Their Hearts Were Hardened
Adam Grant’s new book, “Think Again,” explains the power of knowing what we don’t know. It’s not a Christian book. Adam is a Wharton Business School professor and New York Times best-selling author. But in one chapter entitled, “The Armchair Quarterback and the Imposter,” he presents multiple studies that show on average (and these are his words), “The less intelligent we are in a particular domain, the more we seem to overestimate our actual intelligence in that domain.” This is known to psychologists as the Dunning-Kruger Effect.
You see this in action all the time. If you’re watching a Clemson game on TV, the person watching who knows the least about football will often be the person who corrects the coach the most often. That’s the Dunning-Kruger Effect. In the business world, the manager who thinks he leads his team, his department most effectively often does not. It’s the “ignorance of arrogance.” And it leads (according to Grant) to being “stranded on the summit of Mount Stupid.” We’re stuck on Mount Stupid when we know just enough not to be ignorant, but not enough to be humble. You’ll see Mount Stupid if you look up the axis on the left, which that word is confidence, the Y/vertical axis. When our confidence to talk about a subject exceeds our competence (our knowledge and wisdom of that subject), we see ourselves stuck on the top of Mount Stupid. The confidence of our words exceeds the competence of our knowledge. I hate when I do this. I’m sure people around me hate it even more. Do you ever hear yourself talking as if you actually know what you’re talking about, but you don’t really? You read a couple blogs, you watched the news, you heard a talk show host. Talk show hosts get paid to live on the top of Mount Stupid because they always have to talk about everything with such confidence that you think they actually know what they’re talking about. It’s a painful thing.
Now, of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have opinions. We all should have opinions. But what a difference it would make in the way we interact with one another, especially when we interact in areas we disagree, if we had the humility to acknowledge that we don’t know everything that we sound like we know. Grant writes this:
“It’s when we progress from novice to amateur that we become overconfident. A bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In too many domains of our lives, we never gain enough expertise to question our opinions or discover what we don’t know. We have just enough information to feel self-assured about making pronouncements and passing judgment, failing to realize that we’ve climbed to the top of Mount Stupid without making it over the other side.”
There’s lots of stuff in the book I don’t agree with, but this next sentence is worth the price of the whole thing. It’s gold.
“We get trapped in a beginner’s bubble of flawed assumptions, where we’re ignorant of our own ignorance.”
I’ll say it again.
“We get trapped in a beginner’s bubble of flawed assumptions, where we’re ignorant of our own ignorance.”
By pretending we know, we will never know. And it’s one thing when it happens with a coaching decision or a controversial social issue. It’s far more dangerous when it happens with our view of Jesus. This is what the gospel of Mark is warning us against. In Mark 6 we see two mind blowing miracles, but the disciples don’t get it. They’re stuck in a spiritual version of Mount Stupid. Look at verse 51, Mark 6.
“And he [Jesus] got into the boat with them [this is after feeding thousands of people, walking on the water through a storm], and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
This is like an avalanche of ignorance. When you miss one thing and then that leads to missing another thing, which ends up you think you’ve got it, but you’ve missed the whole point. And the disciples are really trapped in a beginner’s bubble of flawed assumptions, ignorant of their ignorance. This is sobering because it shows us that you can be around Jesus — you can actually see him do amazing things, you can hear him teach remarkable truth — and go away unchanged because of the condition of your heart. So, this week (Mark 6) and next week (Mark 7) we’re going to focus in on the heart.
It’s really important that we have a biblical definition of what we mean by the heart. The heart is the control center of the person. The biblical view of the heart is far more sophisticated than our cultural view. The Disney definition of heart is very different than a biblical definition of heart. The heart, biblically, is the dynamic interaction of cognition, volition, and emotion that flow out of who we love and what we worship or what we love and who we worship. Let me say that again. It sounds too complicated. It’s basically the dynamic interaction of how we think, feel, choose. That’s the heart, biblically. And this interaction of how we think, feel, and choose flows from who we worship, what we love. The people most vulnerable to hard-heartedness are people who have sampled God’s goodness. And that is a breathtaking statement. The people most vulnerable to hard-heartedness are people who have sampled God’s goodness. They’ve tasted enough to think they know. Let me show you an example of this from Romans 2:4,
“Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing [so, we know enough not to know] that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? [God’s kindness is not leading you to self-deception or self-inflation, but to repentance.] But because of your hard impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” You know enough of God’s kindness to be hard, but not enough to be humble.
This is super scary stuff in Greenville, because wherever you look around us, you see evidences of God’s kindness, his goodness. And it is easy to assume, “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Know that. Seen that. Done that.” And that assumption can blind us to who God really is and how he is revealing himself through Christ.
So today, let’s explore: How does Jesus interact with, how does he reveal himself to disciples who don’t get it, think they know, and they don’t know, are ignorant of their ignorance? And amazingly, I find this super encouraging, because I see myself in these guys. These doofuses are me. Jesus patiently, persistently revealed himself to them. And we could call this Jesus’ heart-softening training. Now, warning, we’re not going to see a full manifestation of heart softening today by the end of chapter 6. This isn’t a formula to where BOOM! Hard heart, now soft heart. No, they’ve got a lot to learn. They’re going to fail a lot. They’re going to struggle a lot more. That, to me, is one of the most encouraging parts of this. Jesus persistently, patiently is softening their hearts and opening their eyes. And that gives me hope, doesn’t it? He’s doing that with us.
Let’s look at two examples of what he does to reveal himself to these guys who aren’t getting it. Number 1, notice his sending, his sending. In Mark 6 the disciples are still ignorant of their ignorance, but Jesus sends them on a mission. Isn’t that crazy? Look at verse 7. “And he called the twelve and began [this is going back a few weeks. Ryan talked about this a couple of weeks ago.] began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.” This seems crazy. It’s like giving car keys to a 12-year-old. They don’t get it. So, send them on a mission and entrust them with your authority? What? But this is a vital leadership and parenting principle. Verse 7, he sends them out. But now the part we’ve come to in our study, verse 30, they return, and notice he debriefs them. They “told him all that they had done and taught.” And then verse 31, “And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.”
Imagine this. They don’t understand who he is and why he’s come (fully yet). But he entrusts them with some authority, sends them out, brings them back. Let’s eat. Let’s talk. Let’s go on a retreat. We could boil this down to three key elements that I think are really important. And generally speaking, these helped my wife and I as we we’re raising our kids, making educational, discipleship choices. These three things. Jesus releases them, empowers them, and sends them out in verse 7. He brings them back to regroup in verse 30 to debrief. He plans a retreat and then a little R&R. Rethink, refresh, release again. And we’re going to notice this cycle. He’s going to do it again in chapter 9. They’re sent out to do some things they can’t do, and he’s going to bring them back.
And this release, regroup, rethink is liberating. How is it liberating? Well, some of us are paralyzed until we figure out everything. Until we think we’ve figured out everything, we don’t want to do anything. We don’t want to end up on Mount Stupid looking really dumb like we know what we’re doing. So, let’s do nothing until we know everything. Well, that’s the opposite extreme, right? You’re never going to know everything. You’re never going to feel fully ready. And so, what Jesus does here, he sends them out and then brings them back. And I wonder what would change in our thinking if we realized that Jesus is doing that in us right now? Again, this isn’t some mechanical process. It doesn’t come with a notebook. I’m signing up for this! It’s very organic and he’s doing it with you right now if you stop and think about it. Think about the things he’s sending you into that feel a little overwhelming at times. You don’t have all the answers, and you don’t feel fully ready. And then he brings you back.
And even what we’re doing right now is a form of that. He sends us out. This week, some of you had surgery, some of you had to deal with really hard family issues, some of you are trying to share the gospel with obstreperous coworkers, really difficult to deal with. And so, you’re going out and then you’re gathering back again. And we’re opening the Word, we’re listening to the Lord. The Spirit is speaking to us. We’re regrouping and rethinking. What did I not understand? What do I need to understand? What power is he filling me with that will enable me to do what he’s called me to do? And then he releases us again.
And that release, regroup, rethink is huge. He entrusts us with his authority. And here’s something that I think helps us not just remain in the lodge or climb to the top of Mount Stupid — both those extremes are bad. His authority and our humility rideshare. His authority and our humility travel together. They carpool. It’s not one or the other. He fills us with his authority to enable us to confidently do what he’s called us to do. But he also reminds us, we don’t have all the answers. We don’t have it all together, and it’s okay.
So, what are some benefits of this release, regroup, rethink, release, regroup …. What are a few? Let me just quickly throw out a few you can think about this week, talk over in your life groups. We don’t have to pretend like we have all the answers. We don’t have to pretend like we have all the answers. We can know what we know — which there are things we really are sure about — and there are other things we’re still learning. We remain in a posture of learning. We’re learners. I don’t care how long you’ve been a Christian, if you stop learning, you are becoming a fossil. We are constantly learning. We see the need for input from others. We value the input from others to help us see the things we can’t see; know the things we don’t even know we don’t know. We ask better questions, and we receive correction. And ironically, we actually unlock our creativity, because we’re not afraid to fail. We’re willing to take risks. This is really what Jesus is illustrating by even working with these twelve disciples. Talk about risk. Jesus gives them his authority and sends them out to do stuff. That’s crazy.
So, this is his sending, but do you see also how this release, regroup, rethink, softens the heart? It’s not just theoretical. If all we’re doing is filling our brains, we’re probably going to harden our hearts. Jesus’ discipleship is very interactive. Yes, it’s filling our brains with truth, but it’s also getting our hands dirty and our feet weary as we’re actually going and doing. And then he’s bringing us back. So, his sending strategy, softening the heart.
Secondly, his stretching strategy. And this is what I’m calling this whole section we’re looking at today where Jesus reveals himself to his disciples in crisis situations to stretch his disciples and force them to rethink their assumptions, especially about him. And look for the ways … I’m going to do this a little differently. I had all this outlined. And it just looked so complicated, I could just see your eyelids. So, I threw that away. We’re just going to read the miracles, okay? And I’m going to make some comments. But as I do that, look for the way Jesus is stretching the disciples beyond their comfort zones, helping them see their own inadequacy and his adequacy and also the way he’s revealing who he really is. If you’ll notice, there are a lot of clues from Old Testament links that we’ll see as we go through.
If you don’t have a Bible, grab a Bible in a seat back near you. It’s page 841 if you use one of those Bibles. We are in Mark 6:32. “And they went away [They’re on their way to their retreat.] They went away in the boat to a [literally, it says wilderness place] a desolate place [a wilderness place] by themselves.” Verse 33, “Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd.”
Stop for a second. How discouraging is that? You plan a retreat, you call ahead. You make sure the Hyatt has lots of rooms. You’re ready to have this great debrief, rethink, retool time with your disciples. And people get wind of where you’re going, and they book all the rooms ahead of you. And they’re there like, “Hey!” I’m just imagining looking at that scene and just turning the boat around. Let’s do the houseboat thing. But Jesus sees the great crowd, and he has what? Compassion. Don’t you hate that? We love that. That word compassion is the coolest word — splagchnizomai. I say it like it’s Russian — splagchnizomai. Splagchnizomai. It’s a word that refers to the tummy. It’s what you experience when the plane just kind of goes woosh. Or you’re afraid of speaking in front of a bunch of people and you feel it in the intestines. It’s gut-wrenching. This word, the verb, only appears twelve times in the New Testament, all of them in the Gospels, all of them of Jesus — the verb.
He had compassion. He felt a gut-wrenching concern for these people who he should have been frustrated with but felt concerned for. Why was he so concerned for them? Because, it goes on to say, “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Now, why would he say that? Think about the passage we looked at two weeks ago, the Herods. King Herod, with his drinking parties and dancing girls. That’s the political leadership, rash vows. You think, guys can we not do better in Israel to get better leaders? Do you ever feel that? Well, we won’t go there. Political leaders. And then on the other side, next week, we’re going to see the religious leaders (chapter 7), they’re fighting over stupid stuff. They can’t distinguish what is important and what is not. So, Jesus, in the middle of the political leaders — who are completely irresponsible and consumed with themselves — and the religious leaders who don’t know what is really important to focus on — Jesus looks at the crowd, and he has compassion. He doesn’t just whine and grumble about the political leaders or the religious leaders. He has compassion on the crowd because they are like sheep without a shepherd.
So, what does he do? Verse 34, “He began to teach them many things.” Now, I know today teaching is uncool. People don’t want teaching; they want stimulus checks. People don’t want teaching, they want affirmation, or they want to hear themselves talk. I know there’s a place for that, for discussion, but don’t miss the fact that Jesus, seeing the multitudes, moved with compassion, helps them get off Mount Stupid by teaching them. Which is vital for all of us. We need to be willing to learn.
Verse 35, “And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, ‘This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.’” Get the scene. Thousands and thousands of people, no food trucks, no DoorDash, and the disciples begin to tell Jesus what to do. Now, this is a good lesson to write down on the side of your Bible or front of your Bible or maybe tattoo on your forehead. When you start telling Jesus what to do, you might be on the top of Mount Stupid. Important lesson to remember. These guys are telling him, “Okay, Jesus, a lot of people, no food. This is what we need to do, send them away.”
Verse 37, “He answered them, ‘You give them something to eat.’” Do you see how he’s stretching them? He’s forcing them to look at … They’re pulling out their wallets, and they’re just like, “Shall we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” In today’s dollars, that’s about $30,000. Are you serious? “And he said to them, ‘How many loaves do we have? [Let’s look at our assets.] Go and see.’ And when they found out, they said, ‘Five, and two fish.’”
Verse 39, Jesus takes over. “Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. So, they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven [He wanted to make sure everybody knew where this was coming from.] and said a blessing [gave thanks] and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples [He includes the disciples.] to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. And those who ate the loaves were 5000 men.” Most likely we’re talking around 15,000+ people.
Verse 45, “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up to the mountain to pray.” That seems really rushed. When you have a miracle like that, you would think you’d want to just stay in the moment of the miracle. But Jesus moves really quickly. Why? If you read John 6:15, you know why. And that is because the people were trying to make him what? King, forcefully. They didn’t want a Messiah; they wanted a Burger King. They wanted someone who would do this perpetually. We’ve got a great gig going. We’re people, and we’re needy. You make stuff out of nothing. We could just set up camp, you feed us, and we’re all happy. And Jesus pulls away from that very quickly. It’s important to remember. He is not going to submit to our agenda of what a Messiah should be.
So, he goes up on the mountain to pray, sends his disciples across the sea, storm going on. Verse 47, “When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were [and I think he miraculously saw that they were] making headway painfully.” Sometimes I feel like that could be a title of my Christian walk, “Making Headway Painfully,” on my tombstone.
“For the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night [this is a little after 3 a.m.], he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, [I am] it is I. Do not be afraid.’ And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
Verse 53, “When they crossed over, they came to the land of Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about.” Now, before we notice this, watch the scope of what is about to happen. And remember, a few weeks ago when Ryan began this chapter looking at Nazareth. The people of Nazareth thought they knew a lot about Jesus and saw very little happen, very few miracles. These people don’t think they know much about Jesus and watch what happens.
They “ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” So, the chapter ends in contrast to how it began. In Nazareth, the people thought they knew and saw very little. In Gennesaret the people were wide open and saw a lot.
Now, did you see many Old Testament connections as we read through those two miracles? Let me show you a few. Jesus led his disciples in the wilderness. Think Exodus 15 and following as God led the people of Israel in the wilderness. Jesus has them sit on green grass, these people who are like sheep without a shepherd. The Good Shepherd makes them lie down in green pastures. They sat in groups of (verse 40) hundreds and by fifties. Sounds so much like what Moses did with Jethro’s advice, breaking Israel down into similar groups. Jesus fed them bread from heaven. Think Exodus 16, Yahweh providing bread from heaven. They took up twelve basketfuls, the twelve tribes. Jesus walks through the water. Think Exodus 14. Yahweh led Israel through the water as on dry ground. Jesus meant to pass by them. Sounds so similar to God passing by Moses in Exodus 33:22 and God passing by Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11. And then Jesus said, “Take heart; [literally this says] I am. Do not be afraid.” I am that I am.
It is impossible to hear this and conclude that Jesus is just a wonderful prophet, great teacher, does some magic tricks maybe, but just a spectacular human. No, remember the breakdown of Mark. Chapter 1-8, who is he? Chapter 8-16, why did he come? We’re still in the “who is he,” and the disciples are having a hard time getting it. But Jesus patiently, through sending and receiving them back, and now through putting them in stretching situations where they didn’t know how to feed all these people. And even some of the seasoned sailors didn’t know what to do with the storm. Jesus puts them in those stretching situations to reveal who he really is. He is God in flesh, God manifesting himself to his people, leading a new exodus.
We also see here that faith’s greatest danger is not hunger or high winds, but hard hearts. Faith’s greatest danger … You notice Jesus deals with the hunger quite easily. And the high winds, he just walks through them. But the greatest miracle in the midst of these great miracles is when a hard heart is softened.
A couple questions for us to chew on. How is Jesus doing this in your life right now — this sending, stretching, softening work — so that we can know what we don’t know?
Also, what does his releasing, regrouping, rethinking look like for you? And don’t get confused with what’s happening in our culture, which is more like deconstruction rather than discipleship. There’s a big difference. Deconstructionism is basically just tearing everything down, questioning everything, rethinking everything, and you end up with nothing. That’s what’s happening in our culture. Christians need to be willing to rethink, and when appropriate, tear down. But we’re doing it on something, firmly resting on the revealed Word of God in Jesus Christ. We’re constantly, yes, tearing down, rethinking, questioning our assumptions, but doing it humbly with the Word of God reigning over rather than us reigning over it. Huge difference. Huge difference.
In what ways is Jesus stretching your faith, revealing himself to you? And if I can’t name any, if I can’t think over the past year or so how he’s exposed ways in which I think that I really need to turn from and how to believe something different, than maybe my heart is hard. Maybe I’m just stuck on Mount Stupid and don’t realize it. God, give us eyes to see. 2 Corinthians 3:15,
“Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
Father, we praise you that you are so patiently, so persistently softening our crusty hearts, making them tender. Forgive us when we know enough of your kindness to be hard, but not enough to be humble. Help us know, even to know our own ignorance so that the veil is removed. Whatever the veil is, it’s different than what Israel had. But the veil of assumptions of how you should work, the veil of pride in our spiritual knowledge, the veil of the fear of man worrying what other people think of us, just trying to perpetually prove that we’re right, and we know. God, do that as we behold your glory. You provide food in the wilderness, you walk through storms and speak, and winds cease. And you patiently transform your people from one degree of glory to another. So, we ask that you would grow us up in the confidence in your authority and down in the humility of our own resources simultaneously. Grow us up and down as we behold your glory. We’re listening, Lord. We want to be a people who have ears to hear and tender hearts and not a people who pretend to know. And we thank you that your mercies are tender and are firm to the end. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.