God or Lunch
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 16:4b Then He left them and went away.
Fateful words–catastrophic for both Pharisees and Sadducees. Their close interaction with Jesus would be minimal henceforth. He left them to themselves, abandoned them to their own devices, to the destiny they chose for themselves.
You as a congregation have often heard me encourage you to never give up on anyone being saved. Believer, never stop interceding, witnessing, inviting to church, etc. Hear an addendum to this. Unbeliever, never let God give up on you.
Life is hard enough to live if we have God fully on our side. Don’t make life more difficult by turning God against us, by forcing Him to give up on us.
Noah’s generation learned God will not strive with people forever (GN 6:3). Paul said of belligerents, “Because they did not think it worthwhile to have God in their knowledge, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong” (RM 1:28). It is possible for God to give up on us; don’t go there.
Matt. 16:5-6 (Holman) The disciples reached the other shore, and they had
forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus told them, “Watch out and
beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Jesus and the Twelve crossed over to the northeast shore of Lake Galilee, where Jesus could meet quietly with them. In their haste, they forgot to bring bread. Hearing their aggravation at their own gaff, Jesus used it as the jumping off point for a metaphor to teach a spiritual truth, and for a comparison to warn them.
His point was simple. “Bread contains yeast. The leaders are also filled with yeast, an evil corrupting saturating influence. Beware their false teachings.”
Jesus couldn’t shake His recent run-in with the religious leaders. They were spiritually dangerous, but had immense influence over the people of Israel. The Twelve, having been taught to respect these men, had to be warned. Jesus brought the disciples to a crossroads. Who will be their champion, Jesus or the leaders?
Matt. 16:7-8a And they discussed among themselves, “We didn’t bring any
bread.” Aware of this, Jesus said, “You of little faith!”
The Twelve missed Jesus’ intent. They thought He was saying, though you need bread, don’t try to buy any from the Pharisees or Sadducees. Jesus was instead warning the disciples not to be influenced by the Pharisees and Sadducees, not to have much communication with them, not to revere them too highly.
“Yeast” made them think of edible bread. Jesus’ mind was on spiritual things; their minds were on lunch, resulting in Jesus’ rebuke, “You of little faith!”
Matthew, author of this text, was one of the group Jesus corrected here. The fact Matthew and other New Testament writers often spoke of their own weaknesses is strong, though inadvertent, evidence of the truth of their writings.
The early Christians quickly venerated these writers, and would have never made up negative stories about them. The fact derogatory stories about these writers are included in the Gospels “accidentally” proves the Bible’s reliability.
Matt. 16:8b-10 “Why are you discussing among yourselves that you do not
have bread? Don’t you understand yet? Don’t you
remember the five loaves for the 5,000 and how many
baskets you collected? Or the seven loaves for the 4,000
and how many large baskets you collected?”
Jesus was frustrated by the Twelve’s refusal to quit worrying about physical sustenance. He wanted them, and wants us, to learn to trust Him for daily bread.
Notice, the “You of little faith!” label was used of them not in a discussion regarding their failure to move mountains. The context was about applying Jesus’ teachings to their everyday lives, to what we would call the mundane trivia of life.
Our faith is proven weak when we distrust Jesus in the everyday details of life. I don’t want us to despise little faith–nurtured, it can seed larger faith. My hope is for us to be able to recognize little faith in order to improve and expand it.
If we don’t daily enjoy consolation Jesus offers us by His presence and in His promises, our faith is little. If we don’t apply His comfort, we believe little.
Miraculously feeding 4000 and 5000 was Jesus’ way of saying He takes care of all our needs. To our own peril, we often forget this. Our memories are like hour-glasses–when filled with good stuff, they start running out again. We must ask God to put His finger on the hole, to make our memory spiritually strong.
The 19 baskets of leftovers were given as memorials to keep the miracles in remembrance. God miraculously beat the Philistines; to help Israel remember “the Lord has helped us” (1 SM 7:12), Samuel set up a stone and named it “Ebenezer”, stone of help. Israel crossed the Jordan on dry land; Joshua had 12 stones stacked to “always be a memorial” (4:7). Had any of us been setting up stones to remind us of God’s past kindnesses to us, we would each have a mountain. Remember.
Matt. 16:11-12 “Why is it you don’t understand that when I told you,
‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,’ it
wasn’t about bread?” Then they understood that He did
not tell them to beware of the yeast in bread, but of the
teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The leaders looked religious, and sounded pious. Always be careful about surface judgments. The most harmless looking can be the most dangerous.
Our open-minded, anything-goes, culture tends to underestimate the damage erroneous teachings have. False doctrine may seem unimportant, but is dangerous.
Error insinuates itself into our minds, and then like yeast grows to permeate the whole. Thoughts determine belief and behavior more rigidly than we realize. A bad teaching can act in hearts like yeast acts in bread. It can ruin a whole life.
What was Jesus’ main concern about these religious leaders? Which of their doctrines, more than any other, would He have deemed most dangerous?
I think it was their refusal to let Scripture be their ultimate authority. Being legalists, Pharisees added to Scripture. Sadducees, as liberals, subtracted from it.
I fear we underestimate the importance of the Bible. Bible knowledge is declining in our culture, and, sad to say, in our churches as well. This spiritually devastates, because the primary weapon given to us for our warfare is the Bible.
Without a firm grasp on the truth of Scripture, people become confused, disoriented, and unwise. Bible truth is God’s gift to humanity. It gives people guidance to life’s best by drawing a straight, plain, safe path people can follow.
Jesus lived by it. He resisted wilderness temptations by quoting Scripture (MT 4). At Satan’s first, second, and third temptation, Jesus said, “It is written.” Christ braced Himself against sin by arming Himself with God’s written Word.
Are we in the Word, daily reading from it, yearly reading it all? Beware the religious person’s downfall: letting hearing about the Word substitute for being in the Word. This year (2009) will mark thirty-four consecutive years I have read the whole Bible. The custom remains the most helpful discipline in my spiritual life.
Not only individuals, but also churches, for their own well being, must be built on, and centered in, the Bible. Six of the Old Testament’s greatest revivals were begun, not primarily in prayer, but in response to the written Word of God. Revivals under Joshua (JS 8:32), Asa (2 CH 14:4), Jehoshaphat (2 CH 17:9), Hezekiah (2 K 18:6), Josiah (2 K 22:8), and Ezra (EZ 7:10) were “Bible revivals.” God’s conviction came on the people from a rediscovery of His written Word.
If revival comes to our churches–we’re praying it will–it will descend on the wings of prayer and ascend from the pages of the Bible. Revival in our churches hinges on “both/and” not “either/or.” Never underestimate the Bible’s importance. Don’t repeat the mistakes of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Sola Scriptura. Amen.