Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees - Know the sign of Jonah
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 it says: 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. 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. Then Jesus continued to perform miracles, again feeding thousands with a few fish and loaves. The miraculous works of Jesus were open and obvious, they were well known throughout the land. As believers, we should seek and expect the same types of miracles to be evident today. Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” In Mark 16:17-18 He says: “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.” Seeing miracles, asking Jesus, in His name, to do the things He did then, now in our day should be normal for us.
In today’s text though, it says: The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “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? 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. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for seeking a sign from heaven. So, what was or is the difference? The religious leaders in today’s text were testing Jesus. They were seeking a sign, not seeking a Savior. Again the miracles of Jesus were evident. Jesus rebuked them saying: Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? Of all people, the religious leaders knew scripture. They knew the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. They should have recognized Jesus. The reason they sought a sign was to test Him, not to trust in Him. The miracles Jesus performed, were in response to the faith of those who sought Him. The signs, as Jesus says in Mark 16, accompany those who believe, not those who question or test Him.
Later in today’s text Jesus says: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” After some initial confusion, it says: Then they (the disciples) understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We also need to guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We need to test our hearts and our motives, and not test Jesus. We need to be certain that we are seeking the Savior and not just seeking the sign. Romans 10:9 says: If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. If we believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior, if we believe that He died on the cross for our redemption, our reconciliation and our restoration and that He was raised from the grave so that we too could live, then we know that we already have all of the promises and the blessings, the protection and the provision of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus doesn’t need to prove who He is. Jesus responds to our faith, not our testing. Jesus response to the Pharisees and Sadducees was: “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah” In Matthew 12:40 Jesus said: “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.” Jonah was in the belly of the whale for trying to run from God’s call to preach a message of repentance to Nineveh. The sign of Jonah was that Jesus would be raised from the grave to confirm the message of repentance.
There is something else though that we as believers can learn from the account of Jonah and Nineveh. In Jonah 3:10, after Jonah’s warning to Nineveh, it says: When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. Chapter 4 tells us how Jonah responded. Rather than rejoice at the repentance, it says: It greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord and said, “Please Lord, was not this what I said while I was still in my own country? Therefore in order to forestall this I fled to Tarshish, for I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity. God rebuked Jonah for his response. We too need to guard our hearts to be certain that we would not rather see people judged for their sin than repent and be redeemed from it. We need to celebrate redemption not prefer condemnation. If we truly want the signs and wonders, the miracles of Christ to accompany us, then we must: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) The gospel is the good news that Jesus died so others would not have to, that He was raised from the grave so that they too could live and have all the promises and blessings of the kingdom of heaven. If we will preach the good news concerning repentance, then it will be for us as it was for the early church: They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed. (Mark 16:20)
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit guard my heart. Protect me from the leaven of the Pharisees. May I seek You and may Your signs and miracles accompany my faith, that others might see; repent and believe. I will rejoice with You over every heart that turns to You. Amen.