Leaving out the Leaven

Matthew 16:1-12


: I’ve discussed being an example and then last week the principle of freedom and responsibility.

Today I want to add another principle that connects to the last two.

Matthew 16:1-12

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of the 


 of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. 


 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ 


 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the 


 of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” ” (Matthew 16:6,11,12, NKJV)



Leavens effects



believed in the immortality of souls, in a literal eternal hell and judgement,


 they were midway between freewill and predestination. With regard to hell, punishment and resurrection they are virtually identical to early Christianity.


According to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus they believed in and practiced prophetic foreknowledge and experienced “God’s appearances to them”.


They believed in the priesthood of all believers by applying priestly purity to all people. They were essentially a house group fellowship, sharing common meal tables amongst their own as an opportunity for table fellowship, not unlike the early believers of Acts 2:42,46.

They, like the Essenes, were renowned for brotherly love,

whereas the


had a reputation for infighting and barbaric behavior towards one another.

Also, like the Essenes they expected a Messiah and were into a simple lifestyle shunning luxuries.

They taught without pay and relied upon gifts from their disciples to support them, just the same approach that Paul had when he wrote to the Galatians that disciples should share in all good things with the one who teaches them (Galatians 6:6) and Jesus when he said that the laborer is worthy of his wages (Matthew 10:10).



were rightly anti-Hellenistic (Hebrew) and tried to avoid Jewish dilution through assimilation with Greek thinking and practice, hence they strongly adhered to Jewish biblical teaching.


In fact, as much as 90% of Jesus own teaching bears considerable parallels with Rabbinic or Pharisaical teaching of the period.

In these areas of doctrine, we hear no criticism from Jesus. However, we do have the following


“‘…you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. 


 Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 


 ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honour Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 


 And in vain they worship Me, 

Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men

.’” (Matthew 15:6-9)

It was their additions to the Law that Jesus sometimes criticized






probably meant some of their


and extensions of normal Jewish practice, that even when applied with the right intention – to prevent the breaking of the Law, were causing a millstone of nigh-on-impossible practice to be hung around the people’s necks.

Perhaps, rather than doctrine as a defined body of knowledge, Jesus was referring to their applied and additional teaching, then. While Jesus certainly criticized their stringent application of Sabbath laws and punishment of sinners, Jesus erred on the side of grace, life and forgiveness



: Last week I mentioned blue jeans, dancing and movie theaters.


: Here is the beauty though….

But Jesus hadn’t given up on the Pharisees for he spent time with them, correcting them, addressing many of his parables to them, encouraging them when they weren’t far from the kingdom

(Mark 12:34).


: So, we are free right? No. Jesus couldn’t accept pharisees? No.

Of the then 24 sects within Judaism these were the closest to true sons, albeit in need of correction.


Indeed, if we read Luke’s version of events it is not doctrine that is referred to at all but Pharisaical 



“In the meantime, when an innumerable multitude of people had gathered together, so that they trampled one another, He began to say to His disciples first of all, ‘Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.’”(

Luke 12:1


Again, in Matthew 23, Jesus said that the Pharisees ‘were to pursue love, faith, mercy and justice without leaving their 


 undone’ (v.23 // Luke 11:42).

Their teaching was correct on the whole, but their 


 and their 


 were out.

Furthermore, their 


 were sometimes questionable.

They rightly sought to bring the people closer to God through obedience rather than only through a corrupt priesthood but they sometimes did works for the praise of men

(Matthew 23:5-12,14).

According to Josephus, out of a 1st century Palestinian Jewish population of 


 1 million, (5-6 million total Jews including the 


) there were just 6000 or so Pharisees.

So, they themselves were a small group but one whose reputation and effect both positive and negative has been like leaven to the whole Jewish population. Jesus wanted this effect to be positive and for his disciples to be as effective in their teaching and to exceed them in righteousness but paired with non-hypocritical practice of what they taught



What does bad teaching, practice and hypocrisy do?


: The truck at Billy’s garage, ‘Stop Sinning.’





“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

Unbelievers (as well as Christians) need and deserve…

As opposed to

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