Tuesday (February 13): “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod”
Scripture: Mark 8:14-21
14 Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." 16 And they discussed it with one another, saying, "We have no bread." 17 And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"
Meditation: Do you allow anxiety or fear to keep you from trusting in God's provision for your life? The apostles worried because they forgot to bring bread for their journey. And that was right after Jesus miraculously fed a group of five thousand people (Mark 6:41-44, Matthew 14:17-21), and then on another occasion four thousand people (Mark 8:1-10, Matthew 15:34-38)! How easy it is to forget what God has already done for us and to doubt what he promises to do for us in the future as well. Scripture tells us that "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18). Ask the Lord Jesus to fill your heart with his love and to increase your faith in his provident care for you.
Beware the "leaven" which corrupts mind, body, and soul Jesus cautioned the disciples to beware of bread that corrupts, such as the "leaven of the Pharisees." When leaven ferments a lump of wet dough, it transforms the dough and changes it into life-enriching bread when heated. Left-over dough which had been leavened (but not baked) would rot and become putrified. For the Jew leaven was a sign or symbol of evil influence. It signified anything which rots and corrupts, not just physically but spiritually and morally as well.
Jesus warned his disciples to avoid the way of the Pharisees and Sadducees who sought their own counsels rather than the mind of God. They were blinded by their own arrogance and were unable to recognize the truth and wisdom which Jesus spoke in the name of his Father in heaven. What kind of leaven (spiritual, moral, intellectual) do you allow to influence your way of thinking and living? Jesus sharply contrasts the bread and leaven which produces life, especially the abundant life which God offers through Jesus, the true bread of heaven, with the bread and leaven which rots and corrupts mind, body, and soul.
Let God's word nourish and strengthen you in faith, hope, and love As the disciples continued to worry about their lack of physical bread for the journey, Jesus reminded them of his miraculous provision of bread in the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. He then upbraided them for their lack of trust in God. Aren't we like the apostles? We too easily get preoccupied with the problems, needs, and worries of the present moment, and we forget the most important reality of all - God's abiding presence with us!
When the people of Israel wandered in the desert homeless and helpless for forty years, God was with them every step of the way. And he provided for them shelter, food, water, and provision, as long as they trusted in him. Each day he gave them just what they needed. Jesus teaches us to trust in God's abiding presence with us and in his promise to provide us what we need each and every day to live as his sons and daughters. Do you pray with joyful confidence, "Father, give us this day our daily bread"?"Lord Jesus, you alone are the true bread of life which sustains us each and every day. Give me joy and strength to serve you always and help me to turn away from the leaven of sin and worldliness which brings corruption and death."
12 Blessed is the man whom you chasten, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law 13 to give him respite from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. 14 For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage; 15 for justice will return to the righteous, and all the upright in heart will follow it. 16 Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? 17 If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have dwelt in the land of silence. 18 When I thought, "My foot slips," your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. 19 When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Heed the truth of the Gospel, by Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 AD)
"The apostles are ordered to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They are warned not to be involved in the disputes of the Jews. The works of the law are now to be viewed in the light of faith. They are forewarned that they, into whose time and age the truth had appeared incarnate, should judge nothing except which lies within the position of hope in likeness of the truth that is revealed. They are warned against allowing the doctrine of the Pharisees, who are unaware of Christ, to corrupt the effectiveness of the truth of the gospel." (excerpt from commentary ON MATTHEW 16.3)
Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.