We all as Christians should not only attempt to understand what this statement means but we must try to purge out of our thinking, “The yeast of the Pharisees” that Jesus cautioned us about in Mark 8:15–21 and Matt 16:11. It is a serious account because Jesus is frustrated that the disciples don’t understand that He is not talking about bread, but the doctrines of the Pharisees. This scripture says that once the disciples had crossed over from the place of the great bread miracle to another location they had forgotten to take with them some of the left over bread fragments from the previous miracles of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fish. Now if you read this verse, you will see that Jesus is clearly talking about His multiplying the food and feeding the people, yet He is telling His disciples to be careful and watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. Take into consideration the purpose of yeast as you read. Yeast is used to expand, grow, or multiply the mass of something.
Mark 8:15–21 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
You can see right here how important it was to Jesus that His disciples get the big picture of what he is cautioning them about.
I always believed this scripture to be talking about the silliness of worrying about food when the disciples had just witness Jesus feed so many with so little. The truth of the matter is in light of the entire context of scripture, these miracles of the multiplication of the fish and loaves to feed everyone fully and the amount of baskets full of left over scraps after everyone had eaten their fill, could only represent the works of the multiplication of God, in contrast to the works of the yeast of the Pharisee’s and the Sadducees.
If like the scriptures say, “man’s god is their belly,” then these men that this scripture is speaking about will follow like sheep any person that feeds them. This is why the children of Israel followed Moses through the desert, not because they were convinced by the miracles of the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of smoke by day or the parting of the Red Sea to save them from Pharaoh’s charging army, but because Moses supplied them with food and water. And when Moses didn’t supply them with sufficient food and water they would begin to doubt the faithfulness of God.
John 6:26 “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”
I would bet that this is why every time Jesus would perform this miracle of feeding the multitude He would immediately go away from those he has fed, either by boat or off to some private place so they could not follow him further. Jesus wanted them to follow Him and believe on His miracles, not follow Him because they merely needed food for their flesh.
In the Old Testament when the children of Israel were wandering in the desert they were commanded by God to not gather more manna then was needed for ONE day or it would turn into maggots and be rendered utterly useless. Jesus also, when he sent out His disciples specifically commanded that they bring with them no bread. Mark 6:8, Luke 9:3 This was to show them the miraculous provision of God while they carried out HIS will, and let’s not forget the very first thing we as believers are taught is the example that Jesus gives us on how one should pray: Give us this day, our DAILY bread.
I believe it is fair to say that these particular miracles of the loaves and fish could have been performed by Jesus to illustrate the difference of effect and purpose of the increase and multiplication of the miraculous provision of God to fill the multitudes, and the expansion of yeast to the already sufficient supply of food from God.
The first biblical account of Jesus performing this miracle is in the book of Matt 14:13–20, “Jesus departed to a desert place and a great multitude followed him. And he came forth, and saw a great multitude, and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. And when evening was come, the disciples came to him, saying, “This place is a desert, and the time is already past; send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said unto them, “They have no need to go away; you give them food to eat.” And they said to him, “we have here just five loaves, and two fishes.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” And he commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass; and he took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, AND BROKE THEM and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave it to the multitudes. And they all ate, and were filled: and they took up the remains of the left over broken pieces, it was twelve baskets full. And they that ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.”
Now I believe it is very important to point out the significance of breaking bread to those of us that partake of the bread that is broken and blessed by Jesus. This, IS the purpose and function of the true Church, Christ’s “ekklesia.”
Luke 14:15 “and when one of them that sat at meat with him heard these things, he said unto him, blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
1 Cor 10:16–17 “the cup of blessing in which we are blessed, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many, are ONE bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that ONE bread.”
Matt 26:26 “and as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.”
Luke 24:32–35 “and they said one to another; did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us by the way, and while He opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, Saying, “The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon.” And they told what things were done on the way, and how He was known of them in the breaking of bread.”
What Jesus is trying to explain to His disciples is: You walk with the Bread of Heaven, who breaks bread freely with you whenever you have need, why would you ever need to look back to feeding yourself from fragments? Eating from broken pieces that are left over after others have had their fill is like saying you don’t trust that God will be available to feed you the next time you get hungry.
Our communion, the fellowship that Jesus has with his followers, IS the bread sent from heaven that was broken and blessed for all of us that follow him.
John 6:53–6:66 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day, for my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe,” for Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.” From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
These verses in John sum up how we are to communicate with God our creator. In them Jesus explains to us that “His words are spiritual and not literal.” Of course Jesus was not speaking concerning cannibalism, He was speaking allegorically, using carefully chosen activities and objects to represent spiritual truths concerning the Kingdom of God.
In the prayer of David in Ps 23:5 “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
It would be fitting to say that our lives are just one big dining table that the Lord has prepared for us, to eat of the bread of Christ’s testimony and be a witness in the presence of our enemies. If the bread represents Jesus and His testimony, what is His testimony? The testimony of His communion with the Father. We are invited to partake of that communion when we eat of the bread. The bread is His body that was broken as a representation of the complete union He walked in with the will of the Father. Drinking from the cup of His blood represents one taking and drinking from the same cup that He must drink from.
Luke 22:42 “Father if it be your will, let this cup pass from me?”
Mark 10:38–39 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with.”
This is what is asked of everyone that will follow after Jesus, will you pick up your own cross and be persecuted for righteousness sake as a witness of your communion with Christ?
2 Cor 4:10 “We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”
This is the Communion that Jesus taught us. He is the personal witness for the Father. This is why bread must be treated with this significance when reading about the caution concerning the yeast of false doctrines (teachings). It is plain for anyone to see that He is drawing attention to the multiplication factor. Why else would Jesus use the analogy of multiplying the bread to feed the people and the scraps that were collected after the fact to illustrate an important caution concerning the yeast of the Pharisees (wrong teachings)? Jesus speaks to us at the last supper table and tells us plainly that He is the Bread that came down from Heaven.
Jesus asks His disciples in John 6:67–68 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
You see all that Jesus is demonstrating in the miracle of the loaves is clear if you have eyes to see, and ears to hear, and mind that can understand. Remember Jesus’ reprimand and warning about not understanding the particular miracles of the loaves. He knew very well that the teachings concerning bread would be misunderstood and mishandled by men with wrong motives and He wanted to be sure that His apostles being the one’s chosen to administer this bread would not give in to the false doctrines of the religious teachers.
Mark 8:19–20 “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
Jesus is trying to show us why and how we needed to “beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” We know He is speaking about teachings (doctrines). It was only when the disciples later regretted not taking some of the bread with them, that Jesus cautioned them to “Beware of the Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
The broken fragments of bread, I believe represent second hand accounts and the broken, fragmented testimonies of other so-called witnesses of God. Take a look, every bit of what was gathered up by the disciples was considered what? A fragment. This means that they were only a “piece of a piece” of the left over bread that was broken by Jesus and given to the 12 apostles to then be administered to those presently following Jesus. We are partakers of the whole loaf when it is blessed by Jesus and given to those that follow Him.
1 Cor 10:16–17 “The cup of blessing in which we are blessed, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.”
The accounts of later testimonies of those who were not present at the miracles of Jesus, serve a bit like crumbs that have fallen from the Master’s table of provision. Those fragments are happily eaten by the dogs, Mk 7:27-28 But Jesus said unto her,” let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it unto the dogs.” And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs.”
In Jesus’ time, anyone that was not of the 12 tribes of Israel was referred to by the common Jew as “Gentile Dogs.” Why dogs you wonder? I suspect that dogs were representative of animals that were wild and would rely upon men for their scraps. The Jews believed because they were God’s chosen people, all other people were underneath them, so naturally in comparison if a man did benefit in anyway from their unique blessings they were looked at like dogs eating the scraps that fell from the Lord’s prepared table for the Jew.
The commandment of Moses in the Old Testament speaks about not gathering from the corners of your fields at the time of harvesting to provide a gleaning (gathering of fragments) for the poor or the stranger found amongst your company.
Lev 23:22 “When you harvest the crops of your land, do not harvest the grain along the edges of your fields, and do not pick up what the harvesters drop. Leave it for the poor and the foreigners living among you. I am the LORD your God.”
Moses commanded us not to pick them up, but to leave them for the poor and less fortunate. We are not the poor when we follow Jesus and share with Him in His Communion. We are among those invited to the table of the Lord, who gives us each day our daily bread so there is no need to cling to crumbs. I do believe that crumbs can serve a purpose if they are not tampered with by unclean hands and unclean hearts before they are eaten. Broken pieces I believe must go from the source, JESUS to his chosen recipients or to his chosen administers and then to those who would receive of the bread of Heaven. Jesus knew that like so many other times in scriptures, men would take the left over remnants of a miracle performed of God and later set it up as an idol and begin to worship it like the snake that Moses lifted up in the desert.
These crumbs or left over fragments, are the mere left-overs of the miracles of God. When these are coupled with the wrongful motivations of the Pharisees and Sadducees, they produce a greater mass yes, which give people a false sense of security, but these fragments had no later mention in scriptural accounts as feeding anyone and were essentially gathered for those that were not present when Jesus broke the bread or blessed it, nor present when it was being administered to those He had chosen worthy to receive of it.
The very fact that it is when the disciples were talking amongst themselves about not taking any of this particular bread, that those fragments became the object that Jesus would use to illustrate how turning back to crumbs after you have seen and tasted of a true miracle of the provision of God, would prove that you will follow Him just because you ate from the loaves and not because you saw or understood the miracle of His provision.
John 6:26 “Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.”
These particular baskets of fragments are what I believe so many today are having administered to them in our modern day churches. The fragments of bread from misunderstood miracles; they may nourish the poor and the unfortunate and give them encouragement for a season but they will never see nor understand what it is to walk with the true source of God’s provision, Jesus Christ. Why would anyone put their trust in the broken fragments of miracles passed, when they could be following and communing with the one true daily bread giver? Crazy I know, yet it happens every day.
You might think that you would recognize the kind of yeast Jesus is talking about in this account. But yeast still abounds today; like the mistranslation of one of the most important Christ created words in all of Christianity “ekklesia” which translates to “amongst those invited” or “amongst those called” to something as seemingly harmless as the word “church.”
Here is where you see the Yeast of the Pharisees at full scale. You could look at the modern institution referred to as the Church and see a greater mass for sure, but it has no real biblical foundation to support its practices and governmental oversight, so it becomes just broken and fragmented pieces of truths that didn’t come directly from that which was brought before Jesus to be blessed, chosen by Him to administer, and received by those chosen to comprehend the provision of God. It is evident by the scriptural accounts that these fragments of food were not necessary for those that were following Jesus because the scriptures clearly state in every account that ALL that attended ate until they were FULL. Let us all come to the true source of our daily BREAD, Jesus Christ and be fed until we are full and Beware of the Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!
Allow me to close with a small portion of an article that I believe sums up the frustration that some feel when it comes to the mistranslation of this word church and see if you don’t suspect some of yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees at work.
The Origin of the Word “church” by Andy Zoppelt
The translator’s choice of the word “Church” is one of those words that has impacted the world and has subverted the whole purpose for which it was intended. Because the translators used the word “church,” meaning a building, instead of a more accurate word reflecting a functioning body, it has affected our whole approach to the meaning of the body of Christ. We have been given a word from the translators that has nothing to do with the original Greek word “ekklesia.” There is not a single Greek word to back up the word church. So why is it there? The early assembly of believers did not have a clergy distinct from the rest of the body. Clergy with titles and authority was foreign to the early disciples. It was the rise of this authoritarian clergy that needed a building to control the people both religiously and politically and to gather the people around the clergy. The Catholic Church and the Church of England both used the word “church” and its meaning as a building to hold the people in subjection to their control. Without a building the clergy would have lost their power over the people. Even today, without a building the clergy system would fall. This system of clergy/laity and the use of a building is what we have come to know as the “institutional” church system. This system was totally foreign to the vocabulary and the life of the disciples of Jesus, who built and depended on the move of the Holy Spirit through all the saints being built together. Therefore the retaining of the word “church” in our translations of the Bible became crucial for the survival of the institutional church system even to this day. To change the true meaning and function of the Greek word “ekklesia” to our English word “church” strengthened the clergy system and their power over the people. The statement, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” has been the downfall and corruption of body ministry.
The original intent was relational and not institutional.
For in all the writings of the first and second century we do not find an “institutional” treatment of the word “ekklesia.” This is a little something for all of us to consider and to get us motivated to get into the Word of God, His pure unleavened showbread, the ultimate provision of God for all of His children.
2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to show yourself approved before God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
God Bless you.