Summary of passages: Matthew 16:1-12: The Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus replied that they wouldn’t be able to interpret the sign because they are wicked and adulterous. No sign will be given except the sign of Jonah.
Jesus warned his disciples to be on their guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Stumped and lacking faith as usual, Jesus explained to the disciples some more and they figured out yeast is teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Mark 8:10-21: Here, Mark records that upon asking for a sign, Jesus replies that no sign will be given. Jesus warns them to be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod. Not understanding what Jesus is meaning by yeast, Jesus asks them do they still have hard hearts and eyes that cannot see.
2a) They should have known that Jesus just wouldn’t perform a miracle that served no purpose or showed them a sign. Besides, they should have known who he was by the miracles he performed and the prophecies he fulfilled. Jesus had given them many, many signs. They shouldn’t need another. They shouldn’t need a sign.
b) Luke 12:54-59 has a great interpretation of this. We can interpret the signs by looking to the Bible for prophecy (mostly in Revelation) that says when Jesus will come again and what are the signs so that we can look for them and be ready. Basically, get right with God now and you won’t have to worry when the End Times come.
c) Jesus’ resurrection. The sign of Jonah was when Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights which foreshadows how Jesus will be the heart of the earth (or will die) and rise again after three days.
3a) The yeast was the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
b) They were thinking about their physical/immediate needs more than their spiritual needs.
c) It showed that their first thought (main concern) was literal and immediate and not long-term. They are walking around with the Messiah and all they think about is food! Our thoughts reveal our heart and what is first in our lives. Yes, we must satisfy our basic needs to survive; but more importantly we wouldn’t be here without Him who gave us the life to sustain. Honor Him and the rest will follow.
d) We are too caught up in the physical/immediate needs of living as well. It’s easy to stay “busy” and go from one activity to another with no thought of God in our lives. He is often an afterthought, what we think about at the very end of the day if we are lucky. God wants to be first so we have to de-clutter our lives and make a conscious effort to put Him first. Remember who is in control so our life can reflect that.
Conclusions: Anyone else wonder what’s the difference between the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Apparently, they were enemies and the fact they were working together against Jesus should tell you something about how much of a threat Jesus was to their way of life/teaching/thinking.
Pharisees: The word probably originates from a Hebrew word meaning “separated.” They were one of three sects of Judaism along with the Sadducees and the Essenes. The Pharisees were the most influential and the most strict in terms of obeying the law. They arose when the Jews were forced to Babylon and the need arose for someone to keep the traditions and the law alive.
“They pledged themselves to obey all facets of the traditions to the minutest detail and were sticklers for ceremonial purity. In truth, they often made life difficult for themselves and bitter for others. Some were haughty and arrogant because they believed they were the only interpreters of God and his Word.” Quoted from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Merrill C Tenney and J.D. Douglas P. 1118
Thus, this evolved into what we see here with Jesus: external was more important than internal. However, they were highly regarded by most Jews because they kept the laws intact.
Sadducees: The Sadducees were more political in nature and consisted of the Jewish aristocracy. They differed widely with the Pharisees in terms of doctrine and politics. They held only to the written law and rejected all other traditions of the Pharisees. They denied the resurrection of the body, did not believe in angels or spirits, and most importantly did not believe in the divinity acting in the world but that man himself was responsible for his destiny.
Yet they joined the Pharisees against Jesus our of fear that he would ruin them politically. They opposed the early church vigorously. However, they disappeared with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD.
I am ambivalent about this lesson. I think the most important thing is to be prepared and making sure those around you are prepared. Do not be fooled by false teachings but know His truth. Then, you will not fail.
End Notes: Yeast/leaven is usually a sign of corruption and sin in the Bible as we explored in Lesson 14 Day 2. The Jews have had this interpretation since the beginning (Exodus 12:8, 12:15-20).