The Leaven and The Sign
Matthew 15:29-16:12 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31 So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.
32 And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.” 33 The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.” 35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.
16 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
5 And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
In today’s text Jesus says: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Leaven, yeast is used to cause bread to rise. It is not something which can be seen in the dough or tasted, yet a small amount works its way through and affects the whole batch. It actually is a living organism, a fungus which feeds on sugar and causes fermentation. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees was their improper religious doctrines. Like yeast, false doctrines and human philosophies sometimes go unnoticed until they have worked through and affected large groups of people. In today’s text the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a sign from heaven. Signs, wonders, miracles and healing were present nearly everywhere Jesus went. The truth is though, that the signs, wonders and miracles followed the teaching and preaching of the word. In Mark 16 Jesus commissions the disciples saying: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation… These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” The result was and is: And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.
The power of God to work miracles is not for entertainment purposes. It is not something to be demanded or even that we should presume on. There were times, when even witnessing the miracles of Christ, the religious leaders tried to discredit Jesus, saying the source of His power to heal and deliver came from the devil, not from God. In today’s text Jesus says: “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” Knowing scripture, the religious leaders should have been able to identify Christ, the Messiah without demanding proof. From the time He was born, many recognized Jesus as the Christ simply by the witness of the Holy Spirit. The hearts of these religious leaders though were too hardened with the traditions of men, the leaven of human doctrine and philosophies.
Even today, scripture and the Holy Spirit are what testify of Jesus, the Christ. Anyone who looks around at our culture and the conditions in the world, politically, socially and morally should be able to discern the times. In today’s text Jesus says: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” What is the sign of Jonah? In Matthew 12:40, Jesus says: “For just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” When Jonah came forth from the belly of the whale he delivered God’s message and warning to the people of Nineveh. It was a simply message to repent and turn to God.
The sign of Jonah is still an important sign for us today. Jesus Christ, according to the will of God, gave His life on the cross for our sins. He was placed in a grave and on the third day He rose from the grave, having conquered sin and death. John 3:16 says: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The leaven of human philosophies has indeed affect our culture today. The signs of the times are obvious. The scriptures bear witness of Christ, the Messiah. Whoever will believe, whoever will respond to the simple message of God, repent and believe will be saved. If we as disciples of Christ, will be faithful to His call and commission to preach the word, to share the good news of the gospel, He, Christ the Lord, will work with us, confirming the word with the signs that follow. It is not the signs but rather Christ and the cross, forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation and restoration which should be our testimony. The power is His alone.
My prayer for us today is the prayer of Jude 1:24-25: Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.