May 11, 2023

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”


Matthew 16:1-6


Sadducees and Pharisees tend to get a bad rap, and rightly so. They were the wealthy and elite who cared about how they were seen and perceived at the expense of others. They were concerned with their religiosity to the point that they would choose law over life and healing. So, yeah, their lousy rap was well-deserved.


Jesus wasn’t bashful; he did not hold his anger and frustration toward them. We read in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus warned his disciples to watch and beware of the leaven, to be on guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. A few verses later, he warned the disciples about their teaching.


So what about them and their teaching does Jesus want us to know and understand? He wants us to know and understand that our hearts matter. Jesus isn’t interested in our religiosity or in our following the letter of the law to a T; he wants our hearts. In other words, he wants our allegiance and devotion. In the Pharisees he saw hearts far from God, hearts that didn’t care about others and hearts devoted to reputation, wealth, and status. Sound familiar?


We begin to look and act like Pharisees when we are preoccupied and care most about the wealth we accumulate, our status in society, and how we are perceived. That is also when we neglect to care for others.

So, be on guard and examine your hearts. 

For Reflection

How often do you find yourself helping others?

Does your job supersede your fidelity to God and your family?

Answering these questions can be a great gauge of the condition of your heart. Are you looking and acting more like our Rabbi, or are you looking more like a Pharisee or Sadducee? Toward the end of Matthew 16, Jesus offers a poignant and deliberately provocative statement which provides us with the most straightforward solution to overcoming our Pharisaic leanings: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”


Lord, guide our lives and hearts to look more like yours. Release us from the bondage of wealth and status. Redeem our broken lives and soften our hard and stubborn hearts. Let our bread not be contaminated with the yeast of religiosity but reflect deep abiding love in you. Amen.

Rev. Cody Jensen
Pastor for Become