“Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6
Here is a word of warning from our Lord to his disciples that is often glossed over, but vital to our Christian walk. Beware of the leaven. Beware that which will fill you and puff you up with air and size but not substance. Beware that which gives you shape and recognition but is unhealthy in raw and pure form. Beware the leaven of the Pharisees. We know who the Pharisees were, we condemn them regularly. The religious elite who conformed the Word of God to their own standard and made it a test of works and earned favor with God. Jesus says beware this influence. This influence is alive and well in many Christians as we all feel the inclination to justify ourselves and prove ourselves in achievement rather than the grace and mercy of our Lord. We look around at others and compare ourselves to them and thank God that we are not as they. We judge, condemn, mock, and dismiss without delving deep into other’s lives. Beware this legalistic aspect of human nature, beware the leaven of the Pharisees.
The Lord Jesus also warns of the leaven of the Sadducees. This group was the group that denied the resurrection and was skeptical of the supernatural involvement of God in everything. They had also taken on strong political identity and in a parallel passage are even substituted for the Herodians. This leaven is the opposite of that of the Pharisees in their disregard of Jewish tradition and so much of God’s Word. This is the leaven of liberalism and libertinism. It is like the other leaven only in the sense that mankind is the standard.
In the 21st century we still battle these two pulls of the world and of fallen human nature. Legalism and relativism are both effective leaven that may puff us up with no substance. Instead, the Christian must walk the narrow path between the two. The dependence should never be on self achievement or self rationalization of God and Revelation. Dependence must be on Christ, the living Word of God, the savior of
the Messiah who comes and tells us all things. Dependence on Him and his way is
the way to avoid the poisonous leaven. With the pressures of life and the
Christmas season, let us avoid these two gutters and keep to the middle with
our Lord. Avoid the temptations of right and left and give all to Christ for
His safekeeping and your dependent rest.