Lesson 39

The Gospel According to Mark

World English Bible translation

 Today's Scripture

8:13 He left them, and again entering into the boat, departed to the other side. 8:14 They forgot to take bread; and they didn't have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 8:15 He charged them, saying, "Take heed: beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod."

8:16 They reasoned with one another, saying, "It's because we have no bread."

8:17 Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, "Why do you reason that it's because you have no bread? Don't you perceive yet, neither understand? Is your heart still hardened? 8:18 Having eyes, don't you see? Having ears, don't you hear? Don't you remember? 8:19 When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"

They told him, "Twelve."

8:20 "When the seven loaves fed the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?"

They told him, "Seven."

8:21 He asked them, "Don't you understand, yet?"  

Today's Lesson 

The differences between Jesus and the Pharisees were beginning to mount. Mark had told us of differences they had had about healing on the Sabbath and ritual cleansing. In yesterday's lesson Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for demanding a sign. He told them that no sign would be given to them. They lacked the faith to see what God was doing through Him. In Today's Scriptures Mark writes that Jesus takes His disciples away from the Pharisees on another boat ride. He makes a comment concerning the Pharisees that is misunderstood by His disciples.


Jesus tells His disciples to, "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." Now the disciples had only brought one loaf of bread with them because of their hasty departure. They thought that Jesus was concerned because they did not have enough food. Their concern and response seem almost comical to us. But, Jesus uses this situation to once again remind them that He is not talking about physical yeast. Jesus often speaks in spiritual terms and is misunderstood by people thinking about physical realities.


There are two ways in which the Jews thought about yeast. Yeast made bread expand and grow prior to baking. In this sense yeast is seen as a leavening agent that causes expansion. The connotation to this meaning is largely positive. But the second meaning of yeast to Jews and in Sacred Scripture is negative. Yeast is often used as a symbol of sin. Particularly it often symbolizes the sin of pride that "puffs" one up. It is this meaning for which the traditions of housecleaning at Passover developed. On the day before the Passover feast, the Jewish households would clean the house to prepare for the upcoming celebration. In particular, they would ritually dispose of any yeast that was in the home. There must not be a trace left under the roof during the most holy day of the Jewish year.


It is this meaning of the term "yeast" that Jesus uses. Beware of the sin of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were confident that they knew all about God. They were sure that they were on the right track. Their mindset left no room for humility of man and the sovereignty of God. They demanded a sign of Jesus because He did not teach and act like they did. Their sin was the sin of pride and arrogance.


Jesus was telling His disciples, "Don't fall into the same trap as the Pharisees." God is not to be boxed in with ritual and confined by tradition. The power of God is fierce, free and unpredictable. His ways are beyond our rational mind's grasp. "Beware the yeast of the Pharisees." Allow for the power of God in your life.


Do you have God figured out? Is your God predictable? Have you feasted on the yeast of the Pharisees?


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