When We Don’t Get It

Then Jesus said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” – Mark 8:21 (NRSV)

Recently I quoted a phrase from a ’90s TV show in a conversation with someone much younger than I am. I realized to my dismay that I had assumed a common frame of reference where there was not one. Taken literally, the phrase did not convey the same meaning and, like any joke you have to explain, it was not funny.

Jesus, on a boat with his disciples, hears them fretting about not having enough bread; they have only one loaf. He’s bemused, because they have just witnessed his miraculous feeding of many thousands of people. Do they not know that he can make more than enough out of what we perceive to be not much? When he teases with a metaphor, they hear him literally and continue to worry about bread, or a lack of bread. I always marvel at how often they did not seem to get what he was saying, especially his apparent humor.

And then I think about my own perception, how my anxiety or eagerness to please or self-involvement can make it hard for me to hear what another person is truly saying, how I can miss someone else’s attempt to connect.

When we read these stories about Jesus and his disciples, and the ways they miss the point, it might help to remember how much he loved them, and how much he loves us, even when we don’t yet understand. Read his words with a sense of humor. He’s not chiding so much as affectionately ribbing. They didn’t get the joke, but I’m guessing they knew the love was real.

Saving God, sometimes we still don’t get it. Thank you for loving us anyway. Amen.

Martha Spong About the Author
Martha Spong is a UCC pastor, a clergy coach, and editor of The Words of Her Mouth: Psalms for the Struggle, from The Pilgrim Press.