“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “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 16:6,12
From the very beginning, there were people who had issues with Jesus. His greatest pushback came from super religious people. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were among the religious folk that had beef with Jesus. According to Google, the Sadducees and Pharisees comprised the ruling class of Jews in Israel and had some measure of political power. Both were religious sects who honored Moses and the Law. The Sadducees were more conservative and advocated a literal interpretation of scripture. The Pharisees were considered more liberal and relied upon oral tradition in addition to written scripture.
In Matthew 16:1, we see one of the moments of conflict they had with Jesus. They were demanding a sign from Jesus to prove Jesus’ authority. Jesus only offered the sign of Jonah. After dealing with them, Jesus used bread as a metaphor to teach his disciples the significance of the conflict. He tells them to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus was talking about a particular kind of yeast. Jesus did not say to avoid all yeast. He said to avoid yeast that causes doubt.
As we know, yeast causes bread dough to rise and a little goes a long way. Jesus knew that even a little doubt could cause the disciples to lose their focus and take their eyes off the prize. Like in our own time, reliance upon religion can cause us to miss the voice of God. Like in our own time, different human interpretations of scripture can lead to conflict in our relationship with God. Sometimes, we let the small stuff cause us to lose our focus and we miss the important thing. This is especially the case when dealing with difficult times.
Today, the world is a mess. Guess what, it was a mess yesterday and the day before that and the day before that and all the days back up to the very beginning. The world has always been in trouble. That’s why God came to us in flesh and in love. God knew that we would not get it right – not even our interpretation of scripture. God knew that we would argue over the minor details of everything. God knew that we would blow up all those differences into different sects, beliefs, and religious doctrines. God also knew that we would constantly be in conflict leading to all kinds of problems. There will always be people and things who plant seeds of doubt. We must not lose focus. We must keep our eyes on Christ.
All of us have different things that can be like the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Sometimes, those things are personal, like the death of a loved one. Sometimes, those things are global, like a war in Europe. Sometimes it is a small thing that creates a minor detour. Sometimes it is a big thing that changes the course of our life. None of this should cause us to doubt God’s love and presence in our lives. Remember, God came to us in flesh in Christ Jesus and is still with us in the Holy Spirit.
So, the question for us is simple. Whose yeast are we going to allow into our spirit? Are we going to let the enemy’s yeast of doubt prevail or are we going to allow the Holy Spirit’s yeast of faith to win the day for us? Remember, Jesus is the bread of life. We simply need to replace doubt with faith to allow his dough to rise mightily in our lives (See Matthew 13:33).
Prompt for Thought: Where have you allowed doubt to replace faith in your life? Where do you need God’s healing touch? How can you allow Jesus to be your bread of life?
Prayer for the Journey: Gracious God, please help us when we doubt you and your love for us. Life can be hard, but your grace is sufficient. This world can be difficult, but you will never leave nor forsake us. Please help us to lean into your presence more than we lean into our doubt. Please help us to always remember that you will keep us in perfect peace when we keep our minds on you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.