Summary: Who do people say that Jesus is? Who do you say that Jesus is?
There are two questions I want to point us in the direction of from this passage of scripture;
Mathew ch 16 v 13 Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the son of man is?”
And Mathew ch 16 v 15 where Jesus asks “But who do you say that I am?”
We start the narrative with this discourse between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees, they approach and require a sign from him, they were pretending to be willing to learn and follow him if he could display for them some outward show of heavenly spiritual power. Jesus saw through them, they had seen miracles, received reports on them yet they constantly wanted more, no one could have performed the miracles Jesus did except God was with him, but they wanted something else! They wanted there very own performance. They despised the necessary purpose of God, rather instead looking for something to gratify their own selfish desires. Tempting the wisdom of God with foolish earthly and hollow requests.
How we too need to bear in mind that when we approach the Lord that we do so reverently, carefully and selflessly when we seek petition him oh behalf of self or others!
How they united against him these Pharisees and Sadducees, both opposed to each other in reality, yet uniting here against what they saw as a common threat, an enemy to their status and authority.
The Pharisees of course were the keepers of Mosaic Law, the Torah, or books of Moses. To us the first five books of the Old Testament, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. They believed that Messiah would be an earthly King one whom God would raise up from King David’s blood line. That he would free them from the tyranny of Roman occupation. They believed in separation from all gentile sinners and in temple worship being at the heart of every part of their existence. Ritual and sacrifice were the most important factors of their daily lives. They so often neglected their own personal relationship with God and replaced faith with strict laws and customs. Often as here we see they were full of self righteousness and hypocrisy.
Of the Sadducees little is really known, they were the controllers of the Temple which gave them a position of authority, often of the privileged in society, they denied the existence of spirits and the after life and did not accept the many customs of the Pharisees instead looking strictly to the Torah for their guide to belief and living.
They saw Jesus as a common enemy and threat to their existence. If the people believed in his teaching, then what had they to offer? It was blind hatred really that led certainly the Pharisees to attack Jesus at every opportunity they got. And so we see Jesus warning his disciples in v 6 of what he calls the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, he goes further to clarify his statement and explains that it is their corrupt principles and practices he is warning them of. These Pharisees and Sadducees, they had looked to strict laws and ordinances, passed down rituals and teachings when despite all this knowledge, in fact they failed to recognise the fulfilment of all its teaching was standing in front of them. That which the prophets foretold had come to pass but because it was not what they desired or expected they failed to recognise it.
Jesus knew their hearts, saw them blinded by their own foolishness and greed. Saw their desire for authority and position and power above all things over the people. The same people that they were supposed to be ministering too! He compared them to leaven. Mathew Henry states “The corrupt principles and practices of the Pharisees and Sadducees are compared to leaven; they were souring and swelling and spreading like leaven, they fermented wherever they came”
That sour compound has only one purpose and that is to blindly increase and expand that which it is amongst at the cost of all other, no sense or reason just an inbuilt desire to expand its own substance. No thought, no regard to its relationship with God, merely blind increase of self.
The warning is to beware of false teaching, that which lifts up men, elevates earthly status, does not own nor recognise at its heart Gods plan and purpose. Anything that would distract us from serving the Lord. The Lord calls it leaven!
Beware today leaven within our church organisation, within our councils and meetings, in the pulpit and in personal lives. Who are we witnessing for? Who is at the centre of our Worship? Is it all leaven or is it about the person and purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus warns beware of leaven!
The disciples earn themselves a rebuke, they misunderstand what they are being told, in that moment they look to themselves, they have brought with them no food, no bread, and shallowly they look to themselves, just like those Pharisees and Sadducees in fact, they look to earthly things, look to self. How they fail to see in that moment, that with them stands the great provider. They have witnessed at first hand the feeding of the 5 thousand with what amounted to nothing more than a child’s packed lunch! And yet here we read they worry about bread! Jesus says “O ye of little faith!” How could they fail to understand all he was teaching them? And yet they did! Should they not have been able to rely upon him for all earthly needs? Should they not have had faith upon him to spiritually and physically sustain them whatever there circumstances? Had they learned nothing? Here before them was the great provider yet they misunderstood his plan and purpose.