Scripture reading – Matthew 16; Mark 8

Today’s Scripture reading in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 presents us with the challenge of mining one truth in a passage of Scripture arrayed with diamonds of truth too numerous to be counted.

Mark 8:1-9 began with the account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Immediately after, Jesus and the disciples departed by ship to an area known as “Dalmanutha,” which was located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala (8:10). It was in Dalmanutha that the LORD had a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious legalists of His day. They came to Jesus and demanded He prove Himself with a “sign [i.e. a miraculous sight]from heaven” (8:11). Mark declared the purpose of their coming was to tempt Jesus, meaning to put Him to the test in hopes He would fail (8:11).

Jesus knowing what lay within the hearts of men rebuked the Pharisees saying, “There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:12b). He and the disciples then departed, and set sail for Bethsaida (8:13-22). Bethsaida was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44-45) and was located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.

As they crossed the sea, Jesus charged His disciples, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (8:15). “Leaven,” like yeast, was used in dough to induce bread to rise when baked. The disciples, hearing Jesus speak of leaven, assumed He was speaking of bread, for they had neglected to bring bread on their journey (8:14, 16).

The irony of the moment was summed up when Jesus asked His disciples, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (8:17-18).

What was the irony? It was that the disciples would be concerned with what they would eat at their next meal (8:19-20)! Twice they witnessed Jesus feed thousands. On one occasion, he fed 5,000 men with no more than the lunch of a boy. On a later occasion, Jesus took seven loaves of bread and fed 4,000 men (they were not only filled, but blessed with leftovers for their next meal).

Jesus asked, “How is it that ye do not understand?” (8:21)

Matthew summed up the same narrative, and concluded the disciples then understood “how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

What was the “leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees, and of the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of Herod”? (8:15) Theirs was a religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1), and included politics as well. The Pharisees were well educated, their influence in both religious and the political realms presented a way of life in Jesus’ day for Jews and pagans. In the first century, most of the Jews lived according to the Pharisees’ traditions.  So, when Jesus challenged the Pharisees, He challenged a societal stronghold that would not be easily overturned (Matthew 23:27-29).

Closing thoughts – Is the 21st century Church any different? How much of what we believe, and churches observe is rooted in traditionalism and not in the Truth?  As Bible believers, our doctrine and practice is to be solely based upon the Truth of God’s Word, and not traditionalism or the philosophies and interpretations of men.

What do you believe?

John 17:17 – 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

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