December 20th, 2015
Matthew 16:1-12 (Mk 8:11-21; Lk 12:1, 54-57)
Service Orientation: BEWARE: It is only natural for a depraved, sinful, deceitful heart to forget truth and want reality on its own terms. Only the truth can set you free.
Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. — John 8:32, 36
- Matthew 16 is one of these “more important” chapters. It is the central or critical chapter in Matthew’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Or to put it another way, it is the high point in Jesus’ teaching and the disciples’ growth in spiritual understanding. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 295)
- (v. 1) Moreover critical orthodoxy dates this Gospel at about A.D. 85, a time when the Sadducees, closely connected with Jerusalem and the temple, destroyed in A.D. 70, no longer existed as a coherent force. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 360)
- (v. 1) For representatives of both parties to come to Jesus in a joint delegation indicates that something had them seriously concerned. Of course, that something was their mutual distrust and hatred of Jesus. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 486)
- (v. 1) Pharisees and Sadducees may here be lumped together because they represent the Sanhedrin, which included both groups (cf. Acts 23:6), or because a common opponent transforms enemies into friends (cf. Lk 23:12; cf. Ps 2:2). (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 360)
- (v. 1) Hostility, like necessity, makes strange bedfellows. It is an extraordinary phenomenon to find a combination of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They stood for both beliefs and policies which were diametrically opposed. The Pharisees lived life according to the minutest details of the oral and the scribal law; the Sadducees rejected the oral and the scribal law completely, and accepted only the written words of the Bible as their law of life. The Pharisees believed in angels and in the resurrection of the body and the Sadducees did not, an opposition which Paul made use of when he was on trial before the Sanhedrin (Acts 23:6-10). And–in this case most important of all–the Pharisees were not a political party and were prepared to live under any government which would allow them to observe their own religious principles; the Sadducees were the small, wealthy aristocracy, who were the collaborationist party and were quite prepared to serve and co-operate with the Roman government, in order to retain their wealth and their privileges. Further, the Pharisees looked for and longed for the Messiah; the Sadducees did not. It would have been well-nigh impossible to find two more different sects and parties; and yet they came together in their desire to eliminate Jesus. They became united in their hostility. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 150)
- (v. 1) The same Greek word for “test” is used in Heb 3:9 and signifies a test with the intent to discredit. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 317)
- (v. 4) Jesus’ purpose was not to convince people to come to him by performing wonders; he came inviting people to come to him in faith. Then, as a response to their faith, he performed great miracles. If faith was required, these self-righteous religious leaders had little hope. After this encounter, Jesus left abruptly, got into the boat, and departed back toward the northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This event marked the end of his public ministry in the region of Galilee. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 319)
- (v. 7) Now no Jew who was strictly orthodox could eat any bread which had been baked or handled by a Gentile. Therefore the problem of getting bread on the other side of the lake was insoluble. The disciples may well have thought that Jesus was saying: “You have forgotten the bread which is clean; take care when you get to the other side of the lake that you do not pollute yourselves by buying bread with defiling leaven in it.” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 153)
- The religious leaders and the crowds have had their opportunity to acknowledge him as their Messiah, but their hardness of heart prevents them from perceiving him clearly (cf. 13:10-17). They will receive no more signs. But the disciples, who have been open to his identity and mission, now receive from the Father the most penetrating revelation of Jesus’ identity (16:13-20). This revelation in turn leads to further revelation from Jesus about his life’s mission–he will be killed and be raised up again (16:21). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 554)
The question to be answered is . . . What is Jesus teaching in this passage?
Answer: I believe Jesus is warning the disciples and us to beware the teaching (yeast) of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Otherwise it is easy to attempt to become a Burger King Christian or have spiritual dementia.
The Word for the Day is . . . Beware
What do we learn from Matthew 16:1-12?:
I- You cannot be a Burger King Christian. (Mt 16:1-6; see also: Prv 14:12; 16:25; Jer 14:10-16; 23:16; 23:32; Lam 2:14; Mt 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; 10:38-39; 16:24; 19:21; Mk 1:17; 2:14; 8:11-13; 34; 10:21; Lk 5:27; 9:23, 59; 14:27; 18:22; Jn 1:43; 10:27; 12:25-26; 21:19, 22; Gal 2:20; Eph 4:18; Col 2:8)
They were marked by self-indulgence: pleasing themselves apart from God. The Sadducees were predominantly from the wealthy class of Jewish people. Though they were more strict than the Pharisees in some ways, they were known for pursuing both political and social approval and power. They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, so they took the mind-set, “Hey, this life is all there is, so let’s make the most of it,” and they had the means to do so. Many of them made fortunes on temple concessions, money-changing and ritual sacrifices. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 212)
The Pharisees were the formalists of the day; they reduced religion to a system of ceremonies, and regarded a ritual as more important than moral law. The Sadducees were rationalists and materialists; they did not believe in resurrection, or angel, or spirit. They were like those of the present day, who as far as possible, deny and discredit the supernatural in revelation and in religion. The Herodians may represent the modern secularists; they cared little for religion; they placed their hopes in political readjustment, and lived for the prizes and pleasures of the world. (Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel of Matthew, 146)
The Sadducees had two characteristics, which were closely connected. They were wealthy and aristocratic, and they were deeply involved in politics. So Jesus may well have been saying: “Take care that you never identify the kingdom of heaven with outward goods, and that you never pin your hopes of bringing it into political action.” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 154)
They may have wanted something so spectacular that there could be no doubt that Jesus had come from God. More likely, they did not really want to see a sign; they simply hoped to discredit Jesus when he refused to give them one. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 318)
Pharisees were the conservatives of their era, and Sadducees were the liberals. Rigidly sure of the proper way to go about religion, Pharisees suffocated true faith in their systems and legalism. Empirically sure of the silliness of most religion, Sadducees trimmed true faith to a skeleton, elevating skepticism to a virtue. Beware of both parties today. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 322)
Their asking for a sign indicated that they were unimpressed by the miracles and teaching of Christ, the very credentials predicted in the OT. (John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come, 121)
Just as Jonah was three days in a fish, so Jesus would be three days in the grave, and then He would rise again. But even this miraculous sign would not be enough for Jesus’ opponents. His decisive victory in the resurrection would not be enough to convince these hard-hearted leaders who, in their self-righteousness and self-indulgence, were so focused on temporal matters that they had become blind to eternal realities. (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 213)
All His other mighty miracles they rejected out of hand. According to their blasphemous opinion, the Lord had performed them in league with Beelzebub. They wanted an incontrovertible sign, a sign that only God in Heaven could give. They wanted Him to make the sun stand still, or send the shadow on the sundial back a dozen degrees, or turn the moon to blood, or pull down a star. Noah, Joshua, Elijah, and Hezekiah had been given signs such as these. Why not the Pharisees and Sadducees? (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 316)
There are some who naively cling to the nostalgic memory of God. The average churchgoer takes a few hours out of the week to experience the sacred…But the rest of the time, he is immersed in a society that no longer acknowledges God as an omniscient and omnipotent force to be loved and worshiped…Today we are too sophisticated for God. We can stand on our own; we are prepared and ready to choose and define our own existence. (Ralph Georgy, “If God Is Dead, Then the Late 20th Century Buried Him,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, September 12, 1994)
The Pharisees saw religion in terms of laws and commandments and rules and regulation. They saw religion in “Take care that you do not make your religion a series of ‘you shall nots’ in the way the Pharisees do. Take care that you do not identify religion with a series of outward actions, and forget that what matters is the state of a person’s heart.” (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 154)
They had tried to explain away Jesus’ other miracles as sleight of hand, coincidence, or use of evil power, but they believed that only God could do a sign in the sky. This, they were sure, would be a feat beyond Jesus’ power. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 318)
You worry about whether it is going to rain tomorrow, but you don’t give a single serious thought to where you will spend eternity. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 297)
Jesus was warning them about the dangers of the legalism of the Pharisees and the modernism of the Sadducees. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 298)
If he should show them a sign from heaven, they would attribute it to a confederacy with the prince of the power of the air; if he should not, as they supposed he would not, they would have that to say for themselves, why they did not believe on him. They now tempted Christ as Israel did, 1 Cor 10:9. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 225)
“The sign of Jonah” is not some kind of sign that Jonah brings. Rather, Jonah is the sign. His appearance was the sign to the people of Nineveh that his message was from the God, who had rescued him from death (Jon 3:1-5). Jesus’ resurrection from the dead will be the sign of judgment to the generation that hears his message. The actions of the pagan people of Nineveh who repented at Jonah’s preaching forms the judgment on all who do not repent at Jesus’ announcement of the arrival of the kingdom of God, including the Jewish religious leaders who stubbornly refuse (Jon 3:1-5; cf. Lk 11:29). (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 555)
Did not the coming into this world of the Son of man, with his emphasis on the power, grace, and love of God, rather than on man-made–often silly–regulations, and with his exhibition of power over everything, including even disease, death, demons, and destructive storms, foretell the downfall of legalistic Judaism? Did it not spell the rise of a church gathered out of both Jews and Gentiles and consisting of all those who believed in salvation by grace through faith and in a life of gratitude to God and of service to man? (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 636-7)
By means of that sign, Christ’s atoning death and glorious resurrection from the grave, he would triumph completely over them, and would prove himself to be the Messiah (Rom 1:4). This was going to be the “sign” of his complete victory over all his enemies (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62) and a forecast of his triumphant return upon the clouds of heaven (Phil 2:9-11; 3:20; Rv 1:5, 7). (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 637)
Since these two had combined in their assault against him he speaks of them as if they were not two but one, one definite article preceding “Pharisees and Sadducees.” Well, they were indeed one, namely, in the basic principle that governed their lives as shown in their effort to attain “salvation” or “security” by their own efforts. Religion in both cases was outward conformity to a certain standard. They were one in “dislike of single-hearted devotion to truth and righteousness.” (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 638)
The proof that they cannot discern the “signs” is that they ask for a sign (v. 1)! For those with eyes to see, the “signs of the times,” if not the kind of “sign” the Pharisees and Sadducees demanded, were already abundant. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 361)
What are these two doing together–the overly ritualistic with the overly rationalistic, the super-serious with the super-sophisticated, the legalist with the modernist? They are together because Jesus threatens them–their religious power–individually, and so they come together corporately to deal with him. It’s a diabolical, not a theological alliance. (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 441)
God’s Will – exactly what I would choose if I knew all the facts.
“Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God” Psalm 143:10
God’s Way – exactly the opposite of my natural inclinations.
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” Proverbs 14:12
God’s Work – exactly what Jesus would do if He were in my situation.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:10
II- You cannot be Christian with spiritual dementia. (Mt 16:7-12; see also: Isa 1:3; 17:10; 46:8-9; Mk 8:14-21; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor 9:6; Gal 3:1-3; Eph 2:11-12; 2 Tm 2:8; Heb 10:32)
There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget. (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 29)
The first law of prayer is this: remember to whom we are speaking, and the second law of prayer is this: remember who we are. (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 394)
The most dangerous Christians are those who have forgotten their tendency to sin–and Satan’s agenda to capitalize on that tendency. When Satan is allowed to move in the shadows, forgotten and without restraint, his power can be tremendous. Thoughtful Christians have never forgotten that we have an enemy as well as a Savior. (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 173)
The first great fact which emerges from our civilization is that today everything has become “means.” There is no longer an “end”; we do not know whither we are going. We have forgotten our collective ends, and we possess great means: we set huge machines in motion in order to arrive nowhere. —Jacques Ellul (Eugene H. Peterson; A Long Obedience in the Same Direction discipleship in an Instant Society, 99-100)
The charge of lack of faith recalls especially 6:30, where the same epithet is used for those who worry about the provision of food and clothing instead of trusting their heavenly Father. Their knowledge of God’s fatherly care should alone have been enough to allay their concern; but in fact they have recently been given more tangible proof, twice over, that God (through Jesus) can provide food when it is needed. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 610)
God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December. —J. M. Barrie
The fact that Jesus asked seven questions of them in swift succession indicates the depth of His disappointment at their lack of spiritual perception. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 90)
“My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Jesus is a great Savior.” —John Newton (John Piper, Brothers, We are NOT Professionals, 264-5)
What was Creation’s climactic culmination? The act of stopping. Why should God have considered it so important to stop? Rabbi Elijah of Vilna put it this way: God stopped to show us that what we create becomes meaningful to us only once we stop creating it and start to think about why we did so. The implication is clear. We could let the world wind us up and set us to marching, like mechanical dolls that go and go until they fall over, because they don’t have a mechanism that allows them to pause. But that would make us less than human. We have to remember to stop because we have to stop to remember. (JUDITH SHULEVITZ, Bring Back the Sabbath, Published: March 2, 2003)
The Three-Word Memory Course: Attention improves retention.
From these words we infer that all who have once or twice experienced the power of God, and distrust it for the future, are convicted of unbelief; for it is faith that cherishes in our hearts the remembrance of the gifts of God, and faith must have been laid asleep, if we allow them to be forgotten. (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 283-4)
We hear again here Jesus’ frustration at their slowness in understanding, as it was expressed in 15:16-17. It is time for them to put two and two together. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 610)
It is possible, as has been suggested, that “they imagined that He was annoyed with them for not taking with them the bread in the seven baskets because they thought it was ‘defiled,’ since it had been handled by Gentiles” (Levertoff, 51). Jesus rebukes them, however, not for their lack of charity, but for the anxiety born of their lack of faith. (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 155)
By definition, to forget God is to assume the place of God in your life and the world. Now, what is so bad about that? Oh my goodness, think about that for a second. What do you think worry is? Let me tell you what worry is. Worry is a frustrated aspiration to omniscience. Worry is saying exactly what James says we cannot say. You are eaten up with worry to the degree you say, “I know. I know what tomorrow holds. I know what is right. I know what has to happen. I know how history has to go. I know. Now if you say that, you will be eaten up with worry because you are aspiring to omniscience. (Tim Keller sermon, Worry)
One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent upon God. — C. S. Lewis
III- The vital, mature and growing Christian is alert, aware and shuns all “yeast” except that of their Master, Lord and Savior Jesus. (Mt 16:6; see also: Mt 13:33; Mk 8:14-15; 1 Cor 1:18-2:14; 5:6-8; 10:12; 15:33; 2 Cor 11:3; Rom 13:11-14; Gal 2:11-3:14; Col 3:2; 1 Jn 4:1)
You are never going to make any true progress in wisdom unless you begin by realizing that this world, with all its cultural systems, is hostile to God and opposed to any desires for godliness on the part of God’s people. (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 301)
The Spirit may be quenched by someone else’s influence in your life. You’ve probably come to realize that certain folks tend to be spiritual fire extinguishers. Critical people quench the Spirit of God. Their words, like sharp icicles, freeze out the fire of revival in a heart. (Ron M. Phillips, Awakened by the Spirit, 177)
Whoever desires to become honestly a disciple of Christ, must be careful to keep his mind pure from those leavens; and if he has already imbibed them, he must labor to purify himself till none of their polluting effects remain. There are restless men, on the other hand, who have endeavored in various ways to corrupt sound doctrine, and, in guarding also against such impostures, believers must maintain a strict watch, that they may keep a perpetual Passover with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (1 Cor 5:8). (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 282)
Until you can confidently state your values, every philosophy, every behavior and every desire known to humankind is a potential substitute. Your values become the filter through which you determine right from wrong, value from worthlessness and importance from insignificance. If you do not specifically identify your values, they will be defined for you by the whims and influences of the world. (George Barna; Turning Vision, 91)
I might be insane to suggest this, but; if we are to take the meaning of Jesus’s words in Mt 16:11-12 seriously (which if we claim to be Christians we must); wouldn’t application of His teaching here mean that we ought to seriously consider spending more time and being under the influence of God’s Word more than any other teaching or “yeast”? Which, if we understand the heart or core basis of the world-view of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, would mean that we might consider spending more time each day in God’s Word and under the influence of the Spirit of God (which is behind the Word of God); than with the TV set, the video player, the gaming area, or any other medium that promotes a carnal world-view. At the very minimum, I think Jesus is teaching us that if you do expose yourself to the world’s “yeast”; never forget to discern and identify the origin, heart, depravity, spirit, and fallenness of that world-view. — Pastor Keith
So of what “yeast” were the disciples to “beware”? Probably their incorrect understanding of the Messiah’s credentials and of how to get into the kingdom. For the Pharisees, it was rigid law keeping; the Sadducees did not even believe in eternal life. Their wrong understanding (spreading like yeast through dough) was contaminating the entire nation. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 322)
The “teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” to which Jesus refers (vv. 5-12), therefore, is an attitude of unbelief toward divine revelation that could not perceive Jesus to be the Messiah (vv. 1-4) but that tried to control and tame the Messiah they claimed to await. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 362)
“Yeast” (v. 6) was a common symbol for evil and could therefore be applied to different kinds of wickedness (e.g., Lk 12:1; cf. Ex 34:25; Lv 2:11; 1 Cor 5:6-8), but always with the idea that a little of it could have a far-reaching and insidious effect. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 362)
Jesus was severing the disciples from all links to their religious past and to the authority of the religious leaders and was attaching them exclusively to himself. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 322)
Disciples are in most danger from hypocrites; against those that are openly vicious they stand upon their guard, but against Pharisees, who are great pretenders to devotion, and Sadducees, who pretend to a free and impartial search after truth, they commonly lie unguarded: and therefore the caution is doubled, Take heed, and beware. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 227)
Worship Point: Worship the Christ who warns us of our depraved proclivity towards spiritual dementia or self-centeredness. Jesus empowers us to progress towards maturity, completeness, and wholeness by living in the Truth.
And not only can sin paralyze the memory, it can twist facts; it can manipulate them, and prove anything it likes. Sin can manipulate our reason and vitiate all our argumentation. It will inflame our desires; it will paint beautiful pictures; it will put on rose-colored spectacles. It will also paralyze the will so that when temptation comes again we forget all about what we felt and do the same thing once more.
There is no need to argue about this. If you do not agree with my exposition of the biblical teaching concerning the power and depth of sin, let me ask you this one question: Why do you keep on doing that thing that gets you down, that thing you are ashamed of? Why are you always down? Why are you in this conflict that the apostle Paul speaks of? There is only one answer: the power of sin is greater than your power. Sin is the greatest power in the world, with one exception, and that is the power of God. ( D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; God’s Way, Not Ours: Isaiah 1, 63-4)
I don’t know about you, but I cannot simply muster up more love. I can’t manufacture patience just by gritting my teeth and determining to be more patient. We are not strong or good enough, and it doesn’t work that way. None of us can “do goodness” on our own, much less all the other elements that make up the fruit of the Spirit.
But despite our inability to change ourselves in this way, to simply become more peaceful or joyful, we expend a great deal of effort trying. We focus on what God wants us to do and forget the kind of people He wants us to be.
Instead of mustering up more willpower, let’s focus our energies and time on asking for help from the One who has the power to change us. Let’s take the time to ask God to put the fruit of His Spirit into our lives. And let’s spend time with the One we want to be more like. (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 148)
Gospel Application: Never forget Jesus perfectly fulfilled what it means to be fully human. Our salvation comes by trusting in Jesus and His work. Not in trusting in ourselves.
Spiritual Challenge: Make sure you remember why Jesus was born and came into the world. To save us. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Merry Christmas!
The mercy of God to us should melt our hearts into mercy toward others. It is impossible that we should be cruel to others, except we forget how kind and compassionate God hath been to us. (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 86)
In the back of Steve Brown’s Bible:
Dying to self:
- When you are forgotten or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting or hurt with the insult or the oversight but your heart is glad being counted worthy to suffer for Christ . . . that is dying to self.
- When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advise disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger arise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence . . . that is dying to self.
- When you lovingly, patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, when you come face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it . . . that is dying to self.
- When you are content with any food and offering and raiment and any climate, any society, any solitude and interruption by the will of God . . . that is dying to self.
- When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to go unknown . . . that is dying to self.
- When you can see your brother, and have his need met and can honestly rejoice in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in more desperate circumstances . . . that is dying to self.
- When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit both inwardly and outwardly finding no rebellion or resentment rising up in your heart that is dying to self. (Steve Brown message, “Miracles in the 20th Century”)
“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.” —Matthew 1:23
YEAST UNTO LIFE