The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

“And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.

He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. — Mark 8:14-25

Jesus’ disciples had now been with Him for some time, and had personally seen Him perform many miracles. But as Jesus points out, they were suffering from sensory deprivation. They had eyes but failed to see and ears but failed to hear. Their memories were incredibly short. What they took in through their senses didn’t register; they saw and heard, but didn’t understand.

They were like the blind man that Jesus had to lead by the hand, and whose sight came in stages. At first, he saw things that were shadowy and not accurate. Then, as Jesus continued to minister to him, he began to see clearly.

Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus healed the blind and deaf – those who knew they couldn’t see or hear. It takes a miracle of self-revelation to heal the blind and deaf who don’t know or won’t accept their real condition.

The Pharisees were assured of their superior spiritual situation, fully confident in their own righteousness because they strictly observed hundreds of rules and regulations. While they had started out with God’s commands, over the years religious leaders had kept adding their own rules until the minutiae they covered was seemingly endless. In their zeal to keep the law, the Pharisees lost sight of God’s nature and purposes, and burdened His people instead of helping them.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Herod was confident in his position as a king over God’s chosen people, and occupied his energies in the pursuit of the “good life” of pleasure and ambition. He had some curiosity about Jesus and liked to listen to John the Baptist, but was unwilling to risk his reputation to defend either of them.

Both of these examples of yeast that insidiously spreads and contaminates the senses are pointed. Self-righteousness, rule-keeping, self-indulgence and personal ambition cause sensory deprivation.

If I were to take a census of my senses, what might I discover?

How clear is my vision? Am I groping around in spiritual darkness, not understanding what God is teaching me? Do I see things as they really are, or as I think they should be? Am I looking for God’s leading, or looking elsewhere? If God were to give me a spiritual eye-test, would I pass? Am I willing to do whatever He prescribes in order to see better?

How accurate is my hearing? Do I have a waxy buildup of indifference to God’s voice? Can I hear over the background noise of the world’s strident messages?

Have I become “nose-blind” to the odors around me? So much in the media and in the situations around me have the rotten smell of decaying values, the pungent odor of sin flaunted in God’s face. Have these “new norms” crept into my own life without my noticing? Am I just masking these smells with a spray of “that’s the way it is now” instead of washing myself daily in God’s cleansing Word?

Are my taste buds working? Do I taste and see that the Lord is good? Do I feed on what takes time and effort to prepare and will nourish my spirit, or do I keep looking for junk food to fill up on? Do I convince myself that I’ll just snatch this fast food for today, and tomorrow I’ll get a proper spiritual meal from His Word, but tomorrow very rarely comes? Have I trained my taste to recognize the difference between what nourishes and what just takes up space? Am I looking for real meat, or just dessert?

Who and what touches me? Who and what do I embrace, hold on to, am reassured by? Who and what do I reach out to touch? Am I carrying so many possessions that I haven’t a hand left to offer those in need? Does my neighbor’s lack of faith in God reach me and spur me to prayer and witness?

Is my memory impaired? Do I remember what Jesus has done to save me? Do I respond to His sacrifice for me by spending time with Him, learning more about Him, becoming more like Him?

Precious Father, may I use the senses You have given me to know You as You can be known, to love You as You love me, and to serve You always.