While bright enough to understand Jesus’ question was rhetorical, the disciples wished the nature of the question didn’t have a doubled edge. They weren’t able to discern what the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod were – or was, for they might be the same thing. So while Jesus stepped into the crowd which had gathered in Bethsaida in hopes of seeing a great sign, they retreated out of earshot to capture the meaning of his recent lesson.
“Judas, what do these numbers mean?”
“I’ve no clue. He fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish. That’s a thousand people per loaf. Then, he had twelve loaves of bread left over. Next, he fed four thousand with seven loaves and a few fish. At the end, there were only seven loaves left over. Maybe his powers are starting to fade.”
“Fools. Twelve and seven. Get it?”
“He’s explaining to us how to organize. Only then does the math work. Look at the things he did. First, he has them all sit in groups of hundreds and fifties.”
Intuitively running the numbers in his mind, Judas swooped in to steal James’ thunder. “Yes, exactly. How did I miss that? He fed five thousand in groups of fifty and hundreds, both perfectly divisible by the five loaves we had. When we had seven loaves, he split the crowd into different sizes. I don’t remember what those sizes were, but I bet they were perfectly divisible by seven.”
“Quickly, we must figure this out. He’s made that blind man to see and will be returning to us soon. Who remembers the group sizes?”
“You guys really think we got those crowds into exact groups of fifty and hundreds?” asked Thomas.
“Fools. Twelve and seven. When we were in perfectly divisible crowds, we picked up twelve loaves and only put in five, but the crowd wasn’t perfectly divisible the second time, so we only got back what we put in.”
“Seven loaves!” exclaimed Judas.
Peter spoke over the chatter of the others, excited about resolving the mystery, “We must organize effectively in order to earn God’s favor. We had only one loaf. What treachery!”
“Perfectly divisible treachery!” Judas echoed.
“Quickly, he goes now. The man is moving away with the crowd. Let us follow.”
Six of the disciples moved from their step to the west, following the crowd of Bethaisda toward the formerly blind man’s home, while the other six departed east after Jesus. John chastised the six following the crowd, “Did you really not understand?”
Upon catching up, they heard of their teacher’s plan to move on to Caesarea Philippi. On the way, Peter revealed their solution to Jesus. Smiling, Jesus asked who people said he was and challenged his disciples as to whom they claimed he was.
“You are the Messiah,” Peter answered.
Knowing they still didn’t quite understand, Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. When they neared their destination and another crowd came carting a man to become a sign for them, Jesus attempted to break through to his followers. He told them that he would be charged with blasphemy by the authorities and that he would die before rising again in three days. Peter was enraged by this news and thinking it was another test, he pulled Jesus aside and proclaimed, “We will protect you. We will not fall asleep in your time of need. We will cut off the ears of those who will not hear your words or try to stop you from preaching.”
“Get behind me, Satan!”
At this, the disciples stood still and Peter dropped his head in shame. Immediately, Jesus moved forward to meet the crowd and he taught another remarkable lesson about the cost of discipleship. Standing behind him were twelve props for his presentation.
Still facing the ground, Peter murmured, “I just don’t understand him. Every time I try to…”
“Maybe we didn’t get the answer right,” Thomas interjected, “about the leaven. Maybe it’s not about organization. I doubt anyone knows what he’s talking about. I wish he’d come right out and say it, just put a big sign in the sky or something. I mean, he is God in flesh, isn’t he? If he can make a world out of nothing, you’d think he could teach a little better lesson on how he got food to multiply.”
“What’s perfectly divisible by nothing?”
Finally, the disciples decided the one who could answer this question would be the greatest.
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