Having forgotten to bring bread with them, Jesus uses their lack as an object lesson for a moment of teaching. “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” This statement or principle evidently confuses the disciples, or their minds start to go in a wrong direction. Hearing Jesus’ comment, they then start to discuss among themselves that they have no bread. Evidently they thought that Jesus was critiquing them for not bringing bread along, or not bringing the right kind of bread. They thought he was commenting on the physical lack of bread that was with them.
Jesus then asks them a series of questions related to the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. “Do you not yet understand?” is the repeated question that frames the others. How is it, given the fact that Jesus had quite evidently shown that he is more than able to provide, that they could think that when Jesus tells them to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod he is complaining or concerned about having no bread. Did they not realize that he could create the bread he needed? Did they not remember that he had demonstrated this very fact—all so very recently?
Matthew 16 verse 12 provides a useful comment here. Jesus was talking about the teaching of the Pharisees. That teaching, like leaven or yeast, could spread and influence the whole batch of dough.
First of all, then, Jesus is showing the disciples (once again) who he is. He is God, able to do miracles.
Second, he is showing that therefore they are not to be worried about physical provisions, for they are his disciples.
But third, he is teaching them to be careful about false teaching—the teaching and attitude of the Pharisees that was so blind and could not understand what it was that Jesus was doing, or who he was (Mark 16:1-4). Let us trust in Jesus as the God of all and over all.
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