September 25, 2023

A Different Kind of Yeast

Devotion for the week...

After I started writing the 2-part series about Matthew 13:33, which compares the Kingdom of Heaven to the yeast a woman uses to make bread, I also read Matthew 16:6, which says, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Of course, the word yeast practically jumped off the page at me, asking to be added as an accompanying devotion.

For a bit of context, Jesus and His disciples had just crossed a lake, and then the disciples discovered they didn't have any bread. Jesus issued His warning about the yeast of the Pharisees, and the disciples thought He was disappointed in them for forgetting the bread, so they started arguing among themselves about who should have remembered the bread.

(Side note - do you ever feel like the disciples? Missing the point entirely even though they were spending their days right there walking and talking with Jesus? If anything could prove that God wants to use ordinary, unremarkable people for His work, it's the men Jesus chose as His disciples!)

Jesus may have been tempted to roll His eyes at them as they argued (is rolling your eyes at people who just don't get it sinful? If not, maybe He actually did roll His eyes). He reminded them about the times he fed huge crowds of people with just a little food, and even had leftovers, then said, "Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, 'Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.'

"Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (vv. 11-12).

Jesus had harsh words for these groups of religious leaders. In Matthew 23 alone, He said they "crush people with unbearable religious demands and never lift a finger to ease the burden" (v. 4); they wouldn't go into the Kingdom of Heaven (v. 13); they "ignore the more important aspects of the law—justice, mercy, and faith (v. 23); that they were "filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence" (v. 25); and that they were like "whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly [they] look like righteous people, but inwardly [their] hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness" (vv/ 27-28). Yikes! That doesn't sound like anything I want to be!

If they were so awful, why did Jesus even have to warn the disciples about their teaching? Shouldn't it have been obvious how wrong they were? Not necessarily! Remember, it was deceptive, which is another word for misleading. In other words, their teaching sounded like truth, but wasn't.

For example, Jesus quoted one thing the Pharisees taught: "You say it is all right for people to say to their parents, 'Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you'" (Matthew 15: 5). Giving to God sounds like the right thing to do, doesn't it? Yet Jesus reprimanded them, saying, "In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, 'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God'" (vv. 6-9).

Do you see the deception in that last verse? They teach man-made ideas as commands from God. 

The Pharisees were a strict religious group. This wasn't a group of people denying God or trying to get as far from Him as they could. Unfortunately, instead of their focus being on God, it was on their own rules for doing everything the 'proper' way. They had taken their eyes off Him and put the focus on themselves, meaning they completely missed the mark. Then they taught others to follow their rules, leading them astray, too.

Jesus told the disciples (and, by extension, us) to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, to be wary of their teaching. How do we do that?
the best defense we have against deceptive teaching is to know the Bible |
As always, the best defense we have against deceptive teaching is to know the Bible. If we regularly read the Bible ourselves then we'll be able to spot the differences when someone starts teaching man-made ideas that don't quite line up with God's word. If we don't know His word, we won't be able to separate fact from fiction, and we'll be susceptible to whatever man-made ideas people teach.

1 comment:

  1. You have such insightfulness, Leanne. I admire your ability - a God-given gift - to write about Scripture, and make it understandable! Thank you for sharing. Have you watched any of the series "The Chosen," produced by Angel Studios and Dallas Jenkins? In the past year I've watched three seasons and used a study guide to discuss each episode with friends in a Bible study group. Jesus and each of the disciples have come alive for me through this series, so I have good "visuals" to accompany your lesson.


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