1/7/10- Mark 8:14-21 (pp. Mt. 16:6; Lk 12:1) 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?"
Calvin abridged: Matthew speaks of the yeast of the Sadducees, while Mark mentions Herod, while Luke (12:1) mentions hypocrisy. All three speak of empty displays and boasting as well as false appearances of wisdom. The eyes of the Lord see the truth. Leven only puffs up and contains nothing solid, and just so human boasting and outward ceremonies. Herod was laboring to undermine true piety in order to maintain his human position, so he was included in this leaven (cf. I Cor. 15:8). At first the disciples thought that Christ wanted to lump the Pharisees and others with irreligious people with whom they were not to be associated or dine. But they forget the power of Christ to create bread out of nothing, even to the point of feeding thousands twice. From this those who have experienced God’s power but do not trust Him in the future are convicted of unbelief. Earlier (Mt. 13:33) Jesus spoke of leaven as the Gospel which was pure doctrine, and the Pharisaical doctrine was adding a foreign substance (like leaven to it). So we should beware of those who would mingle their own inventions with the Word of God (especially those in the church).
Thoughts: The first week in January always reminds me of the power of human hunger, even among those well fed. The disciples were once again thinking about being fed physical bread, forgetting the power of Jesus to provide for his followers. Mark here ties and distinguishes the two feedings of the multitudes (yet some still refuse to believe in two feedings). This also contrasts with the theory that the people just had bread and pulled it out to share at Jesus’ bidding. Jesus clearly speaks of his ability to feed his followers. Jesus emphasis is on their missing the point of the two feedings more than missing the point of the leaven of the Pharisees. Leaven is a fermentation that spreads throughout a little dough. It is similar to the rottenness in a bad apple. Calvin is right in saying that the empty display for human praise is the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod. Every follower of Christ needs to watch those who would take away from God’s Word by adding, distorting, or twisting it to suit some ideology that really is a disguise for human pride (like Pharisaism, Sadduceism, or Herodianism- maybe Republican, Democratic, conservative or liberal ideology).
Prayer: Help me, God to trust my physical needs to you. Help me to seek purity in your Word and not dilute it.