Matthew 16:5-12

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.”

And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”

Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-12

Every interaction between Jesus and his disciples is an opportunity to place ourselves right in the middle of the story. We, modern day disciples, easily find ourselves fitting right in. That helps us listen well to this chapter from Matthew.

The disciples forgot to bring lunch as they crossed the lake. Someone told Jesus. “Sorry about that. I guess we forgot to bring any bread.” Oops. Then Jesus throws them a curve, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” The disciples didn’t know what to make of that. What does that have to do with all of us going without lunch today?

Jesus reminds them of the miraculous feedings that they witnessed, and benefited from. Of course God cares about food for your bellies! God provides daily bread. But God also cares about the ideas that you allow into your mind. God cares about what you believe just as God cares about what you eat. The ideas put forth by the opponents of Jesus are deadly. The ideas put forth by Jesus are life giving.

The most obvious false teaching promulgated by the Pharisees and Sadducees is that Jesus is a charlatan. Just another would be Messiah figure who is destined both to lead his followers into spiritual ruin (a key idea for the Pharisees) and into conflict with the Romans (a key idea for the Sadducees.)

What neither of Jesus’ opponents admit is the threat that he poses to their own livelihoods. The Pharisees benefit from their role as spiritual authorities within the lives of the people. The Sadducees benefit from their cushy relationship with the Romans which allows them to run the Temple like a profit generating family business. Jesus threatens both of them. If Jesus gets his way, if he turns the hearts and minds of the people away from the power structures that undergird the Pharisees and Sadducees, then they will be the ones scurrying for daily bread. They can’t allow that to happen. So they reject Jesus. Ultimately they will kill him.

If you really are who you say you are, then turn these stones into bread.” That was one of the great temptations posed to Jesus by the devil in the wilderness. Jesus fended him off with a reminder, “Man does not live by bread alone.” We do well to heed those words.

If all we care about is bread for our bellies, if all we care about are the material wants in our lives, we are in trouble. We open ourselves to accepting all sorts of ideas, willing to then do all sorts of immoral and unjust things, that promise us material success. “I want mine and I don’t care about you” is no way to build a common life.

If we trust that God will provide us daily bread, that doing our part according to our skills and abilities will result in everyone getting enough, then we will truly know freedom. It is the self-giving stance toward life that separates Jesus from the self-seeking, self-gratification stance toward life of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we do care about our daily bread. We have to. We need to eat. But you know that we need much more than that. Expose the selfishness and self-seeking ideas that drive us away from you and away from one another. Remind us anew that you provide what we need and that sharing, giving of ourselves out of love for our neighbor, is your path to freedom and life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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