Tuesday, March 3. Matthew 16:1-12.
One Sunday morning, when my kids were little, it was time for my oldest daughter to move up to big kids’ Sunday School with her older brother. They were both very excited. As we walked into the room, I said to my son, “Hey, you can show your sister the ropes.”
He looked up at me and said, “What ropes?”
Some people have a harder time processing metaphors than others. Jesus must have felt the same thing I did in that moment with my son during the two conversations he had in today’s reading.
First, he’s talking with the Pharisees and Sadducees, and they ask him for a sign. Really? A sign? Have they not been watching the healings, exorcisms, and miraculous bread multiplication and mass-feedings that have been happening in the preceding chapters?
Second, he tells his disciples to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. They look up at him and say, “What yeast?” Seriously, guys? Do you really think Jesus is worried about the literal bread that the Pharisees carry around?
This little passage is a helpful reminder to us that Jesus almost always speaks in metaphors, similes, parables, and hyperbole. Why does he do this? I think it is because he is trying to tell us about something that is so far beyond our ability to comprehend, and is so complex, that it has to be left open to multiple interpretations.
Is there a practical lesson here for us today? Yes. Jesus warned his disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees. Their teaching can get inside a community and spread quickly to form it into a blind, fear-based, power-hungry system. The ironic part of this lesson is that Jesus also said, in another place, that the Kingdom of Heaven is also like yeast. Jesus’ teaching can also spread throughout a community and form it into a gracious, loving, selfless place of healing and wholeness.
So, I guess we should ask which “yeast” do we put in our bread?