Yeast vs Yeast
Please read 1 kings 17, 18, and 19 to prepare for this lesson!!
This past week, I’ve been going through Matthew and I’ve found myself fascinated with the focus on bread and yeast in a couple of passages and what they have to do with each other. In Matthew 16, the Pharisees once again come to Jesus, asking him to perform a sign that he is the messiah. As always, Jesus refuses. He declines not just to make it clear that he isn’t a magic show, but also because he knows that they will not believe in him no matter what miracle he performs. I’ve always found the next passage to be both comical and confusing. Right after this encounter with the Pharisees, Jesus warns the disciples of the “yeast of the Pharisees,” but the disciples think he is being passive-aggressive about their forgetting to bring bread. Jesus then rebukes them for their lack of faith and reminds them of the miracles of feeding the crowds. What exactly does their worrying about packing bread have to do with a lack of faith? Also, what is the yeast of the Pharisees? Let’s go back to Matthew 13 to investigate. In one of his parables, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to 60ish lbs of bread that has a little yeast in it that spreads through all of the bread. This is a ridiculous amount of bread. 60lbs of padded bread is enough to feed a bunch of people or make a bed for them to sleep on. Think how awesome it would be to sleep on a bed of bread....you never have to get up to go get a snack. This appears to be a positive context for bread. Yeast or “leaven” is of course what makes bread big and fluffy. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is something that can use small amounts or beginnings of things to spread and consume everything. This is a picture of the nature of God. Jehovah does not want to be a part of our lives, he wants to consume every piece of it and make it better. The Creator is also a king and a kings nature is to rule over what belongs to him. Here is found an image of the faith that God grants us as well. Jesus uses the mustard seed as an illustration for faith numerous times and one of those times occurs immediately before his talk of yeast. In these two verses, he likens the kingdom of God to a mustard seed that grows into a huge tree large enough for birds to live in. Again, it’s a picture of faith, provision, and his all-consuming nature. For more news on bread, jump forward to Matthew 14. First up, we see more of how loving Jesus is. He’s just gotten news that John the Baptist is dead and wanders off alone for time to himself. He is grieved and no doubt exhausted from ministry. Imagine how tired Jesus was with all of the endless walking from town to town, preaching for hours and praying for thousands of people. No doubt, he also had to listen to all the babbling of the people he was ministering to. Despite his sorrow and exhaustion, he takes pity on the crowds and goes back to healing. The disciples then urge him to send the people away to find food. As usual, Jesus stuns them by telling them to feed the crowd themselves. The human mind processes this instruction with a logical breakdown of this situation. There is no way they can afford to buy, borrow, or make enough bread for everyone so they explain how little they have. In their shoes, I would assume Jesus is speaking metaphorically or has been too much in the sun. The funny thing is Jesus never tells them to provide enough food for everyone. He just tells them “You give them something to eat.” Highlight “something,” not “you.” All he does is take the tiny bit they have, thank the Father for it, bless it and pass it around. Everyone eats a full meal and there is still enough left over for the disciples. So why is Jesus brining up all of this to the disciples in rebuke of their lack of faith? It is because the yeast of the Pharisees is unbelief. Matthew 15:9 describes their doctrine as “rule-keeping.” The teachers of the law demand signs from Jesus because they do not believe he is the son of God and they want further proof. Their unbelief stems from the fact that Jesus is not the kind of messiah they expected or wanted. They can’t believe that God is so loving that he cares more about healing people than keeping the sabbath rules. Jesus warns the apostles about this kind of unbelief and they immediately help illustrate his point. They worry about their mistake of forgetting bread and assume that he is displeased with them for it. His face-palm response about feeding the crowds reveals that he is going to always provide for them and that he does not disapprove of them for silly mistakes. Their focus is on their doing well and not on how loving and forgiving he is. When you have nothing to give, give your nothing to the Lord and thank him for it. Watch with anticipation for what he is going to do with it. God takes nothing and turns it into the amazing. Do not focus on your failures and lack of whatever it is you think you need to please God. God is already pleased with you. He’s got us covered no matter how much we screw things up. Do not let unbelief consume you and your life by worrying about having the strength, grace, love or money to endure the things of your day. If you lack anything, trust the Lord with your lacking.