The Baccalaureate Speech I Never Gave

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This is a speech I wrote a week or so before my high school’s baccalaureate. I was asked to say a few words in reflection of my four years at Oakton High School. Unfortunately, I never delivered this speech for several reasons. Anyway, here it is in its entirety. I still believe it to be a good reminder to not disown or disregard the past. We are called to remember the Lord and His mighty deeds in our lives. Whenever I read this passage from Mark, that’s what I think of.
Hi, my name is Patrick Quinn, and I’m really excited to share a little bit with you all tonight. I have been really involved with Young Life and committed to my church’s youth group over the last four years. One of the things I’ve noticed is that high school ministry repeatedly uses the same few passages from the gospels for teaching. Now while I always enjoy reading the parable of the prodigal son and the healing of the paralytic that came through the roof, and I always get a new insight every time I read those passages, I can’t help but think of all the neglected and underrated stories that are never discussed. That’s why I’d like to share one quick, underrated passage from the book of Mark. The passage is Mark chapter 8, verses 14-21, entitled “The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.”
Let me provide a little context. Directly prior to the passage I’ll read, Jesus feeds a crowd of more than four thousand people with a mere seven loaves of bread; not by dividing the seven loaves into worthless morsels, but by a miracle. It says that the people ate and were satisfied. So immediately after Jesus manages to feed a massive crowd of people from only seven loaves of bread, He and His disciples depart by boat to go to another town. This is where we pick up.

14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”

17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

“Twelve,” they replied.

20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”

They answered, “Seven.”

21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

I find this passage fascinating for several reasons, and there’s a lot of content that could be discussed, but I’d like to draw attention to one particular point. That point is that Jesus’ disciples completely miss His point. It’s almost comical that Jesus feeds more than four thousand people, and as soon as they finish, they hop on a boat and forget bread to feed themselves. When Jesus says, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod,” the disciples assume He’s talking about the lack of bread. Jesus is dumbfounded at how oblivious His disciples are. He gives them this profound, multifaceted quip of advice, and they dilute it to a comment about bread. Now I can understand why He’d be a little frustrated; I mean, He literally just made a satisfying meal for four thousand people out of seven loaves of bread, and it doesn’t even occur to the disciples that He can probably feed maybe twenty people with only one loaf of bread. The thing is is that it’s not about bread. You can see that Jesus is deeply concerned because His followers missed a very brief, but invaluable moment. I think that’s extremely relevant to our lives right now.
I don’t know about you, but to me, high school seems like only a brief moment in time now that it’s behind me. I’ve moved on, and I feel I’m ready for the world that stands before me. But just as Jesus was remiss at His disciples, I’d be remiss if I let high school just fade into the past without significance. My last four years at Oakton have been life changing in so many ways. What’s affected me the most hasn’t been the academic portion of school, although that’s been very important. The real meat and value of what’s changed me isn’t obvious, but subtle. If I may, high school’s not about bread. It’s not about the obvious, but the underlying message; the deeper meaning. The Lord has been speaking wisdom and truth into my life through and in between the million joys and stresses and tragedies and comedies of these last few years. God has been refining me and preparing me through these highs and lows for the coming years, decades, and eternity. Like the disciples, I can’t afford to miss this brief, invaluable moment. I don’t think any of us can.
So, I’m going to ask a favor of everyone here: graduating seniors, and parents included. Take the time to reflect on what you’ve experienced. I know that most of my fellow students have been writing reflections in class until they’re blue in the face, but this isn’t about curriculum. This is about seeing with your eyes, hearing with your ears, and softening your hearts to what God has been teaching you though Oakton. It’s been a special experience, I’m glad that I’m done, but I couldn’t be more grateful for what I’ve been taught. Thank you, and God bless.

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