Beware of the Salt
Beware of the Yeast…Say what Jesus?
Matthew chapter 16 contains a neat story about Jesus in conversation with his hard headed knucklehead disciples. Verse 5 describes the scene:
James: “Here we are guys…uh, oh! Who forgot the bread?”
Andrew: “Come on, Peter, why can’t you remember we need to eat on the road?!”
Peter: “But we had so much to do before the…oh, never mind, you won’t let me forget it anyway!”
*** All quiet as Jesus throws everyone a curve ball.
JESUS: “Beware of the yeast of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
*** Lots of commotion, twelve perplexed men scratching their turbines. I would imagine Jesus smiling at this point.
ALL: “Say, what Jesus? Oh, it’s because we didn’t bring any bread.” (verse 7).
OK, let’s stop the playback clock here and dialogue about what’s happening at this point. This is a really great section of Scripture for a couple of reasons. The first is that Jesus was “listening” to his disciples. Have you stopped lately to think that Jesus is STILL listening to us? It’s not that we have something important to say, even all that often, but why did he listen in this story? The answer is really the same as it is today, because he LOVES us and CARES for us just like he cared for His disciples. Now before you roll your eyes, close this page, and comment something silly about “here we go again with that religion stuff”, you need to hear me out.
Let’s frame up the context of what’s going on in this story and relate it to life as we know it 2,000 years after this was written (which doesn’t make anything we just mentioned any less relevant). Jesus is well known by his disciples. After all, He was the one that assembled this group of rag-tag followers in the first place. He chose them to have a close intimate relationship with Him, and out of this relationship He would occasionally pop these verbal jaw breakers at each of them, as well as those He would meet. In this situation, his disciples got the kick-off punt and were scratching their heads holding the football, “Huh, come again Jesus?”
I can just see the Lord leaning back on a rock, a smile on his face – He knew he just threw them a curve ball. And, as predicted, they took the bate. “It must be because we didn’t bring any bread”. “Sorry guys.” BUZZ – Time’s up. Thanks for playing!
Isn’t that just like our Lord? He listens to us enough to know us – brings us into fellowship with Himself, and then has the “audacity” to launch thoughts or ideas at us that leave us amazed and sometimes scratching our own heads. The call of Jesus was often out of the realm of most comfort zones. Basically, we love our own safe little bubbles, right? That is, until we hear the voice of our Savior telling us to get out of the boat and do something that no one has ever done before (i.e. Peter walking on water). In other words, a common everyday situation can be used by God to speak truth into our lives, if for no other reason, because He knows us that well. Why else would Scripture talk about how God knows our needs even before we ask Him?
Do you think it’s because He is just one of those “Omni-” words? (Omniscient, for those of you that didn’t get that). I’m going to step out on a limb here and state something you may not hear that often…what if God knows our needs even before we ask Him and doesn’t even need to rely on the fact that He’s God with all His vast array of knowledge and insight? In other words, is it possible that God knows us that well? He has the hairs on our head cataloged in order, and He counts our breathes throughout the day.
For example, do I really need my four year old son to come and tell me absolutely everything he needs before I will provide for him? Absolutely not! I dearly love my son…I know his personality, his character (even at this young age). I know his food preferences, his dislikes, his favorite toys and movies and books. I even know that He loves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on Pumpernickel bread. Honestly, he doesn’t need to tell me any of this…not even when he needs to eat, sleep or take a bath. I just know that he needs all those things, even as imperfect as I am. Despite my limitations, I even know WHEN he needs them.
So, let’s rejoin the Savior in this light hearted moment where the disciples are standing around asking each other what in the world Jesus meant about yeast and bread. Did you catch the next significant nugget in this passage? The disciples turn immediately to the material world – what they have and what they didn’t have. In this case, their focus was on the next meal…one or more loaves of bread. But catch Jesus’ heart in his explanation. Can you envision Him slowly shaking His head with the smile still on His face. His initial “rebuke” that they had little faith was not meant to be a slam dunk on his 12 running buddies. He really wanted them to discover that the agenda of the Kingdom of God was much more important than their physical realities, even more important than their physical needs.
Jesus then goes on to put their hearts at rest: (paraphrased) — “Hey guys, remember the five loaves for the five thousand and the seven loaves for the four thousand? Do you really think I am concerned about any of us not having bread to eat?” — Notice here Jesus basically reminds the disciples that their needs have always been met through Him. The comments about how many baskets they had left over also served as spiritual bookmarks that not only did God provide, His provision was more than enough.
I think that’s where God wants to take us. We come to Him; rattle off a few broken thoughts that center around what we want or need, and then take off. All the while, Jesus is waiting for us to finish our discourse so He can speak. As I recently read in the book, “Secrets of the Secret Place” by Bob Sorge, it can be a “glorious thing to talk to God”, but when “God speaks our whole world changes”. Sorge goes on to say that his time in God’s presence compelled him to note the word “HEAR” as the most important word in the Bible.
It really comes down to knowing God; and in our private moments, conditioning our hearts to “Hear” Him. The conviction we should feel is rightly placed. Yes, God does speak. Period. Through His word, yes; but that is not His only vehicle of choice. The One that really knows us that well already knows how to get our attention and speak into our lives. Why do we try to place limits on God’s efforts at connecting with His creation?
So here’s the rub: He wants to do life with us, heal us, teach us, and set us free…all from a posture where we “scooch” up next to God (according to Sorge) and just listen. Listening should be everything for us; for in this passage, the disciples were caught doing the opposite. Jesus was really talking about the teachings of those that merited His strongest rebukes in the New Testament, the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples were focused on simple earthly things, and Jesus was trying to make them see the bigger picture. I love how well rounded Jesus’ reply was to his band of men. He didn’t roll His eyes at them, shake His finger and shame them. Neither did He laugh and just walk away. He lovingly showed them the order of things – (1) The Kingdom of God, (2) Truth, and (3) oh yes, you guys will always be taken care of. Don’t you remember the five loaves for the…
Yes, the last point emphasized was also the least important – the provision these men needed in a few forgotten loaves of bread.
I think the lessons that can be learned from this passage are two-fold:
1. We should always assume a posture of listening rather than talking when we approach God. Ecclesiastes 5:1 mentions that “God is in heaven and we are on earth, so let your words be few.” God has the vantage point of Heaven, compounded with the fact that He already knows us better than we know ourselves. Why then do we spend so much time focused on what we want and need when our Father God wants to open our eyes to the bigger picture? Sometimes that might mean a realignment or renewal in our thinking as sons and daughters of our great King. Remember the scripture: “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds”. Listening has the tendency to allow God to speak his truth into our lives, which is always more significant than the times we bend God’s ear.
2.God never loses sight of our provision or our needs. We may think they are top of the list on our mental shopping list with the Almighty, but be prepared for God to knock your priorities down a few notches. The beautiful thing about the truth in this passage is that God doesn’t berate us for not knowing or even forgetting what our priorities should be. He has already promised us that for those that “seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added unto us”. He can’t do anything but love us and treat us as his precious children. If we have a mentality of spiritual or even physical poverty – as if this is the state of existence we must endure with a “long face and a short pocketbook” (Zig Ziglar), God likely hasn’t broken through our darkened thinking yet. True some have more than others, but “poverty“ like “riches” have different meanings in the Kingdom of God. Know that God delights to bless you – in whatever way that such blessings find you. But also know the absence of the blessings you expect do not negate God’s concern or care for you. The New American Standard version of the Bible uses the word “Loving-kindness” – an action word that blends “Love” and the qualifier “Kindness”. In other words, God can’t NOT love you without it being an action that is bathed in kindness.