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Mark has his own particular style when it comes to verb tenses. He uses a lot of historical presents. He uses a lot of imperfects when the context would seem to be satisfied by a simple past. It’s just his way of making the story come to life. I don’t see any pattern in Mark to suggest that all of his imperfects express ongoing action or extended discourses. It’s just a past tense to Mark. When a verb tense breaks the normal, expected pattern, pay close attention, but this one fits Mark’s simple narrative style as a normal past tense.
I imagine Jesus did say more; he probably didn’t just blurt out “Watch out for the yeast!” out of the blue and then stop talking. But in a longer discussion, this might have been the only thing he said about yeast, which is why the disciples not only didn’t understand the lesson, they didn’t even figure out it was a spiritual statement.
The harshness of Jesus’ rebuke in verse 17 is not because Jesus had just clearly and completely explained what he meant by yeast, but because this was not an isolated incident, and because his repeated miracles of feeding thousands should have gotten it through to them that a shortage of bread was not a major problem to Jesus.
The story ends with another imperfect in verse 21: He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Are we to infer that was also part of a longer discourse?

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