An innumerable multitude of people - Των μυριαδων του οχλου, myriads of people. A myriad is ten thousand, and myriads must, at the very lowest, mean twenty thousand. But the word is often used to signify a crowd or multitude which cannot be readily numbered. There was doubtless a vast crowd assembled on this occasion, and many of them were deeply instructed by the very important discourse which our Lord delivered.
Leaven of the Pharisees - See Matthew 16:1-12.
Which is hypocrisy - These words are supposed by some to be an addition to the text, because it does not appear that it is their hypocrisy which Christ alludes to, but their false doctrines. They had, however, a large proportion of both.
In the mean time - While he was discoursing with the scribes and Pharisees, as recorded in the last chapter.
An innumerable multitude - The original word is “myriad‘s,” or ten thousands. It is used here to signify that there was a great crowd or collection of people, who were anxious to hear him. Multitudes were attracted to the Saviour‘s ministry, and it is worthy of remark that he never had more to hear him than when he was most faithful and severe in his reproofs of sinners. Men‘s consciences are on the side of the faithful reprover of their sins; and though they deeply feel the reproof, yet they will still respect and hear him that reproves.
To his disciples first of all - This does not mean that his disciples were, before all others, to avoid hypocrisy, but that this was the “first” or chief thing of which they were to beware. The meaning is this: “He said to his disciples, “Above all things beware,” etc.
The leaven - See the notes at Matthew 16:6.
Which is hypocrisy - See the notes at Matthew 7:5. Hypocrisy is like leaven or yeast, because:
1.It may exist without being immediately detected. Leaven mixed in flour is not known until it produces its effects.
2.It is insinuating. Leaven will soon pervade the whole mass. So hypocrisy will, if undetected and unremoved, soon pervade all our exercises and feelings.
3.It is swelling. It puffs us up, and fills us with pride and vanity. No man is more proud than the hypocrite, and none is more odious to God. When Jesus cautions them to beware of “the leaven of the Pharisees,” he means that they should be cautious about imbibing their spirit and becoming like them. The religion of Jesus is one of sincerity, of humility, of an entire want of disguise. The humblest man is the best Christian, and he who has the least disguise is most like his Master.
None are so vile, none have fallen so low, as to be beyond the working of this power. In all who will submit themselves to the Holy Spirit a new principle of life is to be implanted; the lost image of God is to be restored in humanity. COL 96.1
But man cannot transform himself by the exercise of his will. He possesses no power by which this change can be effected. The leaven—something wholly from without—must be put into the meal before the desired change can be wrought in it. So the grace of God must be received by the sinner before he can be fitted for the kingdom of glory. All the culture and education which the world can give will fail of making a degraded child of sin a child of heaven. The renewing energy must come from God. The change can be made only by the Holy Spirit. All who would be saved, high or low, rich or poor, must submit to the working of this power. COL 96.2
As the leaven, when mingled with the meal, works from within outward, so it is by the renewing of the heart that the grace of God works to transform the life. No mere external change is sufficient to bring us into harmony with God. There are many who try to reform by correcting this or that bad habit, and they hope in this way to become Christians, but they are beginning in the wrong place. Our first work is with the heart. COL 97.1Read in context »
The disciples were inclined to think that their Master should have granted the demand for a sign in the heavens. They believed that He was fully able to do this, and that such a sign would put His enemies to silence. They did not discern the hypocrisy of these cavilers. DA 408.1
Months afterward, “when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another,” Jesus repeated the same teaching. “He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Luke 12:1. DA 408.2
The leaven placed in the meal works imperceptibly, changing the whole mass to its own nature. So if hypocrisy is allowed to exist in the heart, it permeates the character and the life. A striking example of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Christ had already rebuked in denouncing the practice of “Corban,” by which a neglect of filial duty was concealed under a pretense of liberality to the temple. The scribes and Pharisees were insinuating deceptive principles. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines, and improved every occasion to instill them artfully into the minds of their hearers. These false principles, when once accepted, worked like leaven in the meal, permeating and transforming the character. It was this deceptive teaching that made it so hard for the people to receive the words of Christ. DA 408.3Read in context »