But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:8-11)
“Do you not yet perceive? How is it that you fail to understand?” Jesus never spares the disciples’ feelings. They were being dense, and he told them so. It seems unbelievable to us that the disciples could still not get it. Jesus had fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves of bread, and the 4,000 with 7 loaves of bread, and had leftovers both times. He had taught them that he was the Bread of Life who could provide manna from heaven. Yet the disciples were worried about where their next meal would come from! As I mentioned yesterday, the disciples were so worried about their stomachs, that they completely missed what Jesus wanted to teach them.
How was it that they still didn’t understand? I think we see the answer in another of Jesus’ questions in this passage: “Do you not remember?”
When I taught World History 1, I used to start the year off with a brief discussion on what I called the “theology of history.” History is routinely listed as students’ least favorite subject, and it is often seen, even by educators, as being less important than some of the others (we don’t include it on achievement tests like we do English and Math). Yet, throughout Scripture, history is extremely important. And it goes beyond the proverbial “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
God repeatedly commands his people to remember:
“Remember the ancient days; bear in mind the years of past generations. Ask your father and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7)
“And the people of Israel did not remember the LORD their God, who had delivered them from the hand of all their enemies on every side,” (Judges 8:34)
“Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,” (1 Chronicles 16:12)
“And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
“I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” (Psalm 77:11)
Yet this forgetfulness of God’s mighty works isn’t unique to the disciples. We see it with Elijah, when he defeats the prophets of Baal and then is immediately terrified of Jezebel. We see it with the children of Israel over and over again throughout the Old Testament, perhaps most notably in the story of the Exodus. I’m sure each of us can think of numerous times in our own lives when we were quick to forget God’s track record.
But we are called to remember. Remembering the mighty works of God in the past helps us have faith that he will perform mighty works in the future. It helps us cast off the worry and stress of day to day life because ultimately worry and stress are the result of a failure to remember.
In his book Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God, Francis Chan wrote that worry and stress, “declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.”
If we want to have greater faith, if we want to eliminate the worry and stress that hinder our ability to learn what Jesus wants to teach us, we start by improving our ability to remember.