Title: Warning of the leaven of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians
Scriptures to Read: Mark 8:13–26; Matthew 16:5–12
Now Jesus leaves the Pharisees and Sadducees at Magadan and crosses the Sea of Galilee again into Gentile territory. And on the way He gives them an important warning.
Watch out and beware
Jesus uses the word leaven symbolically, saying: “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” But the disciples take it literally, discussing among themselves that they have no bread. Then He asks them why they are talking about not having bread. Didn’t they learn from the feeding of the five thousand and the feeding of the four thousand that He will provide bread when it is needed? Then, at last, they realise that He was warning them about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Whenever leaven is used symbolically it is always a symbol of sin. And within the gospels it is specifically the sin of false doctrine or false teaching.
Three types of leaven
And in this warning Jesus warns them about three types of leaven or false teaching. Matthew mentions the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and Mark adds the leaven of Herod, or the Herodians. So He warns them about three kinds of leaven: that of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians. These three groups are spreading a leaven or false teaching about Jesus, and the disciples are to be careful not to believe any of the material that they are hearing from these groups. And each of the three leavens has a different content:
1. The leaven of the Pharisees is that Jesus is demon possessed.
2. The leaven of the Sadducees is that He is against the temple worship system.
3. The leaven of the Herodians is that He is opposed to Roman rule through the house of Herod. The Herodians are in favor of Roman rule, as long as it is through the house of Herod.
A blind man is healed in two stages [Mark 8:22-26]
They come again into Bethsaida which is Gentile territory, but also contains a Jewish community. Notice that Jesus takes the man by the hand and leads him out of the village, so that He can heal him privately. Also notice that this man is not healed immediately. Jesus heals him in two stages. And this is the only miracle recorded in the gospels that He performs in two stages.
1. In the first stage He spits on the man’s eyes and then lays His hands on him, and as a result the man has partial sight. He can now see, but his vision is blurred and he sees men looking like trees walking around.
2. Then Jesus touched his eyes a second time and his sight was fully restored so that he was able to see everything clearly.
Why wasn’t the man healed the first time Jesus touched his eyes? Surely He was able to heal him the first time!
Application for the disciples
This is a parallel between the miracle and the developing understanding of the disciples.
1. The next section will show that they have partial sight, and the following one will show that they are still partially blind.
2. By the time of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit they will have full sight and no blindness.
Application to Israel
There is another parallel with the nation of Israel.
1. Israel has partial sight now – there is a remnant who believes.
2. But they will have full sight when all Israel will be saved after the fullness of the Gentiles is complete (Read Romans 11:25 – 27).