Matthew 16:5-12

“Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (v. 12, NIV).

“Ooooh…now I understand!” How many times have I said that? Now I get it. Now it’s clear. 

You have to admit, the disciples seem a bit clueless, even a little stupid here. They’ve just gotten to the far side of the lake, and Bartholomew says, “Oh man…we forgot to bring bread for lunch.” And Jesus, always one for a real-time teachable moment, says “Watch out for the yeast that grows in the teaching of these self-serving religious leaders” (v. 5, paraphrase). Brilliant. 

And then the disciples say: “Yeah, Jesus—sorry we forgot to bring lunch” (v. 8), and Jesus answers, “Guys, guys—don’t you remember? The miracles I just performed using bread? All those people who were fed? But the ’yeast’ knife cuts both ways; be on guard with religious hypocrites” (vv. 9-10). 

It’s perhaps notable that Jesus saves his harshest criticisms for the religious leaders of his day. They use the Scriptures as a cudgel for their own purposes. Jesus calls them on it and patiently cautions his followers to understand what was happening. “Okay, now I understand.” 

When we see contemporary religious leaders weaponizing the gospel for their own purposes, we would do well to heed Jesus’s admonitions. Anne Lamott writes, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”


When do I use my faith as a weapon against others?


God, let me see my own faith-based hypocrisy. And help me have the courage to challenge it when it surfaces in today’s Pharisees and Sadducees. Amen.

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