Are those who have power in our society seeking our best interests? Are they passing just laws and seeking our protection? Can we trust that the political and societal leadership has our best interests at heart?
Jesus warned his followers, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” Mark 8:15
The Pharisees were responsible for law and order in their community. Herod was the official political ruler, but he engaged the Pharisees to help in controlling the people, keeping order, and settling disputes. They were living under Roman rule and were required to pay taxes and submit to Caesar’s laws and decrees. It was a difficult life for the common people, but the Pharisees were an elite group with wealth and privilege.
What was the “yeast” Jesus spoke about?
Jesus didn’t explain so we must interpret and figure it out ourselves! What do we know the Pharisees and Herod were guilty of through our understanding of other passages of Scripture?
- Personal characteristics. Pride. Self-importance. Close mindedness. Protecting their authority. Know-it-all attitude. They had a position in society and they wanted to keep it. They carried out their role of serving the people only so far as it served them and furthered their role in the community.
Sound like any politicians today? Sound like any significant members of society and business?
- Powerful Ideas. The Pharisees were in charge of perpetuating teaching that would impact everyone. They had the power to hold hearts captive with their ideas.
Jesus was saying that there is a spiritual battle and there is far more to fear than the physical realities they were facing. The reality was that the Pharisees and Herod were actually acting as Satan’s agents on earth, cooperating with his plans and purposes. It was Satan’s plan to kill Jesus, thinking that would be the end of His influence and power. He used the religious leaders as his agents. They were able to infiltrate the hearts of the people at the time of Jesus’ trial before Pilate, the Roman Governor, so that the people demanded for Jesus’ crucifixion even though Pilate was hoping to release Jesus.
Jesus rebukes and chastises His disciples with strong words:
“Why are you arguing about having no bread?”
“Don’t you know or understand?”
“Are your hearts too hard to take in [truth]”
“You have eyes – can’t you see?”
“You have ears – can’t you hear?”
“Don’t you remember anything at all?”
After reminding them of the two miraculous picnics,
“Don’t you understand yet?”
Do you think He might have equally strong words for His followers today?
You might call me crazy, but I believe all people fall somewhere into these broad categories:
- People who discern the spiritual realities and forces at work in the world around us and wholeheartedly follow Jesus and seek His answers.
- People who discern many of the truths of what is happening in the world but want to leave Jesus out of their lives and their understanding.
- People who claim to follow Jesus but are mostly vague about any of the spiritual battles waging around them. They seek the blessings Christ has to offer but don’t want to acknowledge anything that would shake their comfortable reality.
- People who have no idea of current realities and no understanding of Jesus’ power and purposes on earth.
- People, like the Pharisees and Herod, who are actively involved in promoting an evil agenda on the masses, knowingly or unknowingly, cooperating with Satan’s plans.
Jesus repeatedly showed His disciples and followers that His power transcended physical realities. He could produce food out of nothing, give sight to the blind, make the deaf to hear, give speech to those who could not speak, and even raise the dead to life.
Yet his disciples were arguing about bread. How often is our focus on our physical realities and our physical needs rather than on God’s purposes and advancement of His kingdom on earth? What might Jesus say to us today?
Are we heeding His warning to “Watch out and beware”? Paul reminds us that our battle is a spiritual battle and the weapons we need are spiritual protection (Ephesians 6). The reality is that there are currently dark evil spiritual forces influencing nearly every aspect of our society. Just as Satan hijacked the religious and political systems at the time of Jesus, he continues to be at work to thwart the purposes of God today. The religious system designed by God to bring people to knowledge, worship and relationship with Himself became the very vehicle for putting Jesus to death. Our own political system has been hijacked for evil purposes. Satan is busy trying to foil God’s redemptive plan in the world. The biggest issue Christ followers face today is not so much the physical realities and dangers we face – although those are often very real – the real issue is the battle for hearts and souls.
When Peter reprimanded Jesus for predicting his suffering, arrest and death, Jesus strongly rebukes him:
“Get behind me Satan. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
How about us? Do we see our current world and personal reality simply from our own point of view, or do we see it from God’s? It’s not really popular to remind people of the reality of God’s work in the world. Some don’t want to hear about a future judgment. Many don’t want to acknowledge the evil rampant even in the “good” systems in our world.
It is far more comfortable to interpret the world, or at least our country, as a kind and gentle place; believe that those who make laws are just; believe that everything we see on the news is true; think that all modern scientific discoveries are for our benefit; think that all medicine is good for us and all doctors want us to be healthy; believe that all history showing our country as the good guy is true; think that all wars we’ve been involved in have been for the righteous protection of the disadvantaged; to believe the public school system is not so bad.
What we believe. What we think. That is the yeast. That is what Jesus warned us about. Where do we get our ideas? What influences our thinking?
“You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”
We need God’s point of view to reign supreme in every area of our life. Does God have guidance to give me? How can I be sure I allow Him to influence my thinking and overcome the powerful yeast prevalent in our world today?
Mark 8 ends with Jesus explaining the very high cost of following Him:
Then, calling the crowd to join His disciples, He said:
“If any of you wants to be my follower you must
turn from your selfish ways
take up your cross and
If you try to hang on to your life you will lose it.
But if you give up your life for my sake and the sake of the Good News you will save it.
And what can you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
Is anything worth more than your soul?
If anyone is ashamed of Me and My message in these adulterous and sinful days, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when He returns in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Jesus came to set us free. Satan seeks to keep us in bondage. Following Jesus means we need to “Watch out and Beware.” The Pharisees did not look like “the bad guys.” They were respectable. They held prominent positions. They were wealthy and important; celebrities of their day.
I choose to seek Jesus wholeheartedly, He wants to save and preserve life for today and eternity. The nature of deception is that you do not know you are being deceived. We are all deceived to some extent. We need to continuously seek the truth in every area of life. We are in a spiritual battle. A battle to influence our heart and mind.
“Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:25-26
Author: Becky Hastings, wife, mother, grandmother, passionate follower of Jesus and truth. As a breastfeeding counselor for over 23 years Becky is devoted to helping parents make wise decisions for the long-term health and wellbeing of their babies. As a member of a Vaccine Safety Education Coalition, Becky writes and speaks on the topic of vaccine safety.