Sunday, September 13, 2009


Mark 8:11-15

Jesus and the disciples land on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and are met by the seemingly ever-present Pharisees. They came to test/tempt Jesus and asked him to show them a “sign from heaven.” Jesus refuses to give them the sign they ask for, turns away from them, and sails back across to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

We can almost see Jesus sitting in the boat as he sails across the lake with his disciples. He seems to be looking off at the horizon, thinking. Things are quiet. The only sound is that of the water brushing against the bow of the boat as the wind pushes it along. Then suddenly Jesus speaks. “Be careful. Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” Then all is quiet again. The disciples look at one another quizzically. What could he possibly mean? Yeast? Pharisees? Herod? Suddenly one of them comes up with an idea. “Hey! I know! It’s because we forgot to buy bread when we were in Dalmanutha! We only have this one leftover loaf. That’s why he’s talking about yeast!” But no. That wasn’t it. And the disciples weren’t getting it.

What was this yeast about which Jesus was speaking? Having come directly from the confrontation with the Pharisees it is not hard to see what he meant. He warned his disciples to watch out for the attitude of the Pharisees who were asking for signs. The kingdom of God was a matter of belief and faith. Those who entered the kingdom entered not because they saw signs and wonders but because they put their faith in Christ. Signs and wonders led to belief by sight. Jesus called people to believe by faith. What was the leaven of Herod? It was probably the same thing. We know that Herod was afraid of Jesus because he feared Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. (Mark 6:14-16) Later, during Jesus’ trial, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod. Luke reports, “When Herod saw Jesus he was greatly pleased because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him he hoped to see him perform some miracle.”

But here’s my question: If Jesus was among us today, what kind of leaven would he warn us about? What kinds of parallels might we find between our culture and the culture of the Pharisees? I think there are some parallels! At the root of the sin of the Pharisees was the idea that everything was about them. Their religion was all about them and making them feel important. Their religious activities were all about making them look wise and spiritual and significant. God was lucky to have them on his side! Of course God would give them a sign because they were so important to his plan. They wanted to maintain control and Jesus was a threat to their control. These attitudes hardened the hearts of the Pharisees.

Do we see anything like that in the church today? Jesus would say, “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees! Watch out for their self-important attitudes!” What is a common attitude of people today toward the church and faith? The church exists to satisfy me! The church and its buildings and its programs and its events are all about making me feel special! Show me how my relationship with God can meet all my needs. Church doesn’t work for me unless it makes me happy and comfortable. I want to go to a church that is successful. A church that will offer more to me and my family. In short, God and church are all about me! Jesus would say, “Watch out for those attitudes!”


At 1:34 PM, Blogger Craver Vii said...

That's an important message, Shiloh Guy. Amen.


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