They claimed to know God, but their teachings were based on traditions and second-hand interpretation. When God in flesh appeared in front of them, they knew him not. Would we?
I have 3 sisters. I can still remember their names. But it is well known that when conversation goes back to days when we had family holidays or stories about us potato picking or turkey plucking then Richard will remember nothing. When I returned to work with my friend John on his farm after a break of several years, he hoped that I would remember the location of water pipes that I had helped to lay across the farm. He was disappointed!
I suspect we have all used those words: “don’t you remember …..” , often with exasperation. Indeed, Jesus used those words with his disciples as they tried to figure out what he was talking about. Here is the passage in Matthew 16:1-12
The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested Him by asking Him to show them a sign from heaven.
He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.
When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”
Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
The Pharisees and Sadducees unusually come together in this passage with the intention to test Jesus. Their views and teachings were very different to each other, but they chose to unite against Jesus. Jesus was drawing many of their people. His teachings, His miracles and His compassion were talked about throughout the country. But now this coalition of sceptics were goading Jesus to perform a sign. Jesus had silenced this same temptation in the wilderness: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ Theses religious leaders chose to ignore all the witnesses, the thousands who were miraculously fed in the countryside by Jesus and his disciples.
When Jesus replied to the leaders, He made it clear that they watched and interpreted the appearance of the sky believing that it would happen. But they were unable to accept the significance of Jesus's ministry.
However, I want to look at the response of the disciples. We read that they tried to equate Jesus’s warning about the yeast of the Pharisees with the fact that they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus comprehended the entire situation. ‘..you of little faith’ well that could apply to all of us. The disciples were talking about having no bread, talk that robbed their faith. “Do you not understand? do you not remember..” Jesus continued with rhetorical questions to direct their attention on to the miraculous feeding of the thousands, in particular how he provided for them personally. The detail was important. It sharpened the memory, it brought things into focus. And faith began to grow. Now they saw the whole situation differently: Jesus was their shepherd, leading and feeding them. The religious leaders, who should have been tending the sheep, were refusing to believe the miracles and hence, hardening their hearts against Jesus. Moreover, they were actively teaching the people to do the same. Indeed, if Jesus’s closest disciples so quickly forgot the miracles and their meaning, then the crowds were likely to put these matters to the back of their minds amidst the hardship of everyday life.
Jesus had described the teaching of the leaders as yeast. It was able to work through and influence the whole of a persons life. The terrible outcome of their teaching is made plain by Jesus (for example in Matthew 23). Previously, Jesus had compared his teachings about the kingdom of God to be like yeast that is worked through a batch of dough. So, we today, can understand that the teaching we follow, will have a profound effect upon our lives and those we interact with. Jesus said of the Pharisees and Sadducees : “though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand”. They claimed to know God, but their teachings were based on traditions and second-hand interpretation. When God in flesh appeared in front of them, they knew him not. Would we?
Finally, let us rejoice in our Lord Jesus Christ. Faith brings clarity; it brings Jesus clearly into the picture. But without remembering and understanding, faith will eventually become lifeless. Let us encourage one another to remember, to understand and to give God the glory.
(PS Our buddy group is going to study a book: ‘Remember’ by Richard Gamble)
Author: Richard Windridge
May God bless and enrich your life
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