"Who Are You Listening To?" Matthew 16:1-12

“Who Are You Listening To?”

Sunday December 30, 2018

Matthew 16:1-12

What I believe: Authority of the Bible - I believe the Bible is the Word of God and has the right to command my belief and action.

Scripture Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

When we say we believe in the authority of the Bible, we simply mean we believe that the Bible has the right to command our faith and practice what we believe and how we behave.

Scripture: Matthew 16:1-12  “And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11 How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

The Message of this Passage:  

At this point in His life, Christ begins to encounter greater and greater opposition from the religious leaders in Jerusalem. The Pharisees and Sadducees who ask Him for a sign in Matthew 16:1–4 are likely a delegation from Jerusalem sent to spy on Jesus. These two groups are usually at odds, but they can easily set aside their theological differences when they meet a common foe, just as they earlier did with John the Baptist (3:7).

Matthew 15:39 locates Jesus’ meeting with these religious leaders in Magadan, west of the Sea of Galilee. The conversation with His disciples in 16:5–12 occurs on the eastern shore, or “other side” of the water. His clash with the Jerusalem officials and feeding of the four thousand (15:32–16:4) sets the stage for His warning: “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (16:6). The disciples are perplexed, thinking that Jesus has told them not to eat bread made by these authorities. His remark makes no sense to them as they have no bread with them and do not know how they will find food to eat (v. 7).

Our Savior rebukes His followers for lacking understanding and faith. After all, how could they not trust Him to feed them after seeing Him feed thousands with meager supplies (vv. 8–10)? Even so, Christ’s warning is not about food; He is speaking of the teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (vv. 11–12).

Jesus does use leaven as a metaphor for the growth of God’s kingdom (13:33), but in Matthew 16 He adapts Scripture’s more common negative use of leaven (Ex. 13:31 Cor. 5:6–8). He is warning His followers not to embrace the Pharisees and Sadducees’ view that the Messiah must live up to their false expectations and do miracles on demand. Otherwise, like leaven, this error will penetrate their souls and turn them against the Christ. We do well to heed the words of the church father Jerome: “Leaven has this power, that, if mixed with flour, that which seemed small would grow into something larger and draw to its own essence the whole loaf. So too with heretical doctrine, if it tosses even a tiny spark into your heart, in a short time a huge flame grows beneath and draws to itself a person’s entire substance”

First published in Tabletalk Magazine, an outreach of Ligonier.


Answering Interpretive Questions:

  • What was Jesus basically saying about the Pharisees & Sadducees in Matthew 16:2-3?

  • What did Jesus tell his disciples to be careful about? What did they think Jesus meant?

  • The main problem was not the lack of signs, but the refusal to acknowledge them. God had given them the signs; so why do people refuse to respond and obey them? 

  • What is the best way to remove false doctrine? 

  • Why would the Disciples once again misunderstand Jesus? Place yourself in their mindsets and culture; would you misunderstand too? Why, or why not? Keep in mind how the distractions of life keep us from listening! 

  • How can you know when you are unable or unwilling to apply God's Word into your life? How can this awareness help you apply His truth? 

The world sees committed Christians and churches, but very little activity that can only be explained in terms of God’s activity


Grant Schweisthal