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Matthew 16:5-12

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? …”

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. (verses 5-8, 12)


Jesus has a crucial point he wants to make with his disciples, but they completely misunderstand because they haven’t learned the lessons of faith from Jesus’ previous miracles. Forgetting that Jesus is able to provide for all their needs, they succumb to false guilt, thinking he is accusing them of not bringing enough food to eat.

So, painstakingly, he leads them through a process of remembering recent history. “Don’t you remember the five loaves and the feeding of the five thousand?” he asks. “Don’t you remember the seven loaves and the feeding of the four thousand?” he persists. “Get your minds off bread. I’m talking to you now about something else.”

So, he restates his initial warning. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (verse 11).

Ah. Now they get it. They understood that Jesus was warning them against “the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” He’s concerned they might get infected.

With what exactly? What’s the nature of the “yeast” that threatens to spread through the whole batch of dough, if permitted?

It seems clear it’s unbelief, specifically unbelief in Jesus himself as Messiah and Saviour and Lord. In the immediate context, this is the issue. The Pharisees and Sadducees have been unwilling and unable to see the “signs of the times,” the miracles which have pointed to the reality of Jesus’ own person and ministry. Skeptically, they have demanded a further sign, or they will not believe.

Don’t let that attitude and perspective infect you, Jesus says. Indeed, the disciples are in danger of doing it at that very moment, for they have already forgotten the lessons of Jesus’ miracles of feeding. “You of little faith,” he rebukes them. Don’t settle there. Remember the signs.

How about me? Am I in danger of forgetting what my Lord has done? Do I nurture my faith constantly with the events of salvation history, together with the events he has worked in my own life? Or am I always yearning for a fresh sign in order to truly believe? Do I miss his present activity because my hold on faith has grown weak? Do I miss what he’s instructing me in this moment, becoming so focused on my own “lack of bread” that I forget he is fully able to provide?

“Get rid of the old yeast,” Paul says in another setting (1 Corinthians 5:7). Don’t let un-faith infect your focus on Jesus.


Lord Jesus, strengthen my memory of your mighty works, both in salvation history and my own experience. Refresh faith. Cast out unbelief. I yield myself to you again.


Reflect: Where is unbelief currently threatening to infect your connection with Jesus? Confess it. Put it aside. Nurture faith through remembrance.


Image by Hans from Pixabay

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