“And Jesus cautioned them, saying, ‘Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’” Mark 8:15
Leaven is an active ingredient that makes dough rise. In the Bible, God commanded the Israelites to eat unleavened bread before their swift exit from Egypt. Over the years leaven became a symbol for disobedience to God, or even sinful practices (1Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). Leaven takes away the pure essence of the dough, even though it tastes so good.
Jesus warns against the leaven/yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. Their negative influences were significant for Jesus to warn the disciples and also have application for Christians today. It’s possible there could not be a more relevant warning to the church today.
Pharisee Yeast: The Pharisees prioritized the Law of Moses and rigid rules that they expected others to follow even though they could not follow their own standards (Matthew 23). The Pharisees also sought Jesus to perform signs to keep proving His credibility, but nothing would ever be enough (Mark 8:11-13). In all, they treated the Scriptures as merely head knowledge and did not open their hearts to God’s grace.
The yeast of the Pharisees is trying to earn God’s favor through prideful accomplishment; mere religion rather than meaningful relationship. It’s adding religious rules and human traditions to the gospel. The message is to believe in God and also… dress a certain way, utilize a certain style of worship, vote according to a single party, live in certain neighborhoods, and don’t associate with types of people. While Pharisees may isolate from worldly values, they forget their pride and passions also reveal their own need for humility and grace.
Herod Yeast: Herod was a political leader employed by Rome to rule over the Jews. He was also an immoral politician who ruled selfishly and committed sinful acts such as manipulation, adultery, murder (Mark 6:14-28). Herod viewed Jesus as a pawn in his displays of power (Luke 23:8-12).
The yeast of Herod is viewing God as a means for your own achievement rather than the meaning of everything. While the Pharisees added to the gospel, Herod takes away from the gospel. It’s diluting the message so that belief in God and godly behavior are basically non-essential; casual instead of convictional Christianity. Today’s church compromises biblical truth, tolerates false doctrine, excuses immoral behaviors, and rationalizes lifestyles that are contrary to standards of Scripture. The religion of our day shapes God into our image rather than submitting to the Jesus of the Bible.
“Do you not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember?”