Posts Tagged ‘pharisees’

Matthew 16:5-12
The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

For those of us who are die-hard Clemson fans, the touchdown on the kickoff return by Alabama did not come entirely as a surprise. For all the good things that have happened on offense and defense during the Tigers run to the championship, special teams have been where we have held our breath, particularly kick-off coverage. Every time, Clemson kicked off this year, we fans prayed that the kickoff would go deep into the end zone so that there would be no return. Why? Because, if the Tigers had a fatal flaw this year it was kickoff coverage. Twice before the championship game, we had given up two touchdowns on kickoff returns and we had given up several high yardage returns during the year. Although they covered well for most of the kickoffs Monday night, the weakness was bound to be exposed. The Tigers could have survived all the other mistakes made in Monday night’s game, but this season-long weakness was the one thing that was the dagger to the heart. In championship games that are tightly contested as Monday’s game was, if you have a flaw as team if will come out and it will cause you to lose. Without that kickoff return for a touchdown, Clemson may have had the opportunity to climb back into the game the way they were moving the ball on offense. The kickoff return just made the mountain too big given the time remaining the game. The fatal flaw all season ultimately undoes a championship season. It is like back in the day in the 80’s and 90’s, University of Houston and University of Nevada-Las Vegas had some of the greatest college basketball teams ever assembled but they could have won more championships than they did because each had one fatal flaw to their games – foul shooting. Each of those teams could make you look like a little league basketball team when they played you, but if you could get them into a tight game where foul shots matters, they would lose. Fatal flaws of sports team. Blind spots that prevent us from being all that we can be. It is these minor things that can become major things when are allowed to go unchecked. If I fault the Tiger coaches for anything this year, it was the lack of improvement in kickoff coverage over the course of the season. All other areas of the team improved a great deal over the course of the season but not this one and it became the difference between 14-1 and 15-0.

The reason that I use my favorite college football team as an illustration again today because their weak spot got exposed and it caused them to lose. Are we often not the same way when it comes to sins that we enjoy and refuse to repent of? They did not have college football back in days of Jesus’ earthly ministry so he used the metaphor of yeast and dough, something we can still relate to today. Just a little bit of yeast changes dough into the basis for bread. Just a little bit of dough will permeate through the dough and make it into something that we can bake and call bread. Jesus seized the discussion of bread to make a point to us all. Let’s read Matthew 16:5-12 together:


5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.”

8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 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.” 12 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.

Clemson’s poor kickoff coverage and yeast in dough reminds of unchecked things that can turn into bigger things. Sin is that way for us. The religious elite of the first century Jewish society were more concerned with appearances of religious compliance than they were about seeking after God. They would rather keep a good public image than seek holiness. They were greedy men who lusted after power. Their faith became about what people see on the outside rather than what’s in the heart. They would shun people for not keeping in compliance with the letter of God’s law rather than seeking to teach people about holiness. This attitude thus permeated throughout society. If you broke the religious regulations, you were shunned. Once a sinner always a sinner. There was no forgiveness or compassion. It all started at the top with the religious leaders. They were not seeking after God’s heart so the Jewish faith became about rules and not about relationship with God. The law was intended to point us to our need for repentance before God and to seek his forgiveness for our flaws. It had become a mallet to beat people into despair with in the hands of the religious elite. Their sins of pride, arrogance, and greed became the yeast that permeated the dough of Jewish society.

Are not our own sins that way, especially the ones that we want to keep on participating in? We hide them in our dough. But our unrepented and active sins that go unchecked can become greater and greater problems to us that consume us. Just think of the person who entertains lust in his heart for a woman who is not his wife. He entertains it and enjoys the thoughts and fantasies. They become a preoccupation. The thoughts lead to flirting. Flirting leads to touching. Touching leads to kissing and you get the picture. It all started with entertaining the sin in the mind. The same is true with other sins as well. Greed starts out small. Say a salesmen starts becoming preoccupied with getting all he can get in life so it starts with fudging on an expense report. If that goes well, lying to a client is deemed ok. Until one day, this salesmen can’t remember what telling the truth feels like. Lying has become such a part of his life that he feels no remorse ever for telling a lie to make more money. And, then, there’s the just a little porn is ok guy. A little fantasy becomes an obsession over time and leads a man to think of women differently and even pursue immoral sexual relationships through porn-related websites and ultimately loses his wife and kids over porn. These are just a couple of examples of how a sin can start small and if you want to keep on participating in it, you keep it hidden. Who is it hurting anyway? But, the sin when unconfessed and worked on to overcome can become bigger and bigger parts of our lives until they consume our whole existence. The enjoyment of the sin and the covering it up become our reason for being. Sin is like yeast. It can start small but ultimately can consume us if it goes unchecked. It changes us from what we were into something totally different. It can cause our life to come crashing down when we allow it to fester and permeate our lives. The maintenance of the sin becomes the most important thing in our lives and ultimately becomes our god instead of God himself. Justification, concealment, preoccupation, all of it gets in the way of our relationship with God.

What is your pet sin? What is mine? What is that one thing that can potentially bring our world crashing down? What is that fatal flaw? What sins are we not confessing because we want to continue to enjoy them? What is getting in the way of your relationship with God through unrepentant sin? What is that fatal flaw that you refuse to admit? What is your Clemson special teams? That one thing that you are not working on because you don’t think it matters because the rest of your life is so good? The Tigers’ fatal flaw was discounting kickoff coverage teams as important because the offense and defense were as good as any out there. They never placed importance on analyzing the flaws in the kickoff coverage team even they were meticulous about details everywhere else. It was a blind spot. What is yours? What is going to prevent you from having a full and complete relationship with God? What is going to prevent you from being a champion of God? What is preventing you and me from being and seeking holiness before God? What are our pet sins that we do not want to give up?

Let us take some time over the next month or so to really examine who we are and the sins we entertain. Let us examine our areas of life that we do not pay attention to as being fatal flaws. I remember after the NC State game where Clemson gave up a touchdown on a kickoff return and had several returns that were bigger than they should’ve been, the message boards of Clemson football were full of comments that this kickoff coverage problem would come back to bite us one day and cause us to lose a ball game. It did and it was on the biggest stage – the national championship game. Yet, throughout the season, the Tigers seemed never to make any improvement in preventing one or more big returns each game. There was turning of a blind eye to the flaws. What sin do you justify? What sin do I ignore? What sin have we left unchecked? We are to seek holiness by being more like Christ each day. We cannot be holy when we have sins that we are not examining. We cannot be holy if we are not looking for each spiritual flaw we have and confessing it and working on it. Holiness is honesty about our flaws. Holiness is confession. Holiness is seeking God’s help in overcoming our flaws. Holiness is seeking to please God as the primary motivation of our lives and if that means looking at our flaws honestly and committing them to God and praying for His help in cleaning our closets out. Let us be willing to identify where we have unrepented sins and lay them before God in honesty and being the journey to holiness.

Amen and Amen.

Luke 19:28-40 — The first thing that comes to mind here when you read through it when you try to compare it to something you know today is the Tiger Walk on fall Saturdays at Clemson University. The football team walks from Jervey Athletic Center across to Death Valley. All Clemson fans that are tailgating stop what they are doing and form two lines on either side as the team passes through. It is a celebration of the team. It is pretty cool. You get to high five with the players as they pass buy and you get to see them in their suits and ties for a moment rather than hidden behind a football uniform and helmet. It is a celebration of Tiger spirit. At that moment, the game has not yet been played and the air is full of hope. The game is still to come. Everyone is “all-in” at this moment. The question then becomes, if Clemson loses the game played out on the gridiron within the confines of Clemson Memorial Stadium, are you still full of Tiger spirit then? Are you still “all-in”? Before the game, it takes no great effort to be part of the crowd that is cheering on the Tigers as they pass. After a tough loss, that’s when you know who the true Tigers are. These are the ones who greet the players and hug them and tell them that we still support you guys no matter what. There are those of us who simply love the school win, lose, or draw. These are the true members of Tiger Nation. I think today, there is a similarity between the illustration. At this point, on what has come to be known as Palm Sunday, we are in the pregame festivities of Passion Week. It is easy to be a Jesus fan on this end of Passion Week. When we get to crunch time, when the game is played out in Jerusalem, everyone’s true character will be revealed. Is Jesus the true Messiah, the suffering servant? Is Jesus the conquering political figure? Is Jesus the threat to traditional power? In our day today, we must decide whether or not we are “all-in” with Jesus or not.

The first thing that I think we should notice here is that Jesus is no longer trying to conceal that He is the Messiah. In many of his miracles, He asked that the healed person be quiet about what was done because He did not want His message to be overshadowed by the miracles. In each miracle, He always checked on a person’s spiritual health first before providing the physical miracle, so that was the real point was the forgiveness of sins and the reconciliation with God. That was the message. In Matthew 16:20, after Peter reveals his belief that Jesus is the Son of the Living God, The Messiah, Jesus ordered them to keep quiet about it. It was not yet time to publicly proclaim it. But, here we are, as Rafiki says to Simba in the Lion King at his coronation ceremony, “It is time!” It is now the time, according to God’s plan for Jesus to publicly embrace the mantle of the Messiah. There no mistaking to Jesus and to any Jewish person that was there why Jesus chose to ride a donkey the remainder of the way to Jerusalem. In Zechariah’s prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, he says:

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Jesus is publicly and intentionally annoucing to the world that He is the Messiah. No longer is He trying to keep it concealed. All of the angling toward Jerusalem that Luke starts each new passage with is now about to be completed. He is almost to Jerusalem now. It is time to reveal who He really is to the world. It is during this week that the people had to make a choice as to whether they were true fans of this Jesus. He would proclaim that He is the Messiah. He would proclaim that He is God in the flesh. The gloves are off. This is the week that choices are made. Passion Week is what separates us today between believers and non-believers. The non-believers just as most of Jerusalem will fall away and many do today when Jesus proclaims He is God. This riding of the donkey is the pregame festivities to the hard work of the coming week in Jerusalem. Do you believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Do you believe that He was the scriptural Messiah? Do you believe that He died for your sins on a cross outside the city?

But right now, in this passage on this first of all Palm Sundays, it is easy to be a Jesus fan. Right now, instead of the Tiger Walk, we have the Jesus Ride, the disciples are high fiving people as they pass. The people are shouting praises of Jesus name. It is a big party and its easy to join in with the crowd. The crowd is shouting that He is king. The people who were praising God for giving them a Messiah (they recognized the significance of the donkey) King. But they had forgotten Scripture and they expected the Messiah not to be a suffering servant but rather a conquering hero. They expected Him to be a national leader who would drive out the Romans and restore Israel to its former glory. They were deaf to the words of the prophets and blind to the mission of Jesus. So, right now Jesus represented liberation from Roman rule. He represented not the reconciler of man to God through His suffering, but rather someone who would provide them immediate benefits. How quickly they would turn once they realized that Jesus was not going to lift them out from under Roman rule! They were fair weather Jesus fans. They wanted to be on the bandwagon. It is like those that become fans of a college team that has put together a string of successful seasons but those same fans will jump ship when the team has a losing season or a less than stellar season. The true fans of a school’s football team are those that love them through thick and thin, whether the team is 7-6 or 11-2, whether the team is 2-10 or 12-0. How are you about Jesus? Do you drift in and out of a relationship with Him? Do you cry out to him when you are in a jam and then forget about Him after the crisis has passed? Or do you celebrate Jesus’ influence in your life when times are good but throw Him to the curb when times are bad? Jesus calls us to be “all-in” all the time. He wants our allegiance every minute of every day whether it be good times or bad. Do you see Jesus as a vending machine to give you what you want or do you trust Him with your whole life all day every day?

Finally, we see the Pharisees trying to quell the noise of the crowd. They now see how wildly popular that Jesus is becoming. They didn’t want someone challenging their power and authority and they didn’t want a revolt against Rome that would bring Roman military might down on Jerusalem. They knew the significance of the donkey and they saw Jesus as wanting to usurp their power. They could not see the Messiah. They could embrace Jesus as what God had promised throughout Scripture. It is like a fan of one team always negatively referencing the capabilities of their arch-rival. They try to tear down the victories of the archrival and glorify the losses. It is also like traditional churches trying whatever they can to discredit a new fast growing non-traditional church. All of it represents a threat to that which we hold dear. Instead of embracing Jesus as the fulfillment of Scripture they were more concerned with preserving their own team. When we get so self-involved with the things we hold dear we cannot see beyond ourselves. Jesus is OK as long as He doesn’t have to be a part of all of my life. There are things that I want to keep separate from Jesus. These are my own little thrones over here. You can have the rest Jesus, but not these things. Giving you my complete allegiance would mean that I have to change my lifestyle. Many of us want to dabble with Jesus but not give Him our whole life. We want to be on His bandwagon until it costs us something. Real life change. Real obedience to God’s Word. Accepting all of Scripture as requiring our obedience. Willingly submit control of our entire lives to the Messiah! Man, that’s too much of a threat to the things that I have grown accustomed to! Do you see Jesus as a threat to your lifestyle? Does He represent the threat of truth against the lies and twisted truth that you have constructed for your life?

Jesus proclaims that He is the Messiah. It is all out in the open now. How are you going to react? Are you all-in? Have you placed your faith in Him. From this point forward in the book of Luke there is no turning back. Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem and change the history of mankind forever. He will go there to die for our sins just as had been predicted in Scripture. Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of God? Do you believe that He was just some great rabbi philosopher? Well, from here on in Luke, you have to get off the train. Everything else from here on in requires faith that Jesus was who He says He was. It is easy to be on the bandwagon when you can make Jesus out to be what you want Him to be. However, to be a true fan of Jesus, you must make the choice as to whether you believe He is the Messiah foretold in Scripture.

To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that He had to go to Jerusalem and die on the cross. To be a true fan of Jesus, you must understand that his death on the cross was more than an execution of a political threat. You must understand that it represents the once and final sacrifice for sin. You must understand that you are sinner no matter how good you true to be. You must understand that one sin is all it takes to separate us from God. You must understand that we cannot erase our nature and that because of that we are condemned to hell for our sins without this sacrifice on the cross. You must understand that Jesus on the cross took on all the sins of the world for all time that day. In that, you and I have a chance to reconcile ourselves to God and have eternal life. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for your sins on the cross so that you may have eternal life. Are you all-in? Are you a true fan? Or is this where you jump off the bandwagon? If you are feeling the stirrings in your soul that you want to be a true fan of Jesus, call on his name now. He did all the work of the Passion Week already. Your sins are forgiven once you ask Him into your life! You become a member of the family of the Jesus team. We have our own logo like all good teams do. It is the cross. Come join our team! Jesus wants you to be all-in!

Luke 14:1-6 — In this passage, we see the difference between knowing Scripture and living Scripture.

The illustration that comes to mind when reading this passage is the Big Bang Theory. It is one of my favorite shows of all time. It is wickedly funny. It is the first time in TV history where intelligent nerds are center stage and not the butt of a joke. But there is one scene in one of the episodes where there is something wrong with Penny’s car and each of the four main guy characters each can explain the details of a combustion engine and how and why it works. Then someone says (I think in was Penny), “…but can you fix it?” Each one is silent then. For all their chatter, not one could help Penny get her car fixed. That is what is on display here too. The Pharisees knew Scripture like you would not believe. The had created reams and reams of interpretation of the Law. They had built a legal body of work that built fences around the law so that they would not break it.

Then, Jesus challenges them like Penny challenged Howard, Raj, Leonard and Sheldon. Jesus knew their hearts. He knew that they were trying to trick Him into saying or doing something that would give them ammunition to have Him arrested. He knew they were experts in Scripture but He challenged them on the living of it. It is very similar to the main idea of the movie, Do You Believe?, that my wife and I went to see last night during its second night in the theaters since its release. The movie challenges us to live our faith out rather than just saying that we have it. We are to live out being a Christ follower rather than simply being a sideline Christian. So you believe? What are you going to do with it? Are we going to love others as Christ loved us? Are we going to allow the gospel to really change our lives and live lives of principle? Are we going to do the right thing? Are we going give ourselves away to others? Are we going to help others when they need helping? Are we going to speak of Jesus to others when it will cost us something? Are we going to live out our knowledge of the spirit of Scripture?

Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath despite the fact that the Pharisees had created layers of religious law against doing work on the Sabbath. Jesus, being the one who gave us the Law, knew that the intent of the Sabbath was to focus on glorifying God for all that He has done for us. It was to focus on praising Him. It was to take time out of our busy lives to focus specifically on worshiping our Creator, our Protector, our Provider, our Ever Present Help. It was not meant to make life so restrictive that we could not even spit on the ground on the Sabbath. That’s how weird the Pharisees had made the Sabbath. They had turned something that was intended to be joyful and turned it into fear. Jesus reclaims the purpose of the Sabbath. Healing those who need to know of the glory of God. What better way to give glory to God than to demonstrate the power of God. Jesus said that the Pharisees would do no less for their son or even an animal on the Sabbath. He was quietly calling them hypocrites and condemning them for making the Sabbath about them calling the shots rather than it being about glorifying God. He condemned them for knowing Scripture to the nth degree but not living it out in ways that are real. Jesus quietly by his actions shut them up. You hear no chatter. Just as Penny shuts up the Incredible Nerds, Jesus calls the Pharisees out and they are silent.

Do you know Scripture but do not live it out? This is the question that plagues me daily. I know Scripture pretty well. I write about it daily here. I love studying Scripture. I love helping people understand what Scripture means. Do I live it out though? Am I loving like Jesus loved? Am I living like Jesus lived? Am I leaving a legacy of disciples who make disciples who make disciples behind? Am I sharing my faith with others? Am I making Jesus known in places where He is not known? Am I good at talking the talk but not good at walking the walk? What am I doing with my faith? The opening credit to last nights movie was James 1:27 which basically tells us that faith without expression is worthless. We should be compelled to act in a world that needs to know Jesus Christ. Knowledge without practical application is worthless. That is the point of the illustration from the Big Bang Theory. James 1:27 tells us not to just walk by a person who is in need and tell them that we will pray for them. It calls us to actually help that person. Am I living out my faith? Or am I just an academic Christian? Do I put wheels on my faith? Will I sit on the sidelines and wish or will I actually do something? Jesus says by His actions here that you can have all the Scripture knowledge in the world but if you fail to demonstrate the love of God that we all say we have then it is meaningless to a hurting world.

Lord, help us to be traction to our faith tires. Lord, help us to be more than academic Christians. Lord, help us to not to condemn the world around us but to change it by our getting our hands dirty in the lives of the people that need to hear the gospel. Help us make the gospel real to those who see us as a bunch of ivory tower commentators on the world’s problems. Help us to meet needs in the world that really matter and in so doing demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ in action. Help us to heal those who need healing. Help us to make Christ known through our expressed love for our fellow man not just conceptual love. Amen.

Luke 12:1-12 — This passage has much to discuss. First, there are the signs of hypocrisy. Then there is allowing fear to cause us to deny Christ. Next, there is acknowledging Jesus even when it will cost you something, and, finally, there is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Today, let’s look at the signs of hypocrisy.

Many non-believers list this one thing, hypocrisy, as the main reason that they do not attend church. My favorite professor from my Master of Christian Ministry (MCM) program is Bill Cashion​. He recently posted on Facebook one of those catchy little poster thingies that you see on Facebook quite often. This one said, “Saying that you don’t go to church because of all the hypocrites is like saying that you don’t go to the gym because of all the people that need to lose weight” or something to that affect. Sure, all of us who are Christ followers are hypocrites in one way or another. The key is where you heart is. Sure, we as Christ followers make mistakes in judgment and that can be perceived as hypocrisy by non-believers. However, a true Christ follower is convicted by the Holy Spirit of his sins, his hypocrisy, and will repent and turn away from it whereas a true hypocrite is a non-believer who claims to be one. What are the signs of such a person?

Jesus said beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. Yeast when you put it in dough spreads throughout it to make the dough rise. It changes the form of dough such that you can make bread. In this instance, Jesus is saying that the sickness that is the Pharisees is like putting yeast in dough. It permeates the dough and changes it. What once was something good has been altered and permanently changed for the worse. The Pharisees had changed Judaism into something that it wasn’t intended to be – a dizzying array of rules and regulations. Things are not much different in today’s world. We may condemn the Pharisees for not seeing Jesus as the Messiah and for contributing to the death of Jesus’ earthly body, but we are not much different today.

One of the signs of hypocrisy of a non-believer who claims to be one is to say that you follow Jesus but do not obey His Word. These are those who go to church on Sunday but live like hell the rest of the week as the old saying goes. These are the people whose Bible, if they have one, gathers dust on the coffee table. These are the people that attribute things to the Bible that are not even in it because they have never read it. These are the people who say they are Christian but bear no fruits of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Another sign of hypocrisy is living a self-serving life. People may desire to be in Christian leadership positions but they want the position so that they can be seen or have their name called out rather it springing forth from a need to serve others. These are the folks that attribute the success of a church project to themselves rather than to the work of the Holy Spirit. Even believers can get swallowed up by pride at times in this way. So often we claim to lead people to Christ when it is the action of the Holy Spirit that does that. We are just the vessels through which He works. A non-believer though sees nothing wrong with taking personal credit for something that is solely because of the action of God. They desire leadership roles in churches so that they can make a name for themselves. Score brownie points in the checklist religion they live. Some even desire to be at church because it is politically and professionally to their advantage to be at this or that particular church. I know of several people to attend a specific church because many of the big wigs from their job go to that church. Their attendance there had nothing to do with Jesus but everything to do with advancing their career.

Another sign of hypocrisy and lack of genuine conversion to faith in Jesus Christ are those who reduce Christianity to a set of rigid rules. People can end up worshiping their rules about what they think God wants instead of worshiping God himself. You know these types. If you do this, you are a heathen. If you do that, you are not worthy of our church. If you are divorced you are automatically disqualified from being a leader in our church, particularly a pastor. If you are a recovering alcoholic, you are always an alcoholic and not to be allowed in our doors. If you broke any of the rules, you are no longer worthy of Jesus Christ. Pharisees! If you have a past that everyone knows about, you are not welcome here. Is this what Jesus Christ died on the cross for? He came to redeem those who have a past. He came to reclaim us from the ash heap. He came to set us on our feet again. He came to tell us that that love is what should be our motivation not setting up rules and barriers.

Although many of those who read my daily blogs are Christ followers and we are convicted by the Holy Spirit when we are acting hypocritically, we must also examine ourselves, you and me. We are not perfect ourselves and only will be when we arrive in heaven at the end of this life and are joined with Christ. Only then will we be perfect. In the meantime, we must examine our lives constantly for hypocrisy. It is one of Satan’s greatest desires is to tear down Christ followers and make them ineffective. He tempts us constantly looking for our weak spots. We all have them. Satan’s lie is that our sins are not really sins and that it is OK. That’s when hypocrisy creeps in. Thinking something that is a sin is not a sin is how he wins. This is where we can be stumbling blocks to non-believers. Let us examine our lives constantly for those things that are not of God. Let us focus ourselves on ridding ourselves of those things that are not of Him that can be used by a non-believer as an excuse to further reject God. Let us not try to be perfect but rather seek guidance from our father as to the things that grieve His Spirit about us. Let us seek to please Him in all we do because of the grace that He has shown us. Let us not be the people that are the excuse for someone running away from Jesus.