The Pharisees, Leavened Bread and Jesus

Luke 12:1-4 – The Pharisees and Leavened Bread

Opening Thoughts: You know that smell of delicious home-made bread, the smell that can make a full person hungry all over again? I remember when I was a kid and my mom would pull a fresh batch of bread out of the oven, all golden brown on the top, once us kids caught a whiff of it the begging began. Mom usually had plans for it, but that didn’t matter to us we wanted it while it was still hot, I can almost taste it now. Turns out that the stuff that makes it all soft and fluffy is called yeast and consequently it isn’t that good for you. In fact as I learned a few years ago, there’s a type of yeast (candida) that grows very quickly in your stomach when a person is on antibiotics, or for people who feed on a lot of simple sugar. This type of yeast spreads instantaneously in the right environment, which can make you quite ill without even realizing it. Sometimes the symptoms are hard to detect, but over long periods of time as your body remains in an inflamed condition your immunity system begins be weakened. The longer you leave it un-dealt with the more chronically sick you can become. Here’s a little science on how yeast works.

Yeast creates chemical reactions on the starch and sugar in the bread dough. Yeast cells reproduce very rapidly no matter where they are. This replication goes on through a process called budding. In budding, each tiny cell swells, and soon the swollen part separates from the main cell. The new tiny cell then goes on to grow to full size on its own and the budding process continues to repeat itself. During this growth process, the yeast cells produce substances called enzymes. So when the yeast is added to cake or bread dough, one enzyme goes to work on the flour, changing the starch in it into sugar. Another enzyme then takes over and changes the sugar into alcohol and a gas called carbon dioxide. This gas spreads through the dough in the form of bubbles. As the dough bakes into bread and cake, the heat causes the alcohol to evaporate and the bubbles to break. This leaves the tiny air pockets in the final bread or cake, making it light and fluffy. Before yeast was manufactured commercially, women used to set a piece of dough out in the sun to ferment, then take the dough (leaven) and mix it into the new batch, which would work the same as modern day yeast.

People in Jesus time were well aware and actually cautious about leavened bread, as they had strict dietary commands from God to frequently eat unleavened bread. When Jesus speaks about the leaven of the Pharisees he was drawing a parallel of, like yeast, how fast acting and quickly their hypocritical poison spreads to the people they have under their care, and if it is left undetected is eternally fatal. Let’s read our opening text.

Luke 12:1-3 ESV .. In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.

The Pharisees Leaven is Hypocrisy: We all know what hypocrisy is, I’m sure you have called someone a hypocrite in your lifetime and on the same token you’ve likely been called one yourself a time or two. Since divine nature is something that can only be lived out through genuine regeneration, made possible through Jesus Christ, and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:3), every attempt to please God through human effort ends in hypocrisy. Much of the doctrines that the Pharisees taught were man made commandments and inventions, some of which were the traditions of the elders, the free will of man to make right decisions, and justification by the works of the law which unavoidably infects people with a puffed-up sense of self-righteousness.

The pot calling the kettle black: Have you ever heard the term “The pot calling the kettle black“? It’s an old idiom used when someone is guilty of the very thing which they accuse another person of. Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites all throughout the Gospels. He accuses them of “Calling the Kettle Black” by the way that they judge others and yet are guilty themselves to an even greater degree. He likens it to pointing out a speck in someone else’s eye while having a log jam in your own. For instance, if as a man, you have ever said something like this, “I can’t believe that so and so lets their daughter leave the house dressed like that”, then later you look up porn on the internet or eye up other women when you’re out, do not be fooled, you are in grave danger of hypocrisy and it’s better you realize this now than later.

Seeing the fault in others while being entirely blind, or worse yet, unconcerned about your own sin is deadly. Let it be understood that Jesus was not making a suggestion that the sin of anyone is okay nor am I trying to say that, He was driving home that just because you can detect sin in someone else’s life does not mean you have spiritual vision. Here’s something you can do right now, take a look at your movies and I mean really look at them. Do they glorify murder, sexual immorality, cursing, adultery, divorce? Now, do you judge others for swearing, being sexually active, talking dirty, murdering? Maybe you say, “Yeah, but I’m just watching a movie, I’m not actually doing it myself”, if watching and doing are unrelated then it should be okay to watch Porn as long as you aren’t doing it! See the logic. It seems we see all the other commands as optional when it comes to just watching, except porn. It’s not okay to watch and enjoy things that our dear Saviour bled and died for. It’s not a matter of just changing our minds about this either, if you do enjoy those things you must seriously consider an examination of your faith (2 Corinthians 3:15).

The Leaven of Sin: If anyone calls themselves a brother or a sister in Christ yet they are unresponsive to heed the warnings to repent they are to be treated as an unbeliever. I have heard almost every self- justifying argument for this text, in fact I use to use them myself, so for accuracy I will keep it almost strictly to the text of the scripture.

1 Corinthians 5 ESV … It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

I heard a quote from Paul Washer a little while back, “When people say, “Judge not lest ye be judged”, I always say, “and twist not Scripture lest ye be like Satan“”. Jesus tells us not to judge, the apostle Paul tells us to judge. The Bible can get fairly confusing if we don’t read it with the correct vision. The idea of judgement is not to condemn people, it’s to help people and to protect the bride of Christ. We as the church have it severely backward in today’s modern society, we tend to judge the outsiders for their actions and let everything slide within the church. That’s not what Paul is saying here, please read it again if you don’t believe me. The leaven he is referring to here is also hypocrisy, where someone calls themselves brother yet they are disregarding the commands of God. Attempting to obey the commands of God alone will no more make you a Christian than an atheist is. When Paul tells the body to expel this man and treat him like a heathen it is for his own good so that he will come to the realization that he is not indeed saved, and that he may come to his senses and be restored to genuine salvation. We need to understand that the sexually immoral, the greedy,  idolaters, revilers, drunkards, and swindlers are not people who are demonstrating the characteristics of a genuine believer. A genuine believer is someone who simply believes on the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope of salvation. He then puts in them a “Clean Heart”, which is and new heart that came with new desires. God has personally branded that new heart with His law (Hebrews 10:16). This is an inner working of the Holy Spirit that produces godly fruit.

Luke 13:20-21 ESV … And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

The Leaven of Christ: So, just like we spoke about how the leaven (yeast) of hypocrisy and sin is like poison that spreads and destroys, so is the leaven of Christ quick to act, but brings life and new fruit. Jesus is painting a picture of when someone is granted the wonderful gift of salvation. It’s not a matter of striving for right living, the gospel takes hold of you like yeast and permeates through your entire being. The text talks about a woman hiding a little leaven in three measures of flour (which is about 50 pounds), in other words it was out of sight. The flour spoken about was enough to feed about 100 people, yet the amount of yeast was undetectable. Though the yeast was undetectable the evidence was obvious. The leaven of the gospel will always produce genuine visible fruit of salvation, and while the exact moment of your conversion may not have been filled with fireworks, the evidence will quickly appear in your life.

A Look at Yourself: Maybe you have seen evidence of sinful, hypocritical judgement in your life. Maybe like the Pharisees you have put stipulations on other people yet you are guilty of the same sins, you’ve been “Calling the Kettle Black“. Or maybe you are like that person in the Corinthian church who is involved in drunkenness, sexual immorality, idolatry, greed. Whatever the case may be you may have the leaven of the world in your life. If God has revealed this to you through His word, what you need to do right now is call out to Him and repent of your sin. Who cares if you have been in the church your whole life, the Pharisees were and they were too arrogant to see they were lost. Don’t fall victim to that trap, trust in Jesus alone for your salvation and don’t look to your ability to change, but look to His righteousness alone for your right standing with God. Once you do that the leaven of the Gospel will penetrate your entire being and you will begin to produce fruit of righteousness.

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Preparing The Way
~Shane Martin

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