It was a crazy thing the Pharisees asked for. After all, Jesus had just fed over 4000 people miraculously not to mention all of the other miracles He had performed. The Pharisees approached Jesus as if the only way He could truly be the Messiah would be if he performed a miracle for them right then when He asked. They were asking Him to prove Himself to be the Messiah. Jesus dismisses them and gets into the boat with the disciples. He tells the disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.
Of course, the disciples do not understand what Jesus is telling them. They think He is pointing out that they forgot bread for their journey. Then He tells them they need to watch out for the teaching of the Pharisees.
We could spend all day detailing all of the different beliefs of the Pharisees. They were religious, true, but spiritual, no. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs meaning they looked clean on the outside, but they were filled with death. But let’s not go too far off the farm. In this context, the teaching of the Pharisees was that Jesus was only Jesus if He could perform a sign or a miracle. There is not a set word for this type of teaching, but it is a teaching that is everywhere. People are constantly faithful to the Lord until He does not perform the sign they desire such as a new job, cancer healed, a dead one come back to life, whatever. Then, if God doesn’t do it, they fall away. They lose faith. But as we talked about yesterday, Jesus is Lord whether He decides to do the exact miracle we ask for or not. He does the miracles He chooses based on His plan for everyone involved. Sometimes that means a miraculous healing and other times it does not. We struggle with this, but when we fall away, we are adopting the teaching that the Pharisees are promoting in this passage.
Jesus is telling the disciples, the beginning of the church, to be careful of the this teaching and compares it to yeast. Now, I am not a baker, but if you have some fresh-baked cookies that need to be taste-tested, I am your guy. But from what I could gather, yeast is a powdery substance. Just a few flakes of this powder in dough will spread all through out the entire batch of dough as the dough is kneaded. Wow. Jesus is saying that what the Pharisees was a dangerous teaching that could spread the church as easily as yeast through a batch of dough. This is how false teaching are. They easily spread throughout the whole church.
Let me give you some example of other bad theologies that have crept into the church:
The theology of Hollywood: I love it that we are having more Hollywood movies that are Christian movies. But I have also noticed that most of these like every other movie, television show, have a crisis and before the end of the movie, the crisis has been resolved. And usually it is resolved by some miracle of God.
Don’t get me wrong. I am a HUGE believers of miracles. I have seen many firsthand of all kinds. I remember in my grandmother’s church, there was an old man, or at least he seemed old to this 9-year-old kid. He was always in a wheelchair. His daughter would roll him in and he always sat right across the aisle from me. One day, during a service, he suddenly stood up, told his daughter to get into the chair and he rolled her up to the foyer. From that time, he always walked. Once at the church I am pastoring right now, a man who was not completely blind, but he said he could barely see. He was always led around by his wife. One Sunday, he suddenly started to walk toward me by himself. He said to me, “I can see.” Wow. There was no altar call. I was not preaching. We did not pray for him. He wasn’t anointed, but suddenly, during worship, his eyes opened. I believe in miracles.
But I also believe in the sustaining power of the Lord to keep me from being broken from very difficult valleys in life without delivering us out of those valleys. The apostle Paul experienced this when he asked the Lord to heal the thorn in his flesh. Instead, the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient.” You see, sometimes God sustains without delivering. And sometimes, the deliverance comes through death. For those who know well the Scripture, we understand this, but for those who are not believers or for those who are still shallow in their knowledge of the Word, the pattern of Christian Hollywood movies could send the wrong message. And in fact, I believe it has. The church today struggles in faith during times that God is choosing to sustain us and not deliver us. It is a dangerous theology to teach whether directly or indirectly that God does both at His prerogative. He is God. He can handle the situation anyway He chooses.
The theology of love: Now, God is love. Love is good. Love is powerful. But love is defined by specific behavior, not an emotion. My son was attending a Christian university and the theology professor openly stated that He believed that because God was love, that the crucifixion meant that every soul would be saved and none would go to Hell. How can a loving God send anyone to Hell? And since God loves the whole world, no one will go to Hell. This is bad theology. God doesn’t send anyone to Hell. He simply provides a platform by which souls can choose. I don’t think anyone would choose Hell…well, ok maybe a few people out there might actually choose Hell. It is a crazy world. But most people would never choose Hell. But the choice laid before us by God is that we can choose Him or by not choosing Him, we have chosen Hell. The idea that since God loves everyone, no one will be sent to Hell is bad theology. Yet, this teaching has infiltrated the church.
The theology of gay Christianity: Gay Christianity simply says that a person can be openly gay, in a monogamous relationship and as long as they also love Jesus, homosexuality is perfectly fine with the Lord. This is bad theology.
When God made Adam, He breathed into Him. We know from Scripture that God is spirit and the word breathe comes from the same origin as spirit. So the illustration of God breathing into Adam helps us to understand that God put Himself into Adam. But God never breathed into Eve. Eve came out of Adam. She became the perfectly opposite of Adam. Some of the attributes of God are more present in men while other attributes of God are more present in women. God intended for men and women to be equal, but opposite so that they would complete one another. Homosexuality missed the mark, accepts a lesser potential by excluding one sex. This is why the Lord is against it. But as we can see so many of our mainline denominations and so many Christians have allowed this theology to creep into the church so that homosexuality is become more and more accepted in the Christian church. This is bad theology. God is always moving us toward the greatest potential for His plan in our life. Anything that accepts a lesser potential for God’s good, pleasing, and perfect plan for our lives is referred to as sin. This includes not only homosexuality, but promiscuity, adultery, and sex before marriage.
As believers, we must always check everything with Scripture and we must learn it well, studying it continually, to do what Jesus told the disciples. We must guard against the false teachings and theologies that are creeping into the church.
5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (NIV 1984)
Lord, give me insight and wisdom from your Holy Spirit to be able to recognize and to dispel teachings that set themselves up against the Truth of the Word. Give me discipline to not only leave these teachings, but to help others avoid those while finding the truth. Help me discipline myself not just to go to church, not just to listen to sermons and teaching, but to study the Word for myself asking the Holy Spirit to reveal it to you as well. -Amen
He had just fed over 4000 people miraculously with seven loaves of bread and just a few fish. What an amazing miracle! Then here come the Pharisees saying, “Show us a sign.” Seriously, did you not just hear that Jesus just fed over 4000 people with just seven loaves of bread and a few fish? Where have you been Pharisees. Nevertheless, the come to Jesus and they ask Him for a sign.
He performed a miracle for the 4000 because he had compassion on them. The Pharisees were not coming into His presence with humility, but pride. Jesus was not compelled to perform any kind of miracle.
The Lord loves to do miracles for His children who love Him, but He does not do miracles to prove Himself. When they asked for a sign, he reminded them that when they look at the sky, they can tell what the weather is going to be like. Jesus was telling them that they were able to see what the weather was going to be based on what they could already see meaning that He did not have to do any miraculous sign to prove that He was God. Like the sky, the proof of His deity was in plain sight.
Sometimes, we just want to see the big miracles. We want to see God do for us what is impossible. And our faithfulness to the Lord seems to hang on His doing the miracle we are asking. We may not say it out loud, but our spiritual mood changes when God doesn’t perform the signs that we want. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees wicked and adulterous. When our faithfulness and worship to the Lord changes based on whether or not He has done what we think He should do, He likens it unto an unfaithful spouse who is not happy with how things are at home so they look elsewhere.
I want to take today and remind you that He is God whether He performs miracles or not. If He heals the cancer or doesn’t, He is still God. Whether you get the job or you don’t, He is still God. Whether your marriage gets better or ends in divorce, He is still God. The proof that He is God has nothing to do with the signs He may or may not perform. Jesus’ point was that the proof of who He was as plain as the clouds in the sky.
The Pharisees had all the writings of the Old Testament filled with prophecies proving Jesus was the Christ. The prophet Malachi had written that there would be a prophet who would come before Jesus preparing the way. John the Baptist claimed to be this man. He was certainly a prophet. All the people saw him as such. But when asked if he was the Messiah, he claimed that he was the one who was to prepare the way. Then when Jesus arrived at the river, John said in the hearing of all the crowd, “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Everyone heard this. Then all the miracles and the teachings. Jesus, at one point, even stood in the Temple, reading Isaiah 61 which spoke of one coming with the power of the Holy Spirit, told the people that today, this passage was fulfilled.
They knew from Micah, the prophet that the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem and from many prophets that the Messiah would be in the line of David. And of course, Jesus was born in Bethlehem and both Mary and Joseph were descendants of King David.
Now, how many other teachers in Israel at that time were declared by John the Baptist to be the Messiah, claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 61, did all kinds of miracles, was born in Bethlehem, and who had both a Mom and a Dad descended from King David? Hmmmm….let’s count how many men could check off all of these boxes….1. That’s right. There was only 1 man. There had never been a man before Jesus that fit all of these prophecies and so much more. It should have been as clear to them as it was the clouds in the sky. Even the common, non-priestly folks recognized him as the Messiah as he rode into Jerusalem on the foal of a donkey. This had been foretold by Zechariah as well. Because this was a highly-religious society where every day the stores of the Old Testament and the words of the prophet were told and re-told, everyone recognized all the signs which is why they shouted Hosanna waving palm branches meant for a king when Jesus rode into Jerusalem that day. The point is that it was plain as day that Jesus was the Messiah. No signs or miracles were necessary for the Pharisees when they asked for one.
And for us it is even more plain. We not only have the Old Testament prophecies, but more have been fulfilled since His death and resurrection. The New Testament are first hand accounts of those men who walked this earth with Him and those they mentored and trained. Everything in the Bible points to one truth-Jesus is the Lord Almighty. He is God. From the very beginning, it has been made plain to us through the prophets and early disciples. Over 40 different men authored 66 different books/letters over a span of 15 centuries that do not contradict one another, but all lead to the same true-Jesus is Lord! How many other prominent religious figures that have claimed to be God have had the same number of books written about them, that so many prophecies fulfilled, who claimed to be God, documented to have died for this claim, and documented to have been seen again after His death. No other religious figure in history has anything close to this many people over this span of time pointing to them as God. Mohammed sure doesn’t. Buddha certainly doesn’t.
Listen, He is God whether He answers your prayers or not. To act differently before the Lord when He doesn’t do what you want is fickle, like a wayward wife. We must acknowledge from what has been made plain to us that Jesus is God and no matter what He does or doesn’t do, He is worthy of our worship. He is God and there is no other!
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.
2 He replied,“When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away. (NIV 1984)
Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach me that who You are today is more than sufficient enough for me. I thank you for the times when you have overwhelmed me with blessings and miracles. But help my faith to be resolute when I am in the valleys of life. And Lord, be with all that I know struggling in the valleys to hold on to You-to You and not to your promises. -Amen
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