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Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

Matthew 16:1-16:12
Key Verse: 16:6

“Verse 1. The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven”

After Jesus fed four thousands with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish, he moved to Magadan. At that time, Pharisees and Sadducees came and test Jesus by asking a miraculous sign. Actually their demand is not the first time. In Chapter 12, Pharisees and teachers of the law asked a miraculous sign from him. Jesus said “none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah” In this chapter, Pharisees came with Sadducees. Pharisees and Sadducees were different each others in terms of political, social and religious life. But they became united just for claiming Jesus.

They saw Jesus’ popularity hitting peak and four thousands and five thousands man followed him. His high reputation increased their concerns about their future. So, they tried to discredit Jesus. Their demand was not for believing but for testing and finding any wrong in him.

What is Jesus’ response? Jesus pointed out their fundamental problems. “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ 3 and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

Weather prediction was very important then and now. In modern days, high technology like satellite and super computer predicts weather change very accurately.

But at that time, people can forecast the weather by visually observing appearance of the sky. Wikidepia says “A reddish sunrise, caused by particles suspended in the air, often foreshadows an approaching storm, which will be arriving from the west, within the day. Conversely, a reddish sunset often indicates that a storm system is on the east side (opposite the sunset), travelling away from the viewer.” So their observation was right. But in his saying, Jesus revealed their inability as a spiritual leader to discern God’s will. They were sensitive to the weather, but not to God’s will. Israel’s history had good days and hard times like fair and stormy days. God gave peaceful days to them as they followed him wholeheartedly. But they also went through hard times when they were against him and worshiped idols. It is the historical lesson and they must know God’s will through looking at the signs of the times.

Pharisees and Sadducees were in the position of having such a spiritual insight. But they were chosen to serve God’s people as priest but became weather forecaster because they were not interested in the sufferings of God’s flock but in their human glory and success.

It is important to interpret the times with spiritual insight. In Noah’s days, the land was under impending God’s judgement. Only Noah could see this. Abraham also saw the moral corruption of the Sodom while Lot did not.

Many great spiritual leaders had a keen insight and served God’s will. The late Dr. Samuel Lee, founder of UBF also was one of them. In 1960s Korean university students were hopeless in devastated land after war and under military government ruling. But he had a broken heart to them and believed that what they need is God’s word. God blessed his heart and enabled him to serve world mission.

In our days, there are many signs of last days such as natural disasters, wars and false prophets. People wonder why those things keep happening. I have a Chilean colleague. She told that every year her country becomes a center of global news due to disaster. Earthquake, Chilean miners and volcano eruption last week etc. U.S is also one of the places where many disasters broke out. Oil leak last year and tornado attack. We also saw Japan’s earthquake three months ago.

Through the many signs of the times we can realize that we are living in the last days Jesus described. A great deal of information is also transferring through internet as prophesized in the book of Daniel.

It can’t be enough to emphasize over and over the importance of our purpose of life before God. It is the secret of the wise life.

One of the signs of the times is appearance of God’s children. Jesus performed great work of God in many people. They were healed and the blind saw and the mute spoke. It clearly testifies that God is living and Jesus is messiah.

Verse 4. Jesus gave him a sign. “sign of the Jonah” In Matthew gospel, it repeated two times. Sign of Jonah is the sign given to the wicked and adulterous generation. This sign which is Jesus’ death and resurrection is the greatest sign of all because it can change sinner to holy man of God.

As we serve gospel ministry, we must hold onto this sing. For instance, Paul held on to these two things. “Jesus’ death and resurrection” he feared when he pioneered Corinth because of their severe moral corruption and many idols. But he did not ask any other signs but firmly believed Jesus’ death and resurrection. 1 Co 2:2 “2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In Romans he also said “4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our living God changed Corinthians to be God fearing people. In this way, Paul pioneered one country and after another.

May God help us to believe the sign of the Jonah and serve Canadian ministry until Canada becomes kingdom of priest and holy nation and Toronto a holy city.

Part II. You of little faith

Jesus left the place and went across the lake because he wanted keep his disciples from the unbelief of the Pharisees and Sadducees and said “be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees’ but they could not understand what it meant. Rather, they remembered that they forgot to bring the bread. They misunderstood Jesus “It is because we did not bring any bread”. Jesus was aware of it and said “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?”

Jesus rebuked their lack of faith. We see that their faith is like rollercoaster. One day they experienced great miracle. Two times they could feed many crowds. But again they lost their faith and worried about bread. Real problem is their lack of faith not lack of food. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus pointed out their lack of faith repeatedly. Whenever they did not have faith, Jesus rebuked them to have faith in him again and again.

[Mt 6:30] If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

[Mt 8:26] He replied, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

[Mt 14:31] Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

[Mt 17:20] He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you."

We see how much Jesus wants us to be a man of faith. Here, beyond their lack of faith, they also lost a sense of history. Jesus helped them to remember the events of the five loaves and two fish and seven loaves. When they bring small things to Jesus they could experience Jesus’ great work. They learned Can-do spirit but Can-not do spirit was prevailing. We restore present faith by remembering how God blessed our faith in the past. Caleb is best example and he had steady faith when he was 40 years old and 85 years old later. Disciples must serve God and his people with faith. Otherwise, their teaching will be like the one of Pharisees and Sadducees.

Thank God for blessing 50 anniversary of UBF abundantly. Campus evangelism cannot be done without faith in God. We may remember this legacy and spirit and continue to serve campus students with faith.

Part III. Be guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Jesus directly said “I am not talking to you about bread but be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees”

The yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees is humanism and compromise that is against pure gospel. In ungodly generation, many teaching are against the truth and pure faith. For instance, at school students learn Big Bang theory as the origin of this universe. A Pastor said we must believe not Big Bang theory but Big God theory.

Many secular teaching penetrate our minds and thinking as we also exposed to worldly news and gossips through media.

The teaching of Pharisees and Sadducees was spread in people of Israel like spiritual virus. They were ungodly, political, earthbound and pleasure-seeking. 2 Timothy 3:4-5 describes well “..conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.”

Pharisees lived before man not God. Sadducees did not believe the power of God and resurrection. Their teaching made people stop walking the life of faith and follow materialism and sinful desire. In their influence Christians are easily secularized. Our enemies are not great persecution but Satan’s good sounding teaching.

So, in the book of revelation Jesus warns the church in Pergamum, one of the seven churches. He commended their faith because they did not renounce their faith in great persecution. But he said “Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.”

If you hear about no repentance, no cross, no self-denial in Christian life it is the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

So how to overcome the yeast? Last week we learn Daniel’s faith. “he resolved not to defile himself from the pagan cultures.” That is also good example. We can also overcome by living by the Spirit.

May God bless us to be a good influence in this generation and serve his flock to live a life of faith.

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