The Yeast of the Pharisees and Herod
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”
16 They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
“Twelve,” they replied.
20 “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?”
They answered, “Seven.”
21 He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
“Um…nope. I don’t.”
This is an interesting passage, and I want to point out just a couple of themes from it. First, yet again, we have this contrast between what Jesus is talking about, and what the disicples are talking about. Jesus is talking about the influence of the Pharisees, how it’s like yeast, where just a little of it can affect everything. And this is true, that a judgmental and hard-hearted attitude can absolutely destroy our lives of faith.
But what is really striking is the disciples’ response, which if I could rephrase it, is: “He’s mad because we didn’t bring any bread.” Jesus clarifies that he’s not mad about the bread, because after all, just in the previous passage he had fed four thousand men! Would a God who can multiply loaves like that be concerned if the disciples forgot lunch?? Of course not, he’s thinking about things much deeper and bigger than that!
A couple of things that we can take away from this. Sometimes, we can get really hung up on little worldly things – this internship vs that internship; a 3.89 GPA vs a 3.91 GPA; this gadget vs that gadget. We agonize over getting little awards from our university when Jesus has promised an eternal crown if we run this race! We work to get jobs that pay six figures, when God has promised every spiritual blessing in Ephesians! Jesus is telling us not to get hung up on little things of the world like the disciples were, but instead to be focused on the larger, eternal issues and values of the Kingdom. Be fixated and ambitious and obsessive not about things of this world…but the things of God.
Secondly, on a more personal note, this passage was very difficult for me. At first, I really had no idea what Jesus was talking about. So when Jesus asks in the final verse, “Do you still not understand?”, my response was, “Um…nope. I don’t.” I was thinking of skipping, but the next passages were pretty difficult to! But I kept with it, and with Carol’s help, thought my way through it. So the encouragement I want to give out of this is that it’s okay to be confused by Scripture – even your pastor is not exactly clear on it all the time. But don’t give up – keep wrestling with it, even the difficult bits. Even the act of wrestling with the text is a type of blessing in itself.
1. Is there something in your life that you are fixated on, that you know God is not fixated on in the same way?
2. Sometimes we are very good at justifying our behavior, saying that things that we want are really good for God and for his Kingdom – is there something in your life you have been justifying in this way, but mostly pursue for yourself?
3. What are some larger, eternal, Kingdom issues and values that you think God wants you to be more concerned with?
4. What typically is your stumbling block when it comes to reading Scripture, that thing that makes you lose your enthusiasm with the Word and with QT? How can you persevere through that stumbling block?