Beware of the leaven - What the leaven of Pharisees and Sadducees was has been already explained, see Matthew 16:1. Bad doctrines act in the soul as leaven does in meal; they assimulate the whole Spirit to their own nature. A man's particular creed has a greater influence on his tempers and conduct than most are aware of. Pride, hypocrisy, and worldly-mindedness, which constituted the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees, ruin the major part of the world.
The account in these verses is also recorded in Mark 8:13-21.
And when his disciples were come to the other side - That is, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.
Mark says that he entered into a ship again, and departed to the other side. The conversation with the Pharisees and Sadducees had been on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. See the notes at Matthew 15:39. They crossed from that side again to the east.
Had forgotten to take bread - That is, had forgotten to lay in a sufficient supply. They had, it seems, not more than one loaf, Mark 8:14.
Take heed - That is, be cautious, be on your guard.
The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees - Leaven is used in making bread.
It passes secretly, silently, but certainly through the mass of dough. See the notes at Matthew 13:33. “None can see its progress.” So it was with the doctrines of the Pharisees. They were insinuating, artful, plausible. They concealed the real tendency of their doctrines; they instilled them secretly into the mind, until they pervaded all the faculties like leaven.
They reasoned - The disciples did not understand him as referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees, because the word “leaven” was not often used among the Jews to denote doctrines, no other instance of this use of the word occurring in the Scriptures. Besides, the Jews had many particular rules about the leaven (yeast) which might be used in making bread. Many held that it was not lawful to eat bread made by the Gentiles; and the disciples, perhaps, supposed that he was cautioning them not to procure a supply from the Pharisees and Sadducees.
O ye of little faith! - Jesus, in reply, said that they should not be so anxious about the supply of their temporal wants. They should not have supposed, after the miracles that he had performed in feeding so many, that he would caution them to be anxious about procuring bread for their necessities. It was improper, then, for them to reason about a thing like that, but they should have supposed that he referred to something more important. The miracles had been full proof that he could supply all their wants without such anxiety.
Then understood they - After this explanation they immediately saw that he referred to the doctrines of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Erroneous doctrines are like leaven in the following respects:
1.They are at first slight and unimportant in appearance, just as leaven is small in quantity as compared with the mass that is to be leavened.
2.They are insinuated into the soul unawares and silently, and are difficult of detection.
3.They act gradually.
4.They act most certainly.
5.They will pervade all the soul, and bring all the faculties under their control.
When the message of truth is presented in our day, there are many who, like the Jews, cry, Show us a sign. Work us a miracle. Christ wrought no miracle at the demand of the Pharisees. He wrought no miracle in the wilderness in answer to Satan's insinuations. He does not impart to us power to vindicate ourselves or to satisfy the demands of unbelief and pride. But the gospel is not without a sign of its divine origin. Is it not a miracle that we can break from the bondage of Satan? Enmity against Satan is not natural to the human heart; it is implanted by the grace of God. When one who has been controlled by a stubborn, wayward will is set free, and yields himself wholeheartedly to the drawing of God's heavenly agencies, a miracle is wrought; so also when a man who has been under strong delusion comes to understand moral truth. Every time a soul is converted, and learns to love God and keep His commandments, the promise of God is fulfilled, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” Ezekiel 36:26. The change in human hearts, the transformation of human characters, is a miracle that reveals an ever-living Saviour, working to rescue souls. A consistent life in Christ is a great miracle. In the preaching of the word of God, the sign that should be manifest now and always is the presence of the Holy Spirit, to make the word a regenerating power to those that hear. This is God's witness before the world to the divine mission of His Son. DA 407.1
Those who desired a sign from Jesus had so hardened their hearts in unbelief that they did not discern in His character the likeness of God. They would not see that His mission was in fulfillment of the Scriptures. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:31. No sign that could be given in heaven or earth would benefit them. DA 407.2
Jesus “sighed deeply in His spirit,” and, turning from the group of cavilers, re-entered the boat with His disciples. In sorrowful silence they again crossed the lake. They did not, however, return to the place they had left, but directed their course toward Bethsaida, near where the five thousand had been fed. Upon reaching the farther side, Jesus said, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” The Jews had been accustomed since the days of Moses to put away leaven from their houses at the Passover season, and they had thus been taught to regard it as a type of sin. Yet the disciples failed to understand Jesus. In their sudden departure from Magdala they had forgotten to take bread, and they had with them only one loaf. To this circumstance they understood Christ to refer, warning them not to buy bread of a Pharisee or a Sadducee. Their lack of faith and spiritual insight had often led them to similar misconception of His words. Now Jesus reproved them for thinking that He who had fed thousands with a few fishes and barley loaves could in that solemn warning have referred merely to temporal food. There was danger that the crafty reasoning of the Pharisees and the Sadducees would leaven His disciples with unbelief, causing them to think lightly of the works of Christ. DA 407.3Read in context »