After the scene in which the Pharisees and Sadducees set aside their contempt for one another to attempt to trick Jesus into offering a sign, Jesus and His disciples once again head off across the lake. This time, the disciples forgot to bring the bread along; they have nothing to eat. Randomly it would appear, Jesus told them to “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
The disciples, thought this remark was a reference to their having forgotten the bread, but Jesus seldom concerned Himself with such details. Reminding them of the manner in which He fed the five thousand and the four thousand, He wonders why they are thinking about bread; He was warning them against the teachings of the religious leaders. In a sense, He was summing up in one line the lesson He has been trying to teach them since chapter 14. By the end of this brief passage, they get it: Beware the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
I have an editorial decision to make at this juncture: Should I remember that I’m a theology professor and launch into a discussion of the theological and apocalyptic significance of yeast in Scripture… or just keep it simple and real?
Let’s just keep it real; Jesus knew that like all good Jews of that time, His disciples feared their religious leaders and consequently there was a very real danger that they would be swayed by their teachings, or at least intimidated by their teachings. In a sense, these leaders were much like our “politically correct” leaders of the present day who insist that everyone either agree with them on every issue at all times in public and private, or at least that we never voice a disagreement. To do so is to incur wrath, persecution and ridicule.
There is nothing new under the sun.
Knowing that He would be handing the baton off to the disciples soon, Jesus set about to teach them, 1) to have no fear of the religious leaders, and 2) to reject entirely the things they taught, for 3) the disciples would soon become the real teachers about the things of God.
By the end of this passage, they comprehended what He was talking about, but did they comprehend the mission yet?
We are about to find that out…