Sept 19, 2021. Remember what’s important. Matthew 16:5-12. 

In Cuba we have a saying “This is the chicken of the chicken rice” or a better translation for Americans “This is the chicken up the chicken noodle”. We say these phrases every time we’re going to talk about something important. In other words, if you are going to remember something, this is it, or you can forget anything but remember this… This is especially applicable to me because I grew up forgetting things. I wish that would have been just in my past, but I still make my wife mad.

Where I grew up, my grandparents lived a block away from us and every time we needed something or they needed something, they sent the children to the other house to ask; it could be sugar, rice, oil, you name it. My problem was that many times when I got to the other house, I forgot what I was there for, and I had to come back and be told again what I was going to ask for. Sometimes I forgot two or three times because anything would have distracted me, until they got mad at me and then I didn’t forget. And in reality, it wasn’t that I forgot but that I got distracted and changed my focus. Right at the moment when they told me what it was, I usually remember. 

Something like that had happened to the disciples in Matthew 16:5-12, and while you search for the text, I will share with you some context. Jesus usually had controversy with the religious leaders of the time, but before the story of today, they had a rough encounter. In chapter 15 Jesus confronted the Pharisees for teaching the people to value their rules more than God’s Law. Chapter 16 starts with a controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees because they wanted him to make some signs and wonders to demonstrate he was the Messiah. He confronted the Pharisees and then left them, showing them no signs. In that context he starts talking with his disciples. 

Let’s read in Matthew 16:5-12, 5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” 8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

As we can understand, Jesus was talking about one thing and the disciples got it wrong. I understand them because if I would have been one of the disciples, I would have been the one who forgot to bring the bread. The problem is that by now Jesus was expecting them to know better. That’s why Jesus gets a little agitated with them, not for the bread, but for their bad memory. When Jesus mentions something related to the bread, they remember they didn’t bring bread with them for food, and they didn’t remember what Jesus did just a few days before. 

I can picture their faces, the tone of the voices and their eyes looking at each other with fear for what they forgot. – Oh, my goodness we forgot the bread. – We’re in trouble. – Now Jesus is speaking like that because he knows we didn’t bring it… Maybe they were just fine trying to find a guilty party to blame for not bringing the bread because even Jesus was aware of the reason for their discussion. His reaction to this scene was like: – I can’t believe you are all having this discussion. Where is your faith in me? Haven’t you witnessed enough already?  What can I do about bread? “…Don’t you remember?…” (v.9) Because not long before Matthew 14 and 16, Jesus multiplied the bread to feed thousands of people and the disciples witnessed that love and power in action. 

I don’t know if this has happened to you but there have been times when I get nervous or scared about something not remembering the kind of God that we believe in. 

  • We get scared about sickness because we forget God is powerful to heal. Don’t forget that! 
  • We get scared of financial problems not remembering God is our provider. Don’t forget that!
  • We get scared about death because we forget we have eternal life and what’s coming is way better than what we are leaving behind. Don’t forget that!

If we let our feelings control our reactions and our memory, they will also control and diminish our faith. Challenging circumstances will usually prompt worldly reactions and words, and it’s at that time when we need to be ready to remind our soul about the powerful and loving that God we believe in. That’s why it is so important for us to know God’s promises for us and his attributes. So:

  • When trouble surrounds my life and prompts fear, I will remember promises like Psalm 46:1, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” 
  • We lose our jobs or bank accounts, remember Philippians 4:19, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
  • When sickness knocks at your door and throws you in bed, remember Jeremiah 33:6, “Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.”
  • If the pandemic threatens us, remember Psalm 91:3, “Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.”
  • If death itself brings to life our worst fears, remember John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?””

Forget anything but Jesus’s love and power! Forget where you parked your car coming out of Walmart, forget where you put your keys or your cell phone, forget your name, forget anything but never forget how much Jesus loves you. Never forget how much he has invested in you at the cross. Never forget how powerful he is. Because the day we forget it, we have changed God for a mere religion. That was John Wesley’s fear about methodism when he said in “Thoughts Upon Methodism”: I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.” [1]

May we be the kind of people who remember that our future is not determined by our past mistakes but by an attitude of faith nurtured in God’s power through Jesus. We may appear to be alone, but the holy spirit is within us and in our midst. The Lord is not less powerful today than he was in the past. 

  • The bread he multiplied in the past he can provide it again. 
  • The healings he performed in the past, he can do it again. 
  • The church he empowered in the past through the Holy Spirit he can empower again. 
  • The growth he produced in the past, he can do it again. 

If you believe he is able to do it, say: Hallelujah! 

I know we will continue to have pain and scary times in our lives, but we will not forget what Jesus has done and can do for his people. That’s why we can sing, “Great is thy faithfulness”