Recently I was reading Mark 6 and noticed a scary remark made by Mark concerning the disciples’ hearts. After Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 (Mark 6:30–44) and his walking on the water (Mark 6:45–52), Mark tells us that Jesus hopped into the boat with his disciples who were “greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure” (Mark 6:51). Such a response is expected after seeing what they had just seen. However, what he says next is astounding: “For they [the disciples] had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened” (Mark 6:52). Did the disciples really not understand what Jesus did when he fed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish? Scary! They witnessed the miracle with their very eyes, but it did not “click” in their hearts and minds.
Mark’s comment about the disciples immediately caught my attention so I decided to see where else the word “hardened” (πωρόω for you Greek junkies) appears in Mark’s Gospel. To my surprise, this word only appears one other time in the Gospel: Mark 8:17. In this verse, Jesus rebukes the disciples for not understanding his instructions about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. He asks them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8:17-18) According to Jesus, their inability to understand his teaching was due to their hardened hearts, not his use of figurative language. Once again, they had missed it…it did not “click.”
As I began meditating on these two passages, it hit me that the two things the disciples missed because of their hardened hearts were the same two things that we often miss when we have hearts that are dull/hardened. They had failed to see the great work of God (ch. 6) and had failed to understand his teaching (ch. 8). How often do we miss the amazement associated with God’s work because are hearts are dull? How often do we miss some great truth of Scripture because our hearts are insensitive? Oh, how much we often forfeit because we do not keep the soil of our hearts tilled and ready for the work of the Spirit. It is our loss…we miss the utter excitement of seeing God do something miraculous (like feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread) and the utter joy of experiencing the Spirit of God open our minds to understand his Word.
Could the reason that so many of our churches are shallow and ineffective be because they are made up of people whose hearts are dull to the things of God? And the scariest thing of all is that we often are unaware of the things that we have missed. What a shameful day it will be to stand before the judgment seat and be reminded of all the things we missed because of our dull hearts! It does not have to be this way. It definitely did not stay that way with the disciples (see the book of Acts). The best guard against a dull heart is for us to constantly kindle our love and passion for Jesus. Whenever our relationship with him grows stale, it is a sure sign that our hearts are dull, and dull hearts mean that we miss the great and wonderful things that God has in store for us. May we all beg God to keep our hearts tender and soft so that we will not miss the great things he is doing in the world and the deep treasures of his Word.