Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees

(Mark 8:14-21)

When Jesus gives us a warning we should listen. When he warned the disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, they misunderstood. Thinking Jesus was talking about bread, they began discussing the fact that they had brought none with them. Jesus then pulled them up to get their thinking right.

beware-of-yeast-Pharisees-and-SadduceesIf we look at what the Lord said, it becomes obvious that he was not talking about bread. He was talking about the nature of bread, and more specifically, the nature of leaven or yeast used to make bread.

Leaven or yeast is used to make bread rise. It ferments and generates gas that adds body and air to the bread so that it become light and soft. It works slowly and anyone who has made bread knows that you must add your yeast and mix it in, then wait for some time to allow the yeast to work through the mix and rise.

Now it is this action that Jesus was comparing the Pharisees and Herodians to. The Herodians were essentially a political party and followers of Herod. They looked to him for hope and protection from the Roman conquerors and we see that they considered Herod a god as was shown in Acts 12:21-23. God however struck him down for his arrogance and pride for he did not give glory to God.

But the Herodians and the Pharisees were leading and teaching the people at this time. Like yeast, they were hidden amongst the people and working slowly to influence them against Christianity. They were spreading their poisonous teachings among the people using their power and privilege to turn the people away from the Lord, and were seeking by deception and stealth how to get rid of Jesus.

Jesus knew this only too well. That is why he warned the disciples to beware of them. The Pharisees and Herodians with their false teachings were dangerous. They were insidious and under-handed and designed to undermine the power and authority of the Christ. They did this to prop up their own positions and power, which they did not want to lose.

Jesus and his disciples represented a point of opposition for both the Pharisees and the Herodians. The Pharisees saw him as taking away their religious power for he was the Messiah and they wanted to deflect the people from him. And the Herodians opposed him politically for the Messiah was to be king, which meant that the kingship of Herod was exposed and would fall. In their self-interests they banded together against the common enemy of Jesus and his disciples for they did not want the status quo to change as they would lose their places of privilege.

False teaching today will do the same to us. Christians today have a need to understand the truth just as the disciples needed to understand Jesus was not talking about bread in this situation. The leaven of the Pharisees, which is about power and privilege over the people is not a lot different to the way some church leaders exalt themselves over those people in their flock. Rather than leading the people to a greater understanding of Christ and how to walk in his ways, they are concerned with the things of this world. Money, tithes, building big churches as a monument to their own glory rather than the glory of God.

God does not want your money. God does not want a fancy church hall. God is not looking for you to be rich in the things of this world. God wants you. As you are, regardless of your flaws, faults or weaknesses. He is prepared to overlook all of those things for the sake of your salvation. You cannot buy it or get it any other way than by coming to him through Jesus Christ.

So don’t let the fancy churches amaze or dazzle you. Don’t let the promise of riches in this world lead you into their clutches. Look at Jesus. After all, he came as a carpenter and his first disciples were fishermen. He came to serve, not be served and that is the attitude we all need to develop today.

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