There are a couple of background details I’d like to share from a commentary I was reading on the Book of Matthew. Suffice it to say that the Pharisees and Sadducees were not in the same camp when it came to religion. There were significant differences between the two, and bringing them together doesn’t necessarily mean they are on the same page. But they both seem intent on discrediting Jesus.
While it is in the law to question a prophet to make sure they are “real” and trustworthy, the way these folks went about it overstepped the boundaries of the law. To question Jesus is one thing, but to ask for a sign from Heaven thus includes God the Father. That is not what the law suggests. At all. You may recall some scribes of the Pharisees came to Jesus several passages ago, and Jesus dismissed them, too.
Do you have any question about what Jesus is saying to them here? He was certainly curt in his reply. He again mentions Jonah, and we think of the 3 days Jonah spent in the innards of the sea creature. Jesus is foreshadowing his own destiny of spending 3 days in the tomb. You notice he is not about to give them what they asked for and walks away. Sometimes we need to do that in life when we are asked to do something we know is wrong. It’s often easier to walk away and avoid confrontation.
Later, Jesus used a shortage of bread as a teachable moment for his disciples. They were missing the point. By now, you would think they’d be used to Jesus using stories and examples to make a point. You would also assume the disciples wouldn’t be worrying about bread anymore either. Jesus had to remind them of the hoards of people they just fed–on two separate occasions–with just a few loaves of bread!
So what was the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees the disciples needed to be careful of? It was the deceptive nature of their teaching. They were religious leaders after all, shouldn’t they be trusted? Jesus didn’t seem to think so. He could see through to their hearts. There was a lot of selfish ambition there. They were taking the words of Scripture and twisting the meaning or only providing half-truths for the people. By doing so, God’s true meaning or intention was being abused.
We see that still today. Churches can be an unlikely culprit of doing the same thing. There is so much push for equality and justice prevalent in the world today. I don’t want to make this a political reflection, but what I will point out is that it is not a new thing. It has been going on for a long time. People will be people. They want to make the words of Scripture fit for them so they feel better. We want to avoid condemnation. We want to feel welcome. We want to hide our own sinfulness.
But we are sinful. Every last one of us. That doesn’t mean God loves us any less. He loves us no matter what. But just as I am a people pleaser wanting to make others happy and not ruffle anyone’s feathers, I am much more focused on being a “God-pleaser.” I want my actions to be in line with what God wants for me.
How about you? Are you more interested in the world’s approval or God’s approval? Remember Jesus’ words, “Beware!”
Let’s pray. Lord, help me to see clearly where the distortions of your Word are and stay clear of them. Give me a discerning spirit to know your truth. Fill me with your wisdom. May my life reflect you in all I say and do. May I inspire a desire in others to live a life focused on pleasing you. May I be on the lookout for the deception of this world and stand strong on your truth. In Jesus’ name. Amen.