Tee-ball players are the best! They provide a high level of entertainment primarily because they really don’t get the game just yet. With all due respect, they are thick-headed! But can they teach us something about following Jesus? I think so.
A six-year-old kid hits the ball, and he just stands there like he can’t believe he actually hit it! Mom and dad are cheering loudly, and the kid can’t help but bask in the adoration for a moment.
But the coach is yelling, “Run to first! Run to first!” The kid just doesn’t hear it no matter how loud the coach gets. He is too busy watching the ball roll slowly past the pitcher’s mound, and processing what has just happened.
Finally, the coach’s shrill wakes him up and he runs, but he forgets to drop the bat. So now the coach, mom, dad, and everyone else is yelling, “Drop the bat! Drop the bat!” So he stops running and looks around for a moment. Then he drops the bat, but continues to stand there. The chant changes back to, “Run to first! Run to first!”
Eventually, he makes it to the base, and the crowd goes wild. Obviously he is safe because the opposing team is having similar problems in the field. Their coach is yelling, “Throw the ball to first! Throw the ball to first!”
My favorite moment in all this is that wonderful expression on the kid’s face once he makes it to first. It is one of those eureka moments! His cute little grin says, “Oh!! Now I get it!!” But then he comes up for his next at-bat and, well, as it turns out, he really didn’t get it. We know this because he does the exact same routine again!
Coach Jesus has a Tee-ball Team
Keep that tee-ball mental picture in mind, and read this:
Matthew 16:5 When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.”
These poor tee-ball players, er, I mean, disciples had forgotten their lunch. They were hungry and were fretting that nobody brought any bread. Coach Jesus saw a great teaching opportunity. As recorded in verses 1-4, there had just been an encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees. They had come to test Jesus, challenging him to show a sign from heaven. But he refused, stating they were “an evil and adulterous generation,” and that they would only receive the sign of Jonah.
Now, just after that confrontation, Jesus was alone with his disciples, and they were fretting over their lack of bread. So he uses their discussion about food to make a very important spiritual point: “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
He could have just as easily said, “Run to first! Run to first!” because these guys did not hear a word their Coach said. Instead, they kept talking about their lack of bread, and they worried about what they were going to do. As a result, they missed the clear instructions. Like any good coach, Jesus confronts their thick-headedness and, ultimately, their lack of faith:
8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
On the tee-ball field, you hear this all the time! The coach asks his little guys, “Don’t you get it yet? You have to run to first! You have to drop the bat! Do it every time!” Here, Jesus asks his team, “Do you not yet perceive? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread?” All of this is a nice way of saying, “Did you leave your brain at home? Why can’t you get this? This should be obvious to you!”
In helping his disciples get it, Jesus reminds them of recent events they had witnessed firsthand. He had recently fed a crowd of five thousand men and their families by multiplying bread – that is, creating it. He did the same thing again with four thousand men and their families. Both times, his team of followers were responsible for picking up the leftovers! Baskets full of bread after thousands had eaten and were satisfied!
But now his team was worried about having a bit of bread for lunch! Jesus challenges their thick-headedness like this: “Don’t you guys remember what I am capable of doing? You are fretting about having enough bread for lunch! Did you not have your eyes opened when you just recently saw me feed thousands of people with no problems at all? I am informing you of a critical spiritual lesson about false teaching – beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees – but all you can think about it making sure you can make a sandwich! Why are you guys not getting this??”
They were thick-headed and their faith was weak. Sounds familiar to me! In fact, Coach Jesus has to have this same pep talk with me on a very regular basis! Has he had to have this same talk with you too?
The Eureka Moment
After the confrontation, his disciples had their eureka moment:
12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
“Oh!! Now we get it!!” I’m sure the disciples all had that same expression the tee-ball player gets when he finally makes it to first base!
Isn’t amazing how those of us who follow Jesus are not much better than a tee-ball team when it comes to listening to our Coach? I most certainly can’t make fun of his disciples, because I see myself in their thick-headedness. Maybe you do too.
Jesus is constantly coaching our lives, showing us the way, calling us to various places and tasks, providing successful techniques for dealing with all that we face, and yet we often just stand there with a dumb look on our faces.
We need eureka moments, but we are far too easily distracted by all the commotion of life, and we love basking in the glowing adoration of all our Facebook friends and fans. We spend most of our mental energy worried about things forgotten (the bread, or the ketchup at the grocery story), things needed (filters for the AC, wasp-killing spray, dishwashing detergent), and things wanted (that new dress, that new computer, that new car). These worries consume our thoughts and our conversations.
Meanwhile, our Coach is telling us exactly what we need to do to glorify him. He is continually instructed us on how to find great joy in him. He never ceases to guide us in how to serve him appropriately in a dark world: “Drop the bat and run!”
Next time you attend a tee-ball game and chuckle over the players thick-headedness, remember how thick-headed you can be when it comes to the instructions of Christ.
The good news is that the tee-ball players get older and more mature. Eventually, they figure out how to reduce distraction and listen to their coach. In the same way, we need to grow up and mature as believers so that the only voice we hear is that of our great Coach. Eureka!