Beware the Kingdom of Leaven

Title: “Beware the Kingdom of Leaven”
Text: Mark 8:11-21

“And [Jesus] cautioned [the disciples], saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mk. 8:15).


Enter the Pharisees.  Again.

These guys don’t quit, do they?  They were so jealous of Jesus and so full of themselves, they seemed to find any reason whatsoever to accuse, question, or debate Him.  Jesus just arrives to the region of Dalmanutha, and here they come – out to meet Him, demanding Him to provide them “a sign” from heaven, to validate the legitimacy of His ministry. Jesus just sighs (I kind of imagine Him having the Charlie Brown “Good grief” look on His face at this point), and basically says, “Nope… not getting that.”  Then He and the disciples get back in the boat and leave.  Can you picture that?  Jesus was so frustrated with them, that He just gets back in the boat and leaves that place!  Then, Jesus hits the disciples with this, “Beware of the leaven (yeast) of the Pharisees and of the Herodians!” 

What does that even mean, Jesus?

“Leaven”, or yeast, in the Bible is often synonymous with “evil.”  In living out this metaphor, in the Old Testament the Israelites were forbidden to eat “leavened” bread at certain times, and yeast could not be in any of the offerings.  As just a pinch of yeast is used in dough to make the bread rise, so just a little bit of evil or bad teaching would affect (and infect) a person or community. This was a constant reminder to the Israelites to beware of communing and comingling with pagan idolaters; and it was Jesus’ warning to the disciples to beware of the false teaching – and basic approach to life of the Pharisees and of Herod.  The Pharisees, with their emphasis on religion and rituals, had an “appearance of godliness” on the outside (2 Timothy 3:5) but were hypocrites and wicked on the inside.  The Herodians, who were followers and supporters of Herod Antipas –  who followed the wicked Roman lifestyle and whose family line saw themselves as t(not the Messiah) ae true rulers of the promised kingdom for the Jewish people.  Both of these groups were guided by unbelief which led to their hatred of Jesus.  But what does this have to do with us today?

First, the disciples were already struggling (though they didn’t realize it) with unbelief.  Miracle after miracle (and Jesus had just feed another multi-thousand group of people with little or no resources to speak of!), and they were still clueless as to who Jesus really was.  Second, the enemies of Jesus posed a constant “threat” to poison the minds of the people against Jesus (they would eventually “succeed”); and, thus, Jesus’ rebuke to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.”  Today, we are just as culpable of being blinded by our own unbelief and lack of faith, as well as being – little by little – sucked into the ways of this world.  There are so many false teachings and distractions surrounding us to pull us away from following Christ, if we are not careful.  The Bible tells us in Romans 12:2 to “not be conformed to [squeezed into the mold of] this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, which comes by the Spirit of God through the Word of God.  We are to be very careful of the “spirit of the age” which is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ Kingdom.  We are to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4;23), so that the ways of this world system do ot affect us and we, even subconsciously, become more and more conformed to the patterns and lifestyles of those who don’t follow Christ.  This is why it is so important to “delight in the law of the LORD, and on His law [meditate] day and night” (Psalm 1:2).  This is how we transform our minds… by meditating on and applying God’s Word to our heart… how we attain “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:13-14, ESV).

Prone to wander, Lord, we feel it… prone to leave the God we love… God, it is with eyes wide open that we realize the deceitfulness of this world system and the dark, evil intentions of its ruler.  Thank You for Your many reminders in the Scriptures for us to watch out for the schemes of the enemy, as he seeks to discredit, discourage, disillusion, and destroy us as we follow Jesus.  Fill us with Your Spirit and with an ever-growing hunger for Your Word and to live before You in righteousness and holiness.  And may we be transformed by the power of Your Word, which illumines not only our hearts but also the path we trod as we walk day by day after You.  With humble hearts we pray, in Jesus’ strong name… Amen.

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