“It was not to learn faith that they [the Pharisees] sought him, but to seize him” (Chrysostom, Gospel of Matthew, Homily 53.3). Jesus had just finished feeding 4000 with 7 loaves when the Pharisees confronted him for a sign. This one might be a little on the nose, if I might say so myself.
But it gets worse. The Disciples hop in the boat with Jesus, bread-less. Well, not quite, but they might as well have been, they only had one loaf. This would never be enough…
Jesus senses their insecurity over resources (I have to wonder if Jesus didn’t sigh deeply here as well…) and warns them “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod.” What is Jesus talking about?
Leaven is a multiplier.
We’ve just seen Jesus act as a leaven to multiply the loaves. Leaven itself is not evil (though it is often a metaphor for the power of evil to spread). However, the disciples have just seen Jesus feed 4,000 people with 7 loaves, and now they are fretting over only having 1 loaf. In Jesus math, that’s at least enough to feed 700…
How quickly do we forget the provision of God in our lives?
The length of time between the feeding of the 4,000 and this sentence is so short that it borders on the absurd. It is absurd that they would be concerned about the lack of bread. But Jesus sees something happening that happens to ALL of us as human beings –If there is one thing we humans share universally–its our anxiety over providing for ourselves.
The absurdity of the moment is the point. It is easy to trust God’s provision for others, it’s harder to trust God’s provision for ourselves. The leaven that Jesus is warning against here, are the things that we rely on to increase our own provisions. The sources we rely on to bring relief to our anxiety for security.
Leaven=what we rely on to multiply our own provisions. The leaven of the Pharisees was the superiority that came from their own self-righteousness. Herod multiplied his provisions by counting on the royal line — he did whatever it took to maintain his power, however immoral– because that was the leaven he depended on to multiply his provision.
What is the “leaven” you rely on for your provision? Which comes first, character or security?
Here is the truth of the whole narrative – Jesus is not just the leaven, he is the bread. We see this all throughout scripture from John 6 and the bread of life, to the feeding of the 5,000 and 4,000. This means that one loaf and Jesus in the boat is better than 4000 loaves and no Jesus in the boat. If we cannot find contentment with Jesus in the boat, it doesn’t matter if we have 4000 loaves and no Jesus, it will never be the same.
Is Jesus in your boat?