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“The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus warned them. ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.’”—Mark 8:14–15 (NIV)
In today’s passage, we see the disciples realize they only had one loaf of bread, which was the equivalent to something like a 12-inch pizza crust. Knowing this, Jesus seized the opportunity to teach a lesson: “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” Jesus never missed an opportunity to teach and impart godly wisdom.
In context, this takes place after Jesus had, for the second time (Mark 6:30–44 being the first), miraculously fed thousands with a few pieces of bread and some fish. And this miracle actually sets the stage for the teaching Jesus is giving His disciples here.
You see, Jesus is warning His disciples, as one commentator put it, “about the Pharisees’ teachings and treachery now that He had incurred their wrath by exposing and condemning them publicly.” How does Jesus do this? By using a metaphor comparing their hypocrisy and wicked hearts to the leaven hidden in dough.
Here, the word leaven or yeast is being equated by Jesus to doctrine and teachings. Recently, I bought a pizza steel and have been making pizzas from scratch at home each week. And I’ve had to work a lot with yeast. The thing about yeast is that once you introduce it to the party, it doesn’t just rise in one isolated area. It permeates the entire dough ball, ferments it, and changes its overall structure.
Friends, we’re a lot like a dough ball in that our bread (our hearts) is determined by the doctrines, teachings, ideologies, philosophies, positions, propaganda, conspiracies, theories, and opinions we sprinkle in and allow to ferment. Gradually, these extra-biblical, self-righteous, post-modern, post-Christian, pseudo-spiritual, self-help, atheistic, liberal, conservative, woke, alt-right, racist, Marxist, nationalistic, progressive, legalistic, Pharisaical, Herodian, and anything else you can think of THAT ISN’T FULLY AND SOLELY FROM SCRIPTURE, that isn’t the GOSPEL OF JESUS, can change the overall structure and composition of our hearts. And sadly, most of the time it happens in such a way we don’t even realize it.
So, friends, here’s my advice: “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1 (HCSB). We should evaluate all messages, media, news, and entertainment, consider the source, and reflect on what we’re letting into the dough ball of our hearts in context of the Word and the doctrines established by Jesus, the apostles, and the early Church. We need to critically think, pray constantly, and invite the Spirit to reveal truth into what is being sprinkled into us. This may end up requiring some work on our part to sift out the yeast; it may mean removing certain practices, unfollowing certain voices, or even seeking biblical counseling. But it’s so important we all do it as believers in order to remain firmly in the truth of Christ.
Pause: Why does Jesus use leaven or yeast in this metaphor to warn the disciples?
Practice: Do a deep dive into the dough ball of your heart and mind. Is there any leaven from the world, from other ideologies, from politically charged movements, pseudo-spiritual or self-help philosophy, or any legalistic or progressive false doctrines? Chances are we all have some worldly yeast particles sprinkled in. Pray and seek the Spirit’s wisdom on what is not of God and how to surrender it to His truth.
Pray: Father, thank You for the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth who “searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10 NIV) and guides me “into all truth” (John 16:13 NLT). I pray if there is anything in me, any beliefs, ideologies, philosophies, thoughts, opinions, or anything else that is not of You, that does not line up with Your Word and the gospel of Your Son Jesus, that You would reveal it, refine it, and remove it! I want nothing more than to know You and to live fully in the way, truth, and life of Your Son. Help me and cleanse me, Oh God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Danny Saavedra has served on the staff of Calvary since 2012, managing the Calvary Devotional and digital discipleship resources. He has a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling and Master of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry from Liberty Theological Seminary. His wife Stephanie, son Jude, and daughter Zoe share a love of Star Wars, good food, having friends over for dinner, and studying the Word together as a family.