teachers to feed students, parents to feed children. But we need not grow worried like these disciples. We know the way to the Father’s house where there is abundant bread, loaves for every need.
How stupid we are, slow to believe our God! The mistake of these disciples went deep. They totally misunderstood what our Lord was speaking about. We reason among ourselves too much today. Because of our lack of faith we debate Scripture and miss its meaning by a mile, because we try to unravel it among ourselves. Faith unlocks the Word. It steps out upon what it does understand, and the rest clears up. Scholarship never understands the Bible unless it goes in by the door of faith.
So everywhere we see Christians reasoning among themselves and worried over shortage of bread, physical as well as spiritual. How often our Lord must say to us, “O ye of little faith, do ye not yet understand?” He is still able to prepare tables in the wilderness, but we fall back upon our own devices in fear and trembling. We believe the promises in a way, but when an actual crisis looms, we grieve Him by our stupidity.
Churches huddle today in conference after conference, reasoning over depleted resources and worried for the lack of bread. But God’s storehouse is as full as ever. It is our faith that has failed. We are not feeding the souls of men because we are grinding our own grist, and men starve on husks. Yet He who fed the multitudes has still His ancient power.