The Richness of Bread (Matthew 16:5-9)

Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash

The twelve had been with Jesus when He leaves the vicinity of Magadan by  boat. Just  before they go, Jesus had rather sternly and a bit sarcastically shut down a conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come to test Him by asking for a sign, saying “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” 

The echo of that statement would be on the disciples’ minds now that they are with Jesus in a boat, crossing a large lake. The image of Jonah and the idea of all Jonah went through – including being tossed off the boat on account of a storm caused by his own foolish disregard for God’s Word – would not easily be dismissed from thought. Especially because the disciples had ‘forgotten’ to bring bread for the journey, in spite of just picking up seven basketfuls of bread from the feeding of the 4000 before they left. And, it’s well possible they deliberately didn’t bring the bread just to see if Jesus could feed the next crowd without a “starter loaf” – making Jesus’ comment about Jonah (a disobedient prophet) all the more poignant. To top it off, Jesus says something that seems to cryptically point at their failure, “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”” 

Jesus’ use of the word “yeast” (in Greek, “zyme” – a key ingredient in making bread) would certainly seem to poke at their own error in not bringing the bread. Sure enough, Matthew writes, “They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” But the disciples are again in error. Jesus does not mean to passive-aggressively point out their failure. He means to teach them an important principle about fallen human pride, “Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand?””  

All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had taught that what God meant by His Word had a much higher meaning than we might read by the text only. When a fellow human being says, “Do not murder”, we hear the words and we interpret those words to mean effectively only that – as if they had said, “Do not kill unjustly.” But we must not forget that the person speaking the words adds the weight of their reputation, value and office to the words. So when God says, “Do not murder”, we must hear His Word with the weight of His glory in mind; His command means more than just “Do not kill unjustly”. As Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” The character of God (that is the source of the text), informs the text. 

Knowing this, we see that God’s command, “Do not murder” is much deeper and richer than the text itself might otherwise communicate, as the glory of God is infinitely greater than the glory of man. Likewise when Jesus speaks, for He is God the Son. So, what Jesus meant by “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees,” was not “You fools, you forgot the bread!” Rather, it is something far deeper. Something far more meaningful, and something far more ironic!  

Every word of Scripture carries the weight of God’s authority.

R.C. Sproul

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Your voice has weight too. Let it be used wisely!