Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

2nd Sunday after Sleebo - the Festival of Cross

Beware Of Leaven (16:5-12)

by Mark A. Copeland

Gospel: St. Matthew 16:5-12


1. In the course of His public ministry, Jesus was often challenged by
the Pharisees, along with the Sadducees...
a. They questioned why He ate with sinners - Mt 9:11
b. They accused His disciples of breaking the Sabbath - Mt 12:1-2
c. They accused His disciples of violating the traditions of the elders - Mt 15:1-2
d. They sought to test Him by asking for a sign - Mt 16:1

2. Jesus therefore warned His disciples concerning these religious leaders...
a. They were "blind leaders of the blind" - Mt 15:12-14
b. The disciples were to beware of their doctrine - Mt 16:5-12

3. Jesus described their doctrine as "leaven" (yeast)...
a. Used in the making of bread, leaven gradually spreads through the dough, making it rise
b. Jesus used the figure of leaven to describe the spread of His kingdom - Mt 13:33
c. But in Mt 16:6, He uses it to depict the pernicious doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees - Mt 16:11-12

[What were the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus
warned about? Are there modern Pharisees and Sadducees that we should
beware of today? To answer these questions, let's begin by taking a look at...]



1. A religious and political group noted for its conservatism
a. They were strict observers of the Law of Moses
b. They also adopted "the traditions of the elders",
interpretations of the Law that had been handed down
- cf. Mk 7:1-5

2. Jesus described them as "blind leaders of the blind" - Mt 15:12-14
a. They made the commandments of God of no effect by their traditions - Mt 15:3-6
b. They were hypocrites, teaching one thing and practicing another - Mt 15:7-8; 16:3; 23:1-4, 27-28; cf. Lk 12:1
c. They did their works to be seen of men - Mt 23:5
d. They loved the attention and special treatment by others - Mt 23:6-7
d. They wore religious titles - Mt 23:8-10
e. They prevented others from finding the way to the kingdom of heaven - Mt 23:13
f. They used their religion to make money and impress others - Mt 23:14
g. They didn't make people better, they made them worse! - Mt 23:15
h. They made distinctions where God did not - Mt 23:16-22
i. Though sticklers for some commandments, they ignored others - Mt 23:23-24
j. They honored men of God who went before them, but were more like those who persecuted the people of God - Mt 23:29-31

1. Many people accuse those who stress the keeping of God's commands as legalists, and therefore "Pharisees" today - but  consider:
a. The words legalism, legalist, are not found in the
Scriptures - they are labels often used to defame those who seek to encourage the keeping of God's commands
b. Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for strict adherence to the Law itself
1) Only for making the commands of God of no effect by their traditions!
2) Only for leaving some commands of God undone while doing others!
c. If calling for strict observance of God's commandments makes one a legalist, then Jesus was a legalist!
1) While the Law was in force, He expected it to be taught and observed down to its smallest detail - Mt 5:17-19
2) He expected His disciples to surpass the Pharisees in their righteousness - Mt 5:20
3) He called for His disciples to express their love for Him by keeping His commandments - Jn 14:15,21,23
4) He promised His love and friendship to those who would keep His commandments - Jn 15:10,14
5) He expected disciples from all nations to observe whatever He commanded His apostles - Mt 28:19-20
d. If calling for strict observance of God's commandments makes one a legalist, then the apostles were legalists!
1) Paul stressed the keeping of commandments - 1Co 7:19; 1Th 4:1-2
2) John stressed the keeping of commandments - 1Jn 2:3-5; 3:22-24; 5:2-3
2. The true Pharisees today are those who:
a. Teach and practice traditions of men, instead of the commands of God
b. Teach one thing, while practicing another
c. Do things to be seen of men, wearing special garments and asking to be called by religious titles
d. Do not truly show people the way to the kingdom of heaven
e. Use religion to make money and impress others
f. Make distinctions where God has made none
g. Stress some commands, but neglect others as unnecessary

[Such are the Pharisees of today, who often condemn others as
"legalists" (as a way to deflect the charge that their lives and
teachings are contrary to the commandments of our Lord).

Now let's take a look at...]


1. A religious and political group noted for its liberalism
a. Included many powerful members of the priesthood - Ac 5:17
b. They insisted only the laws found in the Pentateuch (first five books of the OT) were binding
c. They rejected "the traditions of the elders", interpretations of the Law that had been handed down
d. They did not believe in the resurrection, spirits, angels - Ac 23:8; Mt 22:23
e. They did not believe in rewards or punishment after death, nor in heaven or hell

2. Jesus charged them with two faults - Mt 22:23-29
a. They did not know the Scriptures
1) Even those scriptures they held to be true!
2) For Jesus used a statement in the Pentateuch to show their error - Mt 22:31-32; Exo 3:6

b. They did not know the power of God
1) Like many liberals, they were influenced by rationalism
2) They assumed that if they could not conceive or comprehend something, it could not be
3) They failed to believe what Gabriel and Jesus both knew: that with God, nothing is impossible! - Lk 1:37; Mt 19:26

1. Those who take some portions of God's word, but reject the rest; such as:
a. Those who heed only the "red-letter" words of Jesus
b. Those who will accept the words of Jesus, but not His apostles
c. Those who accept the words of His apostles, but hold that all of Jesus' teachings in the gospels are Old Covenant teaching
-- The apostles' words are just as authoritative (Jn 13:10; Ac 2:42; 1Co 14:37), and so were the words of Jesus spoken during His earthly ministry (Mt 28:20; Ac 20:35; 1Ti 5:18b; Lk 10:7)

2. Those who accept human reason over divine revelation
a. Many will not accept a Biblical doctrine unless it "makes sense" to them
b. A dangerous position to hold, since God has chosen to confound the wise and arrogant with the foolishness of the gospel message - cf. 1Co 1:18-31
c. Some doctrines revealed may contain elements beyond man's ability to fully comprehend (such as the mystery of godliness: God manifested in the flesh - 1Ti 3:16; or the nature of the Godhead itself)
-- A child-like trust is more becoming of a Christian - cf. Mt 18:3; Ps 131:1-3

3. Those who rule out the power of God
a. Who reject any doctrine, any promise, of the Scriptures if conceived as not being physically possible
b. Such as the creation of the world, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead
-- Once we accept the premise that with God all things are possible, we cannot reject Biblical testimony or doctrine
just because it does not fit our preconceived ideas of what is possible


1. Is there a need to "Beware Of Leaven" today?
a. Are there modern-day Pharisees and Sadducees?
b. Are there doctrines that can permeate and spread through the Lord's church like leaven?

2. The answer to such questions is a resounding "Yes!"
a. Such doctrines abound in the denominational world around us
b. Much error that makes its way into the church usually falls into one of two categories:
1) Traditions of men proclaimed as doctrines (like the Pharisees)
2) Doctrines of the Bible rejected as impossible (like the Sadducees)

And so the warning by Jesus is just as great today:

"...beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Mt 16:11)

Source: Executable Outlines, Copyright Mark A. Copeland, 2011

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 2nd sunday after Sleebo

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