Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”…

…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.” 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.

Matthew 16:6, 11-12

We need to pay attention the fact that Jesus warned His own disciples to be on guard against the teaching of the religious and political leaders of their day. They needed to have their guard up. They needed to be discerning. They couldn’t just sit and listen without filtering the message they were hearing.

The Pharisees had a works-based teaching that was about earning God’s love based on what you did. It was a performance-oriented message. If you do all the right things, you’ll be acceptable to God. If you don’t, you won’t be. The way it is taught today is, “Just be a good person.” But this is not the gospel.

The Sadducees had strong political ties to the parties in power. Their teaching was about being a good Roman citizen. The goal was to be a good hybrid–a good Roman while being a good Jew. Their teaching was about the perfect blend between nationalism and religion. The way it is taught today is, “Love God and country” as if being a good American is what it is to be a good Christian. This is not the gospel.

When Jesus was warning His disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees, He was warning us too. He was telling us to be on guard against a religious spirit and a political spirit. He was telling us not to allow these two demonic influences to infect the gospel that we preach and live.

The gospel says that we are not justified by our works, but by what Jesus did by His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. The gospel says that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not our performance of religious actions. The gospel declares that our obedience is our joyful response to God’s unmerited grace and unconditional love, not a prerequisite for receiving them.

The gospel says that we are primarily citizens of the Kingdom of God, not the country we live in. The gospels says that our primarily loyalty is to King Jesus alone! The gospel says that our primary identity is not that we are American but that we are sons and daughters of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Has the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees infected the gospel you’re living?

To Do Good On The Sabbath

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus,they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

Matthew 12:9-14

They asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. While this question seems strange to us, we have to understand it in context. One of the main ways to honor and worship God was to follow His law, especially on the Sabbath. To break Sabbath law was to dishonor God and make a mockery of His commands.

Jesus was trying to help them see the heart behind the law. The heart of the law was to love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The law was meant to help the Jews love God and love people. If the law was then used to prevent them from loving people, Jesus was saying that it was being misused.

It would be like us asking the question, “Is it okay to totally disrupt a Sunday morning worship service if it means someone would get the help and healing they need?” Would it be okay if someone needed healing and the whole service stopped for that one person so people could pray for them? Would we be willing to cancel the sermon and cancel the rest of the worship songs?

You can hear people’s push back already, “But the worship songs and the sermon are how we honor and glorify God in that moment! Should we cancel that just for one person?” This is the tension that was going in the synagogue that day. Should the law be trampled on just for this one man?

Also notice that Jesus tells the man to stretch out his hand, but Jesus never indicates which hand. The man had two hands. One could easily be stretched out. That was his healthy hand. The other would not stretch out even if the man tried to force it. That was his shriveled hand. So if you were in that condition, and someone asked you to stretch out your hand, the most natural thing in the world would be to stretch out the good hand.

But what we witness is an incredible risk on the part of the man with the shriveled hand. What we witness here is this man step out and take a leap of faith. He could have tried to stretch out his shriveled hand and nothing happen. He was risking breaking Sabbath law for the chance at experiencing the impossible. This was a radical act of faith!

Jesus honors the man’s faith and the man’s willingness to take a risk. As the shriveled hand is being extended it is healed. The man watches his own hand transform right before his own eyes. It didn’t take weeks or months. In just a moment with Jesus, everything was healed. Surely this is cause for the whole synagogue to celebrate! Right!?!

Nope. The Pharisees couldn’t see the miracle and celebrate. Their hardened hearts of unbelief wouldn’t allow it. They could only see Jesus breaking Sabbath law and encouraging others to do so. They could only see disruption in a synagogue service. They could only see their authority and power leaking away in the presence of Jesus.

I have seen this mindset up close and personal. I’ve seen people healed in a worship service only to field complaint after complaint about how we shouldn’t have prayed for healing in a worship service. I’ve heard warning after warning about how new people will be offended and visitors won’t understand what’s happening and so we shouldn’t pray for healing in a worship service. All of this after seeing people miraculously healed because we prayed for healing in a worship service. Sometimes a religious spirit and a spirit of unbelief can cause people to not see the forest for the trees.

Miracles make people uncomfortable. Pursuing the supernatural movement of the Holy Spirit can make people uncomfortable. Change makes people uncomfortable. The feeling of not having absolute control over a situation makes people feel uncomfortable. But if we are going to let Jesus be Jesus in our churches, if we are going to let the Holy Spirit be the Holy Spirit in our churches, we’ll need to find ways to allow room “to do good on the Sabbath.”

How would you react to Jesus doing the miraculous in your church on a Sunday?