I must confess I love a good pun! Thankfully, Jesus does, too. Squeezing through eyes of needles, having ears to hear, finding planks in eyes… set in context, these are all meant to bring a smile to our faces. And we saw a few days ago how Jesus responded positively to a witty riposte from the Syro-Phoenician woman. Jesus has a great sense of humour, and I think that’s a lovely facet of who he is.
And, today, getting into the boat at the start of our passage and watching the disciples fretting about their lack of bread, Jesus – still thinking about the most recent encounter – decides to make a bread-based contribution, which was part joke and part serious contribution: ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.’
Yeast is a powerful substance. A little goes a long way, and transforms what it is mixed with. This can go in one of two directions: here, a small number of powerful people have acted as a corrosive influence on a whole culture. But it can work the other way, too; elsewhere Jesus suggests that we can have a similar influence: a little yeast changing a culture for the better.
Either way, as the disciples scratch their heads at Jesus’ sharp wit, Jesus prods them to think more deeply about what they’ve just seen and experienced. In the spirit of pun-ning, you could say he tells them to ‘use their loaf’.
There’s no substitute for experience – in the spiritual life, as in all other elements of life. But experience needs to be reflected upon, absorbed, internalised. As Plato observed: ‘The unreflected life is the unlived life.’ We are all called to use our loaves: to keep growing in wisdom as we journey with Jesus.