The Yeast of the Pharisees

I believe most of us try to understand the unpleasant circumstances we’re in.  We think that if we can make sense of the valley, then it won’t be so dark.  Or we’ll get out that much faster.

My loved ones, I wish there was a “7 Step Program” to get out of the storms but the truth is, there really isn’t!  Unfortunately, we tend to make a few incorrect assumptions when we’re trying to figure this out:

  • If God was here, or if He loved me, I wouldn’t be in this mess.
  • If God was powerful enough in my life, He would pull me out or have me avoid this mess in the first place.
  • If I was more worthy of God’s love, things would go better for me.
  • If other people weren’t so mean to me, I would have better options now.

All of the above are not only dangerous mental pitfalls, but lies straight from hell.  Not one of the previous statements is even remotely Biblical.

Follow me to Matthew 16:1-12

The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You[a] know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times.[b] An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of[c] Jonah.” Then He left them and went away.

The disciples reached the other shore,[d] and they had forgotten to take bread.

Then Jesus told them, “Watch out and beware of the yeast[e] of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

And they discussed among themselves, “We didn’t bring any bread.”

Aware of this, Jesus said, “You of little faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves that you do not have bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many baskets you collected? 10 Or the seven loaves for the 4,000 and how many large baskets you collected? 11 Why is it you don’t understand that when I told you, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,’ it wasn’t about bread?” 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the yeast in bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Alright, let’s break this down (and quite personally I’m glad I don’t have to know a lick about baking to understand how yeast works and how this Bible teaching applies to my life!):

The Pharisees were testing Jesus, demanding to see some sort of magic trick in order to believe that He was the Messiah.  Jesus did not entertain them because He had JUST fed 4,000 men (plus women and children) with left-overs out of seven loaves of bread and some small fish.  So it wasn’t a matter of Jesus not having proved Himself, it was a matter of them being stuck in unbelief.

Jesus, in essence, says, “If you guys can tell it’s going to rain by seeing dark clouds in the sky, you should be able to figure this one out guys!”  He chastises them because they cannot interpret the signs of the times.  I think we’d be wise to understand what kind of spiritual weather we are navigating in too!

But then He says that the only sign they are getting is that of Jonah: – As Jonah was in the belly of a whale for three days and nights, so Jesus was to be dead and buried for three days and nights before His resurrection. – Jonah was thrown overboard in a storm because of his rebellion.  He was saved by the fish that swallowed him because Jonah did not know how to swim, and would’ve drowned. – Jonah had to repent and confess God in the belly of the fish.  THEN the fish puked him out on shore. So the sign of Jonah was more than ample in telling the Pharisees that they weren’t gonna get it unless they repented.  Even in His rebuke, Jesus is full of compassion – pleading with their hearts for repentance!

Jesus barely walks away from this conversation and tells the disciples to beware of the yeast of these people, and then it’s made clear that the yeast means the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  Was it the teachings of the law of Moses? Nope.  It was what the Pharisees taught through their UNBELIEF:

  • I’m going to wait ’till God shows me a sign before I believe in Him.
  • That person was born blind because both his parents were seeped in sin.
  • You can’t heal on the Sabbath, it’s a day of “rest”.
  • You’re making yourself impure by eating without washing your hands.
  • You shouldn’t let that woman touch you; you don’t know where she’s been.

You see, it was UNBELIEF that guided the Pharisees teachings in all these issues – because for all their religiosity, they didn’t know the heart of the God they followed and refused to believe that He is the compassionate, gracious God He reveals Himself to be in Scripture!

That Pharisaic yeast is a lot like those mental pitfalls I mentioned earlier – we need to avoid them at all cost!  No matter what our struggle, we’ve got to believe that God is love, full of grace and compassion!  The storms are a sign of the times, not a sign of His ability to care for you!  And like yeast, it only takes a small amount to make unbelief fester and grow!