Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”
But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? — but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Matt 16:5-12 NKJV
Today I want to talk about something that has some relevance today, Jesus was speaking to his disciples, the future ministers or carriers of the gospel, and he was warning them to be careful about the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, many times people read these words and don’t catch the full import of what Jesus was saying and its relevance today, who were the Sadducees and the Pharisees? Knowing who they were and what they represented will help us immeasurably.
These men where the religious leaders of the day, the religious elite belonged mainly to either one of these two groups and they were the main antagonists of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, if truth must be told, the teachings of these people are still flourishing today and constitute a major stumbling block for many in the faith of the Lord Jesus.
Who were these people and what did they teach?
The Sadducees taught that the supernatural was none existent, they did not believe in God neither in angels or spirits
Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.)
Acts 23:6-8 NIV
They were viciously opposed to each other but found a place of agreement in their opposition to the Lord Jesus, these Sadducees believed that the supernatural was past, maybe those things happened in the days of Moses and the prophets but certainly not in their day, they did everything to discredit the supernatural and to convince the people that that age was past, if God ever spoke it was then and not in their days, do all these sound familiar? they were not ‘heathens’ they believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ,they were practicing Jews they just didn’t believe in the supernatural, so you can understand why they opposed the ministry of Jesus so, we may not have Sadducees today but their teachings still live on,, propagated through their ‘disciples’. Jesus warned his own disciples to be careful not to get contaminated with the teachings of the Sadducees, Jesus described the teaching as leaven due mainly to its ability to spread and easily overtake whatever host substances it was connected to. Today there are people who will do their utmost, even going to the most unchristian lengths to discredit the supernatural and those who either walk in it or believe it.
Let’s talk about the Pharisees, these ones were not like the Sadducees, they had no problems with the supernatural, in fact they promoted it, the problem with them was that they promoted their own brand of piety and righteousness, they knew the word of God but not the God of the word, you remember Saul of Tarsus who later became Paul the apostle, he was the poster boy of the Pharisees party.
They prided themselves on what they thought they knew and they claimed they had insight into the mysteries of God but in truth they knew little or had little insight into the ways of God.
Jesus had very many harsh words to say of them; in fact I don’t think he spoke more harshly to any group of people as he did to them. (Matt. 23: 15- 30)
They were very visible in the public space, with serious pretensions to holiness and righteousness but Jesus said inwardly they were like graves with dead men’s bones, ouch!
They knew the right words to speak, they were very media savvy and very close to the corridors of power, and they had to have influence with men since they didn’t really have influence with God.
One of the reasons they must have hated Jesus was because they saw power and authority in his life the sort they desired but could not have.
Are they here with us today? You bet, they dot the religious landscape, relics of a past, they are relevant only because of the positions they occupy and the power bases they have created for themselves. When they speak of God it is in the context of their interpretations of him and not on his revelation of himself.
Jesus warned us to be careful of such people who teach by their words and practices what Jesus did not teach, model or advocate. Today we need to be discerning lest we be corrupted by the influence of these groups of people, who still resist and oppose the ministry of the Lord even as they did in the days of His flesh.
It is possible that we may have fallen into one of these camps in our ignorance, we can find our way out, as Christians our call is to follow Jesus Christ and no one else, if we do so then His words and example will become our primary influence. This is the way out of the camp of the Sadducees and Pharisees, simply follow Jesus