Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Leaven Of The Pharisees And Sadducees

Matthew 16:1-12

“The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.” (Matthew 16:1)

In Matthew 12:38-39, the scribes and Pharisees had asked Jesus for some special sign for their own gratification, and Jesus had compared them to a girl who isn’t committed to one guy but wants them to compete for her attention.  This group was a mixture of Pharisees and Sadducees and were violently opposed to each other much like the present day Republican and Democratic parties.  Both groups were struggling for dominance and were afraid Jesus would upset the balance of power just as the Republican and Democratic parties fear the Tea party will draw moderate voters from both parties.  They were not looking for gratification but for something they could use to discredit and neutralize him.

“He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2-3)

They considered themselves as experts on the things of God.  Jesus said even ordinary farmers and sailors could look at the sky and make predictions about the weather.  Why couldn’t supposed experts in the field of what God said tell what was happening around them?  He then repeated what he had told the previous group.

“A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.” (Matthew 16:4)

People who only believe when they have a new sign are not committed anyway.  They will always go after the next big thing, and it is a waste of time trying to keep them.  If a woman only stays because of the fancy flowers and gifts, you would be better off without her, and if people only stay in the church for the excitement, the church would be better off without them.  God would not give some special sign to bribe them to stay a while longer.  Then Jesus walked away.  He didn’t waste more time talking to them.

“And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.  Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.  And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.” (Matthew 16:5-7)

In their rush to catch up with Jesus, the disciples forgot to pack any food.  When they caught him he warned them to look out for the leaven of the Pharisees, and they assumed he knew they forgotten the groceries and probably were blaming each other. 

“Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?  Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?  How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?” (Matthew 16:8-11)

Jesus reminded them that they had seen over five thousand fed with just enough for a little boy, and a few days later four thousand fed with only slightly more.  Couldn’t they understand that if he could do that, he wasn’t worried about having enough food.  He had been speaking figuratively when he referred to the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

“Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:12)

When they realized that he was speaking figuratively, they understood that he was warning them against the teachings and philosophy of either the Pharisees or the Sadducees, whose main interest was in preserving their own prestige rather than in what was right or pleasing to God.


  1. Dear Donald,
    It is so true that a woman should not be in a relationship for the purpose of receiving gifts, nor should people go to church for the entertainment, nor should believers need a sign to have faith in God. Jesus' warning of the "leaven" of the religious leaders applies to many of the false teachings and false prophets abounding today. Thanks for the great post & God bless,

    1. Thanks, Laurie.

      I am constantly reminded how very similar things are today to what the Bible describes in those days.