Matthew 15:39 –
16: 12 Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees
& Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 21 Oct 2012
15:39 And, after dismissing the crowds, He got into the
boat and went into the lakeside area of Magdala.
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees approached and tested Him, requesting that He
show a sign out of the sky to them.
But He, in answer said to them, “After it has become late, y’all say, ‘It’ll be
good weather, for the sky is fiery-red,’
and when it’s morning, ‘Storm today, for the sky is fiery-red and overcast.’
[Hypocrites,] on the one hand, y’all know how to assess the appearance of the
but on the other hand y’all are not able [to assess] the signs of the appointed
An evil and adulterous generation is searching for a sign, yet a sign will not
be given to it except the sign of Jonah [the prophet].
And He left them behind and went away.
Then, once they got to the other side, His disciples forgot to get some bread.
And Jesus said to them, “Y’all be watching out for – and keeping away from –
the leavening of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
So they began to deliberate among themselves saying, “It’s because we didn’t
After Jesus realized [this], however, He said [to them], “Over what are y’all
deliberating among yourselves, you barely-trusting guys? Is it that y’all don’t
Aren’t y’all figuring it out yet, or do you not remember the five loaves of
bread of the five thousand and how many baskets y’all got?
or the seven loaves of bread of the four thousand and how many hampers y’all
How is it that y’all aren’t figuring out that it wasn’t about bread that I said
to you, ‘Keep away from the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
Then they put it together that He did not say to keep away from the loaf-bread
kind of yeast but rather from the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Back in Jesus’ day, He was dealing with an apostate church ruled by
Pharisees who taught that man was made right with God by obeying their man-made
rules, and society was ruled by Sadducees who did not believe in anything
supernatural. How did such false doctrine creep into what was once a faithful
people of God?
Today we face a similar situation of apostate churches and leaders. The
following statement, known as the Auburn
Affirmation, was signed by almost 1,300 pastors and published in
We, the undersigned, ministers of the Presbyterian
Church in the United States of America, feel bound, in view of certain actions
of the General Assembly of 1923 and of persistent attempts to divide the church
and abridge its freedom, to express our convictions in matters pertaining
thereto…. There is no assertion in the Scriptures that their writers were kept
"from error." The Confession of Faith does not make this assertion;
and it is significant that this assertion is not to be found in the Apostle's
Creed or the Nicene Creed or in any of the great Reformation confessions. The
doctrine of inerrancy, intended to enhance the authority of the Scriptures, in
fact impairs their supreme authority for faith and life, and weakens the testimony
of the church to the power of God unto salvation through Jesus Christ. We hold
that the General Assembly of 1923, in asserting that "the Holy Spirit did
so inspire, guide and move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from
error," spoke without warrant of the Scriptures or of the Confession of
Faith…. The General Assembly of 1923 [also] expressed the opinion concerning
five doctrinal statements that each one "is an essential doctrine of the
Word of God and our standards." On the constitutional ground which we have
before described, we are opposed to any attempt to elevate these five doctrinal
statements, or any of them, to the position of tests for ordination or for good
standing in our church. Furthermore, this opinion of the General Assembly
attempts to commit our church to certain theories…
Let me interject here what those so-called theories were by quoting
from the minutes of the Presbyterian General Assembly of 1923:
“It is an essential doctrine of the
Word of God and our standards that the Holy Spirit did so inspire, guide and
move the writers of Holy Scripture as to keep them from error.
…that our Lord Jesus Christ was born
of the Virgin Mary.
…that Christ offered up Himself a
sacrifice to satisfy Divine justice and to reconcile us to God.
…concerning our Lord Jesus Christ,
that on the third day He rose again from the dead with the same body with which
He suffered, with which also He ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the
right hand of His Father, making intercession.
…that our Lord Jesus showed His power
and love by working mighty miracles. This working was not contrary to nature,
but superior to it.”
Now, going back to the Auburn
Affirmation text, these 1,300 pastors wrote: “… we are united in believing
that these are not the only theories allowed by the Scriptures and our standards
What? The Bible can contain errors? Mary might not have been a virgin?
Jesus didn’t die on the cross to satisfy Divine justice and reconcile us to
God? He might not have even risen from the dead or performed any miracles? Hello!
How could such “leaven” have crept into the Presbyterian church, which had once
been the bastion of Bible-believing faith? What happened?
- Well, the details would take more time than we
have now to unpack, but, in brief, most historians trace it to the
development of modern progressive thought (now known as Secular Humanism) in
the pre-World-War German seminaries, at which many of the Presbyterian pastors
studied. There, some professors with impressive knowledge about the Bible
and history and theology re-envisioned Christianity as a religion devoid
of anything supernatural. They questioned the authenticity of the Bible, left
God out of the picture, and trusted in the scientific inquiry of the human
mind instead. (Does that sound familiar?)
- This diabolical influence certainly didn’t
originate in the 19th century German seminaries, but what they
taught influenced many reformed American pastors, and what those American
pastors taught influenced what the church-going people believed in many
denominations, and eventually it has defined what the majority of the
population of the United States believes today. What happened to the
mainline Presbyterian church stands as a modern warning to us that we need
to be alert and guard against harmful influences to our faith.
It happens at a personal level, too:
- On a fund-raising
trip years ago I ran into one of my closest friends from High School, a missionary
kid who grew up going to Christian schools all his life. He told me that
he had renounced the faith around the time that he graduated from a
well-known Christian college.
- Another one of my
closest friends from college (another Christian college, mind you) graduated
and renounced Christianity in grad school. He wrote me a letter saying
that he could not in good conscience believe in Christianity anymore.
- This summer, I got a
phone call from a mission leader who was pioneering Christian evangelism
among an unreached people group. He said that the people he was trying to
reach were kinder to him than the Christians in America were, so he had
decided to join their religion and renounce Christianity.
- These stories raise
the highly controversial question of whether or not a person can lose their
salvation, and, while I will tell you that I am in the
“once-saved-always-saved” camp, I don’t want to jump into this debate
today because I do not think that is the issue Jesus had in view here in
- What Jesus is addressing here is how unbelieving
people – even people who are “good” and “religious,” can influence
believers to trust God less than they should. It is this nefarious influence
and how to respond to it that I want to address in this sermon.
15:39 And, after dismissing the crowds, He got into the boat
and went into the lakeside area of Magdala.
ενεβη εις το
ηλθεν εις τα
- Magdala or Magadan, as the newer versions spell
it, was probably based on the
Hebrew word Migdol, which meant “tower” and was probably the same as the
town of Migdol-el given to the tribe of Naphtali back in Joshua 19:38.
It was on the
western coastKJV near the center of the Sea of Galilee, and
was, as far as I can tell, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. Mark calls it
- This meant crossing the lake from the East side
where He fed the 4,000 Gentiles and going back to the West side of the
lake where the Jewish towns were.
16:1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees
approached and tested Him, requesting that He show a sign out of the sky to
‘οι Φαρισαιοι και
εκ του ουρανου
- Back in Matt. 12:38
the Pharisees and scribes had already once asked for a sign from Jesus,
and Jesus had already told them that He wouldn’t give them any sign except
the sign of Jonah.
- Mark 8:11 adds that these Pharisees came to “argue/question/dispute”
- and that’s what they were doing; they were
coming back asking for a sign after Jesus had already told them once that
their sign was the sign of Jonah applied to the son of Man and that they
weren’t getting anything else.
- The Mark account has Jesus replying in a Hebrew
oath form which could be rendered in modern day speech as, “Darned if I
give you a sign!”
- Matthew says they came to tempt/test Him. This is
what Satan did back in chapter 4. These men “were of their father, the
- Mark 8:12 tells us that Jesus sighed deeply in
His spirit before answering.
- This was immediately after He had healed the
sick, given sight to the blind, cast out demons, and turned 7 loaves of
bread into enough to feed 4,000 people, and they have the gall to ask for another
miracle as though He had never done any of that.
despised those signs which relieved the necessity of the sick and sorrowful,
and insisted upon some sign which gratify the curiosity of the proud”
- This was done out of disbelief, not out of hope
in the Messiah.
- These were the kind of people of whom Abraham
said, “They would not believe even if someone were raised from the dead!”
- However, if Jesus later felt it necessary to warn
His disciples against the influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees, then
this request from the Pharisees must have also held some attraction to the
- Wouldn’t it have been nice if at that point the
sky had ripped apart and the glory of the Lord shone forth and a booming
voice cried, “Jesus is God and He has come to save you!” and maybe a few
Pharisees gotten zapped and turned into pillars of salt. I mean, that
would have preached. There would be no doubts then. It wouldn’t even take
faith to follow Jesus then, everybody would just do it! There’s something
attractive about that to our fleshly nature, so Jesus has to combat that
with sound doctrine:
16:2 But He, in answer said to them,
“After it has become late, y’all say, ‘It’ll be good weather, for the sky is fiery-red,’
ειπεν αυτοις [Οψιας
πυρραζει γαρ ‘ο
16:3 and when it’s morning, ‘Storm today,
for the sky is fiery-red and overcast.’ [Hypocrites,] on the one hand, y’all
know how to assess the appearance of the sky, but on the other hand y’all are
not able [to assess] the signs of the appointed times.
και πρωι Σημερον
‘ο ουρανος ‘υποκριται-CT το μεν
δε σημεια των
- They asked for a sign out of the sky (using the
Greek word ouranos), so
Jesus talked about signs in the sky (using the same Greek word ouranos), but it’s not the kind of
sign they were looking for. He talks about signs they already know about
(for the sun and moon were put in the heavens for signs – Gen. 1:14)
because they should already know the answer to their question of whether
or not He is the Messiah of God. The historical signs and the miracles of
Jesus already testified abundantly to this fact.
- “In asking for a sign from heaven, did these men
not realize that the sign
from heaven was standing right in front of them?” ~William Hendriksen
- And if He had made some sign in the sky, wouldn’t
the Pharisees have dismissed it by saying that Jesus did it by Satan’s
power just like they claimed was the case when Jesus had cast out a demon
no too long ago there.
- My parents taught me
a little jingle about the weather that goes, “Sunset bright; sailor’s delight.
Red in the morning; sailors take warning.” Generally the weather moves
from West to East, so if clouds are in the East and not in the west in the
morning, the red light from the sun on the clouds at sunset will tell us
that it will be fair weather tomorrow. But if those “threatening, gloomy”
clouds are in the East to catch the red rays of sunlight in the morning,
you can bet they’ll be rolling over you that day and you’ll have foul
- The word
“Hypocrites” will be in the KJV and NKJV of this verse, but not in the
modern translations, because it has been disputed whether that word was
original to Matthew, based on some ancient manuscripts recently
discovered, but it’s in all the translations of the same statement in Luke
12:56, so I have no problem with using the traditional text here that the
King James translations used.
- They could discern/interpretNIV the
weather patterns, but not the movement of history.
- Jeremiah 8:7 "Even
the stork in the sky Knows her seasons; And the turtledove and the swift
and the thrush Observe the time of their migration; But My people do not
know The ordinance of the LORD. (NASB)
- “The same simplicity
of purpose and careful observation of the symptoms of approaching events
which they showed in common things would enable them to “discern the signs
of the times” - or rather “seasons,” to which the prophets pointed for the
manifestation of the Messiah. The scepter had departed from Judah (Genesis
49:10, Ezekiel 19:14); Daniel’s seventy weeks [the 490 years between the
end of the Babylonian captivity and the coming of Messiah prophecied by
Dan. 9:24-25] were expiring… and many other significant indications of the
close of the old economy, and preparations for a freer and more
comprehensive one, might have been discerned. But all was lost upon them.”
16:4 An evil and adulterous
generation is searching for a sign, yet a sign will not be given to it except
the sign of Jonah [the prophet]. And He left them behind and went away.
και σημειον ου
ει μη το
σημειον Ιωνα [του
- “Christ is… arguing
from the right order of nature that those who are quite clever in the affairs
of this present life, but cover over the heavenly light knowingly and
willingly by their dullness, justly perish from their ingratitude.” ~John
- Have you ever asked
God for something and gotten “No” for an answer? James 4:3 tells us that
this happens when we ask for the wrong thing or for the wrong reason.
- The Gospel of Matthew starts out talking about
“generations” of descendents from Abraham to Christ (1:17), and Jesus
complains in 11:16 that the “generation” contemporary to Him was confused
like children in the marketplace, now He said in chapter 12 that his
generation was evil and adulterous – a generation of vipers (12:34),
without even as much faith as the citizens of Nineveh who repented at
Jonah’s preaching (12:41), and without even as much faith as the Queen of
Sheba who praised God after visiting Solomon (12:42).
- Instead of seeking
a sign, they should have been seeking God Himself in
the face of Jesus.
- What was the sign of Jonah?
- That was the
prophet from the 8th Century BC, who died during the course of
three days underwater in the Mediterranean Ocean in the stomach of a big
fish, then was brought back to life by the power of God and spit out by
the fish on the shore.
- In like manner, Jesus
would die and be buried, spending parts of three days buried in a tomb,
and then He would be raised from the dead too!
- The death and resurrection of Jesus is the
pivotal point in the history of God and man because it is the method God
used to reconcile rebellious human beings to Himself, sending His Son to
suffer the punishment of death which we deserve for our sins.
- Even at this late
stage in the Pharisee’s rejection of Jesus, He still holds out to them
the kernel of the good news that if they will believe in Jesus’ death for
their sins and resurrection for their justification, even at their
extremity of unbelief, they could be restored.
- But since they didn’t believe, Jesus cut off the
conversation and left so hurriedly that His disciples didn’t have time to
stop by the market to get dinner before they left.
16:5 Then, once they got to the other
side, His disciples forgot to get some bread.
εις το περαν
- In vs. 5 and 7, many
English Bibles read “no bread” or “any bread,” but the word “no/any” is
not actually in the Greek text, although there is a “not” before the verb
- Mark’s account indicates that they crossed the lake of Galilee in a boat and that one of the disciples had carried one loaf of bread with
him. What are the chances that this one loaf was a leftover from the
feeding of the 4,000? Nevertheless, one loaf wouldn’t be enough to feed
all 13 of them for the day, so it wasn’t enough.
- It’s possible that this is the same occasion that
Luke 12:1 is talking about, and that a crowd had already gathered to hear
Jesus on the other side of the lake – perhaps back at Decapolis where He
had fed the 4,000.
16:6 And Jesus said to them, “Y’all be
watching out for – and keeping away from – the leavening of the Pharisees and
‘Ο δε Ιησους
ειπεν αυτοις Ορατε
απο της ζυμης
των Φαρισαιων και
- Mark’s account uses
“Herod” instead of “Sadducees.” The Sadducees were sometimes called
Herodians (Mt. 22:16, Mk. 3:6, 12:13), and they had the same basic
worldview that earthly wealth and power was all there was to this life and
that there would be no afterlife.
- We saw in the
parable of the leaven that Jesus compared the kingdom of God to leavening that worked its way through the whole batch of dough. In this case, the
leavening is representing bad ideas doing the same thing: working their
way through the whole batch of dough and influencing every part of the
bread. That’s why we should beware and be on guard againstNIV
- But the disciples thought that Jesus was speaking
literally and that there was some problem with the sourdough starter that
the Pharisees used to make their bread rise. “O.K. good thing we didn’t
buy bread over on the Jewish side of the lake! But the Gentile side is not
as well-populated, so where can we buy bread over there? Do you suppose the
Pharisees have been selling leavening on this side of the lake?”
16:7 So they began to deliberate
among themselves saying, “It’s because we didn’t get bread!”
- Here the disciples are doing the very opposite of
what Jesus warned them against.
- The leaven of the Pharisees was to distrust
Jesus and trust in human effort to be right with God, and here the
disciples were not trusting Jesus to provide for their food but were
thinking of their own human effort.
- The leaven of the Sadducees, on the other hand,
was to ignore spiritual realities and focus on the things of this world,
and once again, that’s exactly what the disciples were doing. Jesus was
talking about a spiritual danger, yet they were thinking about their
physical problem of not having enough food.
- “We must endeavour
to keep the mean between the extremes of carelessness and carefulness;
but of the two, the excess of thoughtfulness about the world worst becomes
Christ's disciples.” ~Mathew Henry
- Meanwhile Jesus seems to have been stewing about
the hardness of the Pharisee’s and Sadducees’ hearts and temporarily tuned
out of the conversation going on around Him. When He tunes back in to what
His disciples are saying, He realizes that He needs to clarify things16:
16:8 After Jesus realized [this],
however, He said [to them,] “What are you deliberating among yourselves, you
barely-trusting guys? Is it that you don’t have bread?
δε ‘ο Ιησους ειπεν
[αυτοις-CT] Τι' διαλογιζεσθε
αρτους ουκ εχετε
- Jesus refers to His disciples several times in
the gospel of Matthew as Oligopistos
– little faith/barely trusting. In doing so, Jesus emphasizes the
importance of faith. It is faith in Him that He is looking for and
measuring progress in.
- 6:30 Now, if God thus dresses the grass of the
field, being [here] today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He
rather more you, you barely-trusting ones?
- 8:26 And He says to them, “Barely-trusting guys,
why are you intimidated?” Then, after standing up, He reprimanded the
storm-winds and the lake, and they became incredibly calm.
- 14:30-31 But as he saw the strong wind, he
became frightened; then he began to drown and cried out, saying, “Lord,
save me!” And immediately Jesus extended his hand and grabbed him and
said to him, “Little-faith, why did you think twice?
- This could be a term of endearment,
considering His teaching about faith “as small as a mustard seed” being enough
to move mountains, or it could be a prod to grow in faith.
- In the Gospel of
Mark, Jesus asks several sharp questions in addition to what we see in the
Matthew account, “Do you have a hardened heart? HAVING EYES, DO YOU NOT
SEE? AND HAVING EARS, DO YOU NOT HEAR?” (NASB)
16:9 Aren’t y’all figuring it out
yet, or do you not remember the five loaves of bread of the five thousand and
how many baskets y’all got [tookKJV/picked upNAS/
16:10 or the seven loaves of bread of
the four thousand and how many hampers y’all got?
ουδε τους ‘επτα
- How could such miracles ever be forgotten? But
Jesus questions whether they’ve thought about the ramifications of
it, so as to perceiveESV/understand the meaning.
- “Profuse as were our Lord’s miracles,
we see from this that they were
not wrought at random, but that He carefully noted their
minutest details, and desired that this should be done by those who
witnessed, as doubtless by all who read the record of them.” ~JFB
- “These baskets were intended for memorials, by
which to keep the mercy in remembrance, as the pot of manna which was
preserved in the ark (Ex. 16:32). The fragments of those meals would be a
feast now; and he that could furnish them with such an overplus then,
surely could furnish them with what was necessary now. That meat for their
bodies was intended to be meat for their faith (Ps. 74:14), which
therefore they should have lived upon, now that they had forgotten to take
bread.” ~Matthew Henry
16:11 How is it that y’all aren’t
figuring out that it wasn’t about bread that I said to you,
‘Keep away from the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”
νοειτε ‘οτι ου
ειπον ‘υμιν Προσεχετε
δε απο της
ζυμης των Φαρισαιων
- The disciples felt that they had failed Jesus. He
had been trusting them to buy provisions and take care of meals and here
they had not thought ahead far enough to make sure they would have food
for this trip.
- Do you ever feel
like you have failed God? That you were supposed to do something for Him
and that you didn’t get around to it - or you didn’t do it right? Learn a lesson
from God. He is not sitting up in heaven fuming because you failed. He
wasn’t depending on your help in the first place. He is not put out by
your failure to do things, but He is grieved when we become so preoccupied
with our duties that we fail to trust Him - like Martha did when Jesus
visited her house. (She was so
preoccupied with being the hostess that she failed to sit at His feet and
learn from him like her sister Mary did, which is what Jesus really
wanted. – Luke 10:41-42)
16:12 Then they put it together that
He did not say to keep away from the loaf-bread kind of yeast but rather from
the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
‘οτι ουκ ειπεν
της ζυμης των
αλλα απο της
διδαχης των Φαρισαιων
yeast stood for man-made doctrineKJV that puffs folks up with
pride. “Luke [12:1] classes hypocrisy as invented doctrine,
and by this name embraces the leavens of men which only swell them up and
in the sight of God contain nothing solid, and indeed which only pervert
men’s minds from the true study of godliness to empty and worthless
ceremonies.” ~J. Calvin
- In correcting His disciples, Jesus’ aim was not
to shame them or make them feel like failures but rather to lead them to
safety by warning them away from an influence that would be harmful. “Christ
therefore shows us our folly
and weakness, that we may stir up ourselves to take things right... In our
age, we may reckon atheism and deism to be the leaven of the Sadducees,
and popery [Roman Catholicism, and to that we could add any other churches
that focus on man-made rules or ceremonies] to be the leaven of the
Pharisees, against both which it concerns all Christians to stand upon
their guard.” ~Matthew Henry
So how do we apply all this in our lives today?
1. First, we need to guard ourselves
from the influence of unbelievers
- Psalm 1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not
walk in the council of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in
the seat of scoffers…” And it’s true; there is blessing in avoiding the
influence of unbelievers.
- However, there is a balance here because we are
to be “in the world but not of it.”
- One way that Christians in the past have applied
this warning against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees was to
become hermits who lived in caves in the desert and didn’t raise families
or talk to anybody. Nowadays we see it in the Pietists who avoid as much
interaction with the world as possible
- That is clearly unfaithful to the Dominion
Mandate God gave to humankind in Genesis 1 to raise children, lead
nations, and discover and manage the earth’s resources, and it is
unfaithful to the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His followers to
go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel and make disciples.
- Withdrawal from the world is the ditch on one
side of the road; but indiscriminate participation in the ways of the
world is the ditch on the other side of the road.
- How can we guard ourselves from the influence of
unbelievers? One way we can do that is to limit the amount of one-way
communication from unbelievers that we expose ourselves to.
communication means that they are doing the talking and leading, and you
don’t have opportunity to dialogue with them or tell them the Gospel.
- In our culture,
these one-way communication channels come in the form of audio and video
broadcasts where some professional is talking or singing or acting, and
the show will go on with or without you listening or watching.
- It also happens in
school classrooms where the teacher or professor has the floor and he or
she runs the show.
- These kind of one-way communication channels
need to be recognized for what they are; every lecture you listen to,
every movie you watch, every song you hear is a sales pitch for the
belief system of that singer or actor or speaker, and if they don’t
believe in Jesus, their message (whether they realize it or not) is propaganda
that is intended to stunt our faith in Jesus, and that’s why we
need to limit it.
- Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that you
have to shut down your internet and radio and never watch another movie. What
I am saying is what Jesus said: Watch out; be on guard, and moderate your
exposure to these things.
- I believe there is a place for exposing ourselves
to a limited amount of media and then evaluating it so that you can
identify the belief system it promotes, recognize the evils that it says
are good and recognize the things it portrays as bad which the Bible actually
says is good, and find scripture that addresses these issues. Then the
next time you see or hear those faith-stunting non-Christian ideas, you
have inoculated yourself against them. You can say, “Oh yeah, I know what
that is. I know what’s wrong with that, because the Bible says
- Now, this requires mental work; it requires time
and thought, but is that not what Jesus expected of His disciples? Look at
all the words He used for thinking in this passage:
- In v.3 He implies that they should “know (γινώσκω)
to discern (διακρίνω)” the
- V. 6 Take heed/watch out/ be careful (ὁράω),
guard yourselves/beware (προσέχω)
- V.9 Perceive, have intelligence, understand (νοιέω),
and remember (μνημονεύω)
- V.11 comprehend, perceive/understand/realize (νοιέω)
- V.12 understand/put it together (συνίημι)
- For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy;
for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid
that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be
led astray from the simplicity and purity of
devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 NASB
In addition to limiting
faith-stunting influences from the Pharisees and Sadducees of this world, we
2. Fill our life with
- One of the words Jesus used was the word
“remember” v.9 “Remember how many baskets full of leftovers you picked up
after we fed the 5,000? Remember how many hampers full of leftovers y’all
picked up after we fed the 4,000?” Every time the disciples brought the
events of those amazing days back to mind, their faith in Jesus would be
- “…all are convicted of unbelief who have
experienced God’s power once or twice, but mistrust for the future… [F]aith
cherishes the memory of God’s gifts in our hearts, so… forgetfulness of
them will never steal over us.” ~J. Calvin
- Today, even though we did not see Jesus multiply
the bread and the fish miraculously, we too can remember these historical
events recorded by Jesus’ disciples to bolster our faith.
- That’s what David the Psalm-writer did. Many
times throughout the Psalms, David recalls the story of the parting of the
Red Sea for the nation of Israel to cross and escape from the Egyptian
army and how God released the sea to drown their pursuers, even though
David had not seen the event; it had happened hundreds of years before
Not only should we pay attention to
nurturing rather than stunting our own faith,
3. We should also nurture the faith
of others by telling stories about Jesus like Matthew did.
- This whole passage is a story told by one of the
very geese who misunderstood Jesus. The joke was on Matthew, but he was
not too proud to laugh at himself and tell the joke to other people to
help other people grow spiritually.
- Are there any stories you can tell others about
how you misunderstood what God was doing? Those actually make for great
- For example, this year I went to the San
Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival and thought, “Wow, I’ve
made little movies with my family for almost 20 years now, and have never
done anything to compare to what other people are doing. I must have
missed the boat.” I was invited to a Pastor’s conference to hear
John Piper and Ligon Duncan and CJ Mahaney and Tim Keller, and I thought, “Why
am I not a famous preacher like them? I must be doing something wrong - my
church is still so small.” Then I went on a mission trip to Costa Rica and realized, “Man alive, I could never make it on the mission field. What’s
wrong with me?” Then I went to a weekend for Christian artists taught by
Michael Card and thought, “Hey, I’ve been composing and recording music
for almost as long as he has; why is it him up there and not me?” But God
has been teaching me this year that my life is not about being a great moviemaker
or a great preacher or a great missionary or a great musician
– even though pursuing excellence in those areas is a fine thing. My life
is first and foremost about loving Jesus, loving my wife and children, and
helping them love God. That’s where God has blessed me, and that’s what I
should be paying attention to. If I can just make it to the end of my life
still believing in Jesus, still married, still pointing my children and my
church congregation to God, I’ve been a success. This has been a growing conviction
for me to turn me away from the lie of the Pharisees that I have to do
something special in the eyes of men in order to be right with God and
from the lie of the Sadducees that I have to become famous because the
opinions of men (and not of God) is all that I will be evaluated by. So
there’s my story of faith for this year, what’s yours?
- Of course, if you
run into people like Jesus did who just want to argue with you and have no
interest in learning about Jesus, it’s o.k. to cut the conversation short.
Just make sure you are being led by the Holy Spirit’s discernment rather
than responding with frustration because you don’t want to cut off
conversations with people like Jesus’ disciples, no matter how
thick-headed they are!