It had been a busy time for the disciples. They had spent three days with the Lord in the presence of 4,000 souls and had seen the miracle of such a vast number, having exhausted their store of food, fed and completely satisfied from a supply consisting of seven loaves and a few small fish. This was not the first time that they had witnessed the power of the Lord displayed in this way. On a previous occasion 5,000 had had their hunger satisfied from a supply consisting of five loaves and two fish (Mk 6.34-45). Having sent the 4,000 away the Lord and His disciples sailed across to Dalmanutha, but for their return voyage the disciples had forgotten to buy bread. In the boat they had only one loaf, not enough to satisfy their hunger.
The Lord now spoke, warning them to beware of "the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod". What could He possibly mean by this warning? They argued the point until they arrived at the conclusion that He was chastising them because they had not brought sufficient bread, and might be required to take it from Pharisees or Herodians. The rebuke of the Lord must have caused them shame. If He could supply from paltry resources the needs of thousands, could He not also supply the need of the twelve who were with Him in the boat? Had they eyes, and yet had not seen? Had they ears, and yet had not heard? They had listened to His teaching yet they did not understand. They had seen His work, yet He had to say, "Do ye not remember?". The reader is amazed that this could possibly be.
The behaviour of the disciples on this occasion may cause us wonder, but do we behave differently? How forgetful we are of the blessings that we have enjoyed and of the lessons we have learned in the school of the Teacher. The hard heart that prevents us understanding His care over us, of remembering those occasions when we clearly experienced His guidance and leading in times of pressure and burdens, is too often to be found in us (Mk 6.52). The need to remember is writ large in Scripture.
To the Children of Israel about t0 enter Canaan the Lord states, "Remember all the way which the Lord they God led thee" (Deut 8.2). No part of it was to be forgotten because every lesson was vital. There may have been forgetfulness because the passage of time had dulled their spiritual senses or perhaps because the lesson was not palatable to them. To forget was the first stage in falling again into the behaviour that made the lesson necessary. The Lord did not deal frivolously with His people. Every lesson was for their good. As the years pass we can look back to times when the Lord in His grace taught lessons for our spiritual profit. It is folly to forget them: it is blessing to remember them. But remembering them is not enough - they must be put into practice. Those who follow Him today are being taught that which enables them to enjoy the Lord and His bounty. The greater the submission the greater the enjoyment.
When we see the godlessness of society, even in what purports to be "Christian", and the derision with which the Word of God is treated, we do well to take to mind the words of Jude: "Beloved, remember ye the words that were spoken before of the apostles". They warned that there would be mockers who would walk after their own ungodly lusts (vv.17-18). Should our hearts faint we can turn to the Word of God. Conditions today were not unexpected. The hand of God is still on the tiller of history and it is still on course.
Paul exhorts Timothy to "Remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead" (2 Tim 2.8). This guarantees that the salvation we enjoy will lead to eternal glory (2 Tim 2.10). There can be no more glorious prospect than that. We can lift our hearts above todays turmoil and look forward to the unspeakable, never ending climax of salvation.
As we face another year, therefore, we have these things to remember. The first deals with His care in the past, the second with conditions in the present, and the third with prospects for the future. Let us, as a consequence, join with added vigour the chorus of the redeemed that has reverberated throughout history, "Even so, come, Lord Jesus" (Rev 22.20).