by Rev. Leslie R. Shultz, WI
Gospel: St. Matthew 16:5-12
Peer Pressure (1)
Chuck Swindoll tells the story of the spider who built a beautiful web in an old house. He kept it clean and shiny, so flies would patronize it. The minute he got a "customer" he would clean up after him so the other flies would not get suspicious.
Then one day a fairly intelligent fly came buzzing by the clean spider web. Old man spider called out, "Come in and sit." But the fairly intelligent fly said, "No sir, I don't see other flies in your house, and I am not going in alone!"
Presently the fly saw on the floor below him a large crowd of flies dancing around on a piece of brown paper. He was delighted! He was not afraid if lots of flies were doing it. So he came in for a landing.
Just before he landed, a bee zoomed by, saying, "Don't land there, stupid. That's fly-paper!"
But the fairly intelligent fly shouted back, "Don't be silly. Those flies are dancing. There's a big crowd there. Everybody's doing it. That many flies can't be wrong!"
Well, you know what happened. He landed on the paper and died.
Flies usually do not get a second chance.
Spider webs and sticky paper are usually 100% successful.
And even if a fly should get a second chance, it would not be long before the same temptation would occur.
We humans have many opportunities by which to learn a single lesson. A case in point is to be found in the experience of the disciples.
They have forgotten to bring bread.
Its time to make a sandwich and they have the filling, but no bread.
You can eat the filling, but it will not taste or feel the same.
All twelve of them had forgotten.
This would prove to be a significant learning experience for them and also it can be for you and me.
6 Jesus said to them, "Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."
7 They said to one another, "It is because we have brought no bread."
8 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, "You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread?
9 Do you still not perceive?
Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?
11 How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread?
Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!"
12 Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Yeast is Leaven.
The Holman Bible Dictionary provides us with some help to understand the meaning and purpose of yeast-leaven.
It had both positive and negative applications.
A small portion of fermented dough used to ferment other dough and often symbolizing a corruptive influence.
The common bread of Old Testament times was made with leaven. Such bread was acceptable as wave offerings for the priests and as loaves to accompany the peace offerings (Lev. 7:11-13; 23:17).
However, bread made with leaven or honey, both associated with the process of fermentation and thus a source of corruption, was never to be used as offerings to be burned on the alter (Lev. 2:11-12).
Unleavened bread was also prepared in times of haste (1 Sam. 18:24) and was required for the Feast of Unleavened Bread which was celebrated in conjunction with the Passover festival (Lev. 23:4-8).
This unleavened bread, or bread of affliction, reminded the Israelites of their hasty departure from Egypt and warned them against corruptive influences (Ex. 12:14-20).
In the New Testament, leaven is a symbol of any evil influence which, if allowed to remain, can corrupt the body of believers. Jesus warned His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees, their teaching and hypocrisy (Matt. 16:5-12; Luke 12:1).
Paul urged the Corinthians to remove wickedness from their midst and become fresh dough, unleavened loaves of sincerity and truth (1 Cor. 5:6-13).
Jesus also used leaven to illustrate the pervasive growth of the kingdom of God (Matt. 13:33).
Here the application is negative.
Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
The teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
What are they teaching?
So how do you avoid the influential teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees?
How do you sort out the differences between differing belief systems?
This is a major challenge.
One of the greatest Eastern Orthodox theologian of this century, Georges Florovsky, put it this way: (3)
The chief danger in our days is that there are too many conflicting 'beliefs.' The major tension is not so much between 'belief' and 'unbelief' as precisely between rival beliefs. Too many 'strange Gospels' are preached, and each of them claims total obedience and faithful submission.
We appeal to the authority of the scriptures.
Is it worth picking up and spending time studying?
This subject is very important, for it helps us to understand what ought to be avoided and what ought to be maintained.
Contrast these two differing experiences:
In Jerome K. Jerome's comic novel 'Three Men in a Boat,' the hero consults a medical book to find out what is wrong with him: (4)
"I came to typhoid fever-read the symptoms--discovered that I must have had it for years without knowing it--wondered what else I had got: turned up Saint Vitus' dance--found, as I had expected, that I had that, too--began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically--read up on ague, and learned that I was sickening for it and that the acute state would commence in about a fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the 26 letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee."
Malcolm Muggeridge was a successful literary critic when the BBC asked him to go with a film crew to India to see what was going on with some do-gooder named Mother Teresa.
Muggeridge tells of watching her work with the very lowest of the low, and he wrote about the absurdity of bringing comfort and affection to men and women who were the derelicts of Indian society and who could have no possible influence upon history.
Is this any way to spend one's life? he asked.
Years later, in explaining how these five days spent in India were the most important five days of his life, literally turning his life upside down, he put it like this:
'Humankind will not be changed by being taught, but they will be changed by what is caught. '
This is what happened to him: the infection called Christianity. He caught it from a carrier of the infection named Mother Teresa, and from then on he has shared her disease.
We need the teachings of Jesus and the disciples to clear our thinking and ratify sound teachings.
1. Dallas Seminary Daily Devotional, 7-19-04 quoted in firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Holman Bible Dictionary, Barbara J. Bruce, Contributor.
3. Christianity and Culture (Belmont, Mass.: Nordland Publishing Company, 1974), 11.
4. As quoted in Adrian Berry, The Next 500 Years: Life in the Coming Millennium (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1996), 53-54.
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