Flashback Episode — Breadless Yeast: Matthew 16:5-12


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While reading the gospels, I occasionally wonder about the disciples, and how it seems as though they routinely miss the message or truth that Jesus wanted to share with them. Our passage for this episode covers one such time, and the truth Jesus shares is powerful, but also completely different from the overly literal way the disciples seem to understand it.

We learn about this truth during one of the times Jesus and the disciples are crossing the lake and Jesus decides it would be a good time to emphasize a big idea while they are away from the crowds of people. For this episode, we will be reading about this event from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 16, using the New Century Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 5:

Jesus’ followers went across the lake, but they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Be careful! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

His followers discussed the meaning of this, saying, “He said this because we forgot to bring bread.”

Knowing what they were talking about, Jesus asked them, “Why are you talking about not having bread? Your faith is small. Do you still not understand? Remember the five loaves of bread that fed the five thousand? And remember that you filled many baskets with the leftovers? 10 Or the seven loaves of bread that fed the four thousand and the many baskets you filled then also? 11 I was not talking to you about bread. Why don’t you understand that? I am telling you to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.” 12 Then the followers understood that Jesus was not telling them to beware of the yeast used in bread but to beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Something about this event sounds funny in my mind. I don’t think the truth Jesus shares is funny, but I do chuckle a little about how the disciples completely miss the metaphor Jesus used to emphasize His warning.

While the disciples rightly connect yeast with bread, and forgetting bread was fresh on their minds, Jesus never once hints at His statement being about bread. Perhaps Jesus planned this metaphor just for this purpose. I wonder if Jesus used this angle not only to share the truth about being wary of the Pharisee and Sadducee teachings, but also to reemphasize the importance of trusting God.

In the simple statement about yeast, we get two truths out of this event. Jesus could have simply said to beware of the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but then there would be no visual element to it. By paralleling this truth with the visual of yeast, we can see a picture of how just a little bit of error can slowly affect an entire movement.

It doesn’t take much yeast to cause dough to rise, and with the negative spin Jesus places on this yeast, we can rightfully conclude that it doesn’t take much error or deception to wreck the truth.

Interestingly enough, we could also apply this truth in our own lives. We could say that one sin, regardless of how insignificant it is or was in our past, is enough to separate us forever from God. Even though the sin in question might have lasted only a split second of time, it results in us being condemned. Because of this, the Bible rightfully concludes that everyone who has ever lived has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, or God’s ideal for each of us.

In the case of our own lives, Jesus came to make a way for us to be reconnected to God even after we have sinned. Jesus accomplished this by living a perfect life within God’s will, and living a life without sin, before ultimately dying on a cross when He didn’t deserve death. Jesus took our punishment so that we can accept His reward.

This leads us back to looking at the other truth that we are reminded of in this passage: the truth about bread.

While Jesus challenges the disciples for understanding His statement to be about faith and bread, He reminds the disciples that a lack of food is nothing to be concerned about. While it might weigh on our minds and our empty stomachs, when you are with Someone who could multiply a crumb in the back of the boat into a three-course meal, a lack of food is not that big of a concern.

The truth for each of us in this case is to be intentional about trusting God to supply our needs. When we are living with and for God, He will supply our needs and He knows we need food, clothing, and shelter. While His idea of what each might look like is probably different from our thoughts, He knows what is best in the big picture and long-term view. God’s focus is on saving us for eternity, and that perspective will filter everything He brings into our lives.

God is not going to bless us in such a way that we would lose our salvation, but He also will not curse us when we could have been saved under different circumstances. While I don’t claim to know why certain bad things happen, or why tragedy seems to strike people indiscriminately, I know that I can trust God with my own future and that eternity lasts longer than today’s trials.

God is in the business of saving people forever, and saving the greatest number of people forever that He can!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Be sure to seek God first and trust Him with your future. While we don’t always know why things happen the way they do in our lives today, we can trust God is working through the ups and the downs for our ultimate salvation. I firmly believe that God wants each of us in heaven more than each of us wants to be in heaven!

Also, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself. I don’t want you to take my word, or any pastor or podcaster’s word for this. Instead, I want you to study God’s love out for yourself, because only you can grow your personal relationship with God into a saving relationship with Him.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 20: When Jesus uses yeast in a metaphor with the disciples, the disciples miss the truth He was trying to share while thinking about bread instead. Discover what we can learn from both what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples, and the subtle truth about faith that they also get challenged by in Jesus’ response.

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