Avoid the Yeast of the Pharisees
In Mark 8 Jesus feeds in excess of 4,000 people. He has been teaching them for three days and naturally they had become hungry. When Jesus finished teaching he doesn't just dismiss them and send them home. He looks at them with compassion and knows their physical needs. He doesn't want to see them suffer because of their hunger and so, out of love, he feeds them. Miraculous provision; a few loaves and some small fish was all that Jesus needed to feed the large crowd.
What I see here is that love provides in abundance.
The tragedy is that the Pharisees don't see love in action. They come to Jesus and try to test him. They are looking for a sign that proves Jesus is really who he says he is. They are not satisfied by seeing the crowd fed but want to see something on their own terms, something that fits in with their distorted mindset. Maybe they are envious as they see the people clearly worshipping Jesus and freely following him. Certainly not something that happened for them!
After this has happened, the disciples and Jesus cross the lake and begin to discuss what has happened. Jesus encourages them to "beware of the yeast of the Pharisees".
Yeast is something that works internally and affects the composition of the bread. Not seen, but very effective.
Jesus highlights for his disciples that the yeast of the Pharisees is performance and judgement which comes out of their hard hearts. Hearts which have closed eyes and ears. Hearts that were unable to understand and perceive what was really going on. The Pharisees were unable to see that fruitfulness came from compassion or that abundance flowed from relationship.
What Jesus does is encourage his friends to trust the Giver, not the gift. To see and hear with the eyes and ears of the heart rather than constantly seeking signs to prove something. The Pharisees wanted facts whereas Jesus encouraged relationship. He invited people to live from the heart rather than a set of external principles or values.
What does this mean for us?
We too need to be aware of, and avoid, the "yeast of the Pharisees". The yeast of performance which can slowly grow inside us and which can so easily affect everything. Just as Jesus encouraged his disciples to avoid it so he does for us. His encouragement for us is to live from the heart. To see the Giver above the gift and to choose to live from love rather than pursuing good works.
Jesus helpfully gives us the key to avoiding the yeast of the Pharisees. As he journeys on, he takes a child on two separate occasions (Mark 9 and 10) and shows the importance, and necessity, of having a childlike heart. He shows them the way of humility, putting aside any feelings of greatness or self-importance and to be able to come as a child.
It's so easy to miss the point of what Jesus is saying. All too often we focus on gifting, our good works (often very good and probably effective), our programmes but we miss the central thing. We look at the gift rather than the Giver. When we do, we are subtly and gently led astray into a life of performance. When we see the Giver, something more lasting and permanent happens in our heart.
My discovery has been to see Jesus, not so much looking at me, but to see that he focusses on his Father. As we gaze upon Jesus we discover that his gaze is on his Father. The wonder and majesty of this Heavenly gaze turns us in the same direction. We are led to the Father. We discover the incredible life of living in love where the fruit of that life is simply finding and doing what the Father gives us to do. It seems to me that this can only be achieved as we come with a childlike heart.
In fact, there are times when the Father asks us to do something very unusual. Nothing. The gift of doing nothing (when it comes from him) is the most fruitful thing we can do. This is as much the fruit of living in love as anything else we might do.
Let love be the ingredient that grows inside you and affects everything - who you are and what you do.
As you do, you will discover something you have longed for and sought to find. The fruitful life of being planted in love.
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Walking As Jesus Walked
Jesus promises that, when we come to him and allow him to lead us to the Father, we will begin to live freely and lightly.