When the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “We didn’t bring any bread.” Jesus knew what they were discussing and said, “You people of weak faith! Why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you don’t have any bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you remember the five loaves that fed the five thousand and how many baskets of leftovers you gathered? And the seven loaves that fed the four thousand and how many large baskets of leftovers you gathered? Don’t you know that I wasn’t talking about bread? But be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he wasn’t telling them to be on their guard for yeast used in making bread. No, he was telling them to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12, Common English Bible).
Jesus often used metaphors that would have been familiar to His listeners. He used fishing as a metaphor when recruiting disciples who were fishermen, “fishing for people.” He called his followers sheep. He talked about living water. There are many others as well, including the metaphor in our lesson today.
In today’s lesson Jesus uses yeast as a metaphor to point out the dangers we face when listening to the wrong teachers. For many of us, the metaphor isn’t completely familiar. I don’t think I have ever baked a loaf of bread. I have made some biscuits a few times in my life, but I don’t think I have ever baked a loaf of bread. And, I am not alone. We live in a time when we can run to the grocery store at a drop of a hat and buy a loaf.
I do, however, understand the concept. In order for the yeast to fulfill its function, it has to spread through all the dough. The leavening agent cannot be in half the dough. We might have some strange looking and perhaps even some strange tasting bread if we were to try it in that manner. What may leave us shaking our heads at Jesus’ metaphor is, when we see yeast in bread we consider that a good thing. Our bread would be pretty plat without it.
On the other hand, Jesus used the metaphor to point out a negative idea. The Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as other legal experts and teachers of the law were not teaching the concepts of grace and love, the things Jesus came to teach, that the world might know. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew their stuff. Of that, there is little doubt. But their primary focus was on living out the law, something that was impossible to do, and to not live out grace. The teaching, at best, was incomplete. It was wrong. And that wrong, Jesus was saying, left unchecked would spread through the body just as yeast spreads through bread dough.
We may not have Pharisees, Sadducees, legal experts and teachers of the law today, at least not all of them in the same ways Jesus and the disciples had to deal with them. But, we still do have false teachers. We have those who still try to teach a message of an angry God instead of a God that the Bible tells us is love. We have those who teach a prosperity gospel that essentially says, if you have enough faith God wants to give you every desire of your heart. It simply isn’t true. It is like yeast spreading through the bread dough. We too must beware of the yeast that is false teachers.
What false teachings have you learned to guard against?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved