Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Mark 8:14-21 Talking of yeast…

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, March 19, 2020

Watch Out for the Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees

14 Now, they had forgotten to take bread along except for one loaf that they had with them in the boat. 15 “Watch out,” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 Then they began to discuss with one another why they had no bread.

How often doesn’t it happen that you pack to take a trip and forget something vital? The disciples got into a boat in the populous seaport of Dalmanutha without thinking of buying any food. Did they look to Judas, the one responsible for the money, and wonder why he didn’t think of it? Whatever way they considered the problem, the word to focus attention on is “they” in verse 16. “They” had no bread, but “they” included Jesus. Jesus picked up on their little squabble to give a warning: Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod (Matthew’s text includes the yeast of the Sadducees as well).

Yeast penetrates all through bread dough. In the same way, the yeast of the Pharisees was a false conservative (and extreme) show of holiness that penetrated everything the Pharisees said and did, and even the way that Pharisees thought and applied their faith. The yeast of Herod and the Sadducees was a kind of liberalism that rejected God’s word and penetrated everything the Sadducees believed, said, thought, and did. The disciples missed this point entirely, and actually thought Jesus was talking about bread because he had said “yeast.” Are we much better? How often man misses the finger of God pointing out his sin and thinks that it points at other men! Clutch the mirror of the law, which shows our sins and our need for a Savior.

17 Jesus knew this, and he said to them, “Why are you discussing your lack of bread? Don’t you understand or comprehend even now? Do you have a hardened heart? 18 ‘You have eyes, but you do not see. You have ears, but you do not hear.’

Each of Jesus’ questions is a rebuke which each of the disciples should have weighed in his own heart. “Why are you discussing your lack of bread?” Is a lack of bread a problem for Jesus, who had fed the five thousand and the four thousand? The prophets of old had performed similar miracles for much smaller groups. Why should the disciples ever worry or wonder where the next meal was coming from when they were with the Master?

“Don’t you understand or comprehend even now?” When Jesus fed the five thousand, the Jews wanted to make him their king, but not their Messiah. Jesus’ kingship was more than an earthly throne, a temporary state. He is “the LORD, the God of heaven” (2 Chronicles 36:23; Ezra 1:2).

Jesus quotes Jeremiah 5:21 to warn them about closing their hearts to God: “You have eyes, but you do not see.” When he fed the four thousand, did they see nothing but bread and fish? Didn’t they see God at work, in person? “You have ears, but you do not hear.” When he preached, did they hear no one but a rabbi? Didn’t they hear the word of God from God’s own lips?

Don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets filled with broken pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they told him. 20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, what was the full measure of the broken pieces? How many baskets did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 21 He said to them, “Do you still not comprehend?”

In Greek, the questions about the mass feedings are a little different. The emphasis Jesus places on the feeding of the five thousand is: How many baskets? With the four thousand, Jesus asks: What was the full measure? The disciples answer with the number of baskets in each case, but of course the baskets, perhaps the size of the baskets, were different. For the Jews, the leftovers filled twelve small baskets. Twelve would be significant to the Jews of Galilee (the five thousand) on account of the twelve tribes. With the four thousand (both Jews and Gentiles), there were seven baskets (maybe we could say, ‘large containers’) brimming with leftovers. Jesus did not leave the Gentiles starving in the wilderness. There were fewer containers, but there were more scraps. However, these details are not the point. Jesus was asking the disciples about their faith: Don’t you understand that I, Jesus, am truly the Son of God? Combining this with his warning about the yeast, Jesus’ point can be summarized this way:

1, I am the Son of God. Listen to what I am teaching you, and remember that the miracles I do are a testimony to who I am.

2, The yeast of the Pharisees is a false doctrine of self-righteousness and formalism. It is proud; it despises anyone who is different, and it does not focus on God nor on true repentance. Beware of this, Jesus says, and look to me.

3, The yeast of the Sadducees (Herod wasn’t a Sadducee, but he believed the same things) is a rejection of Scripture. It is materialism that says, I only believe what I can see, taste, or touch. It denies the existence of angels, of heaven, of hell, but trusts in money and human power and not on God nor on true repentance. Beware of this, Jesus warns, and look to me.

Trust in Jesus. Believe the word of God. Rely on the promise of the gospel. Notice and avoid false teaching and know that through Jesus you have forgiveness for your sins and a place with God forever in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive