"be on your guard against the yeast"
This has to be one of the weirdest statements in the Bible. And the circumstances surrounding it make it even odder. It's Jesus talking to his disciples, and the verse before it gives us a little background that allows us to even see a little humor in the conversation.
As chapter 16 begins, Jesus is again being tested by the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who are asking Him for a sign from heaven (as if Jesus Himself isn't enough...) Jesus cautions them against relying on "miraculous signs" particularly when the Son of God was standing there in front of them.
After this, Jesus and His disciples went across the lake, and verse 5 tells us that the disciples forgot to take along some bread. This is so interesting, because it comes in the wake of Jesus miraculously feeding four thousand people, from seven loaves and a few fish. Next thing we know, the disciples have forgotten to bring along even enough bread to feed themselves. Sometimes you just have to wonder if the disciples are learning anything, don't you? But then I look in the mirror and remember that I'm not much better...
So Jesus, remembering the Pharisees and Sadducees, decides not to miss a teachable moment, and warns His disciples, "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." The disciples ~ not for the first time ~ are flummoxed by what He's saying. So they discuss it amongst themselves, and decide that He's scolding them for not bringing bread on their journey.
I'm sorry, but this just cracked me up. How obtuse can they be?? Do they think He's afraid they are going to try to purchase bread from the Pharisees or Sadducees, and that their bread might be dangerous? Is it any wonder that Scripture constantly refers to us as sheep, and as children of God? When it comes right down to it, even the most brilliant of us is positively simple-minded compared to Him.
Jesus' point, of course, was not really about bread. It was, as He had said, about yeast. Yeast is an amazing creation. A one-celled fungus that reproduces itself. We've all seen how bread is made ~ how a small amount of yeast works its magic and a loaf of bread is the result. A little bit grows, and goes a long way.
And so it is with words, and with ideas. It's been said (either by Mark Twain, or Charles Spurgeon, depending on who you ask...) that a lie can travel halfway round the world before the truth can pull its boots on. And twisted Scripture is especially dangerous ~ this was the trick the serpent pulled on Eve. And the Pharisees and Sadducees were convincing speakers. Their mis-interpretations of Scripture ~ or of signs from heaven ~ were dangerous.
The danger did not disappear with the Pharisees and Sadducees. 2 Peter 2:1 says "just as there were false prophets among the people, there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord."
Notice the word "secretly" in that verse. Yeast does its work quietly. You put a cloth over the bowl, and set it aside, and the next thing you know, it has doubled in size. Hence the need for us to be on our guard. Wisdom comes only from His Word, and discernment comes only from His Spirit. Be on your guard against anything that is not from Him.
~ "Don't you know that a little yeast
leavens the whole batch of dough?" ~
1 Corinthians 5:6