Next Time, Bring Bread

Matthew 16:1-12

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He answered and said to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ “And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them, and went away. And the disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread. And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began to discuss among themselves, saying, “It is because we took no bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? “Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? “Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

In full disclosure, the earliest manuscripts of Matthew do not contain the comments of Jesus concerning the discernment of the weather based upon the time of the red sky. Probably it was added later based on tradition handed down by witnesses or it could be mere speculation. Either way, it doesn’t change the evil attitude and aspirations of the Pharisees. Nor does it change or alter the response of Jesus, of which he also said in Matthew 12; “a sign will not be given except the sign of Jonah.”

If you are reading me for the first time, let me say welcome to you, you have found the right blog to read. However, you will be completely lost. In these blogs we use a hermeneutical tool to unlock the caged Scripture, which has been caged because of our culture, traditions, presuppositions and preconceived notions. This hermeneutical tool is called the CAGED method. It’s an acronym for; Context, Author’s Aspirations, Genre, Examples and Divide Rightly the Word. And as these missives have been building on the CAGED method, Matthew also is building contextually on a proverbial picture of Jesus as the true Israel. My suggestion would be for the first time visitor to start from the beginning. However, if that is too much time to take trying to catch up, read the previous post as a primer to today’s text. It will not enlighten but it is so confusing that it will make today’s text seem like sweet sonnet in comparison.

We returned from a mission trip to a certain communist country in the Caribbean about a week and a half ago. On our last night there, two of our team members had a deep debate about Biblical truths. One of which was eschatology, or end times beliefs. While they were debating, I saw them through the glass, blew them kisses, which got a lot of laughs from a lot of folks, and then headed off to work on my photo diary of the trip. They later told me that they wanted me to join their conversation and were motioning for me to sit down. I suppose I was preoccupied. They claimed that they wanted me to join their conversation so that the three end-time positions could be discussed; Amillennial, historical pre-millennial and post-millennial. They then joked with our team leader who holds to a dispensational, pre-tribulation, pre-millennial return of Christ, that he wasn’t needed at the table because only actual, reasonable and plausible theories were needed. His response was true, “but my belief is the most popular.”

I was a believer in the pre-tribulational rapture for most of my life so I am not making fun but using it as an opportunity to say that we can disagree on certain things but need a consensus on others. Which is incredibly ironic because I also use this as another example that just because something is popular, it doesn’t make it correct.

I will try to be as clear and concise as I am able to do. I am used to working with millenials and teenagers and have learned that sometimes metaphorical meanings get misconstrued–let me be literal for a moment. We need to come to an agreement on the context of Matthew. We need to agree that it was written in the first century to a first century audience without chapter or verse breaks. We need to agree that from the geneology of Jesus, son of David, son of Abraham, in the beginning of Matthew, all of the context has continuity up to Jesus saying at the very end of Matthew, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The context may not be purely chronological and we understand that many things are omitted. But we must agree that Matthew has a certain aspiration to a certain audience and that his Gospel is written in a manner that they would understand. We also need to agree that we will let said context change our minds if need be. If we can not agree on these things, we are wasting our time.

If you are continuing to read, I will assume that we have at least a preliminary agreement. Let’s continue in the context, which continues from all the other context in Matthew.

We read of the aspirations, once again, of the Pharisees; “the Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Him asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.” If the book of Matthew were exhibit A in a court of law, we would object to the Pharisees and Sadducees demand–asked an answered. See Matthew 12 and my missive, the aptly entitled, How About a Billboard? It reminds me of the Pink Floyd song, Wish You Were Here, as some of the lyrics read, “running over the same old ground, what have we found?”

The Pharisees want a sign from Jesus because the myriad of miracles isn’t enough. Repeatedly in Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign from heaven. We can also reasonably assume that there are other accounts of the Pharisees asking for a sign that are not recorded by Matthew. And I am sure that it wasn’t all the Pharisees, all the time but as a group and as a generation, they wanted a sign.

Jesus was going to give them a sign, the greatest sign ever; but not the sign they were looking for. Jesus promised them no sign except for his death, burial and resurection, which is foreshadowed by Jonah in the belly of a large aquatic creature. Speaking of running over the same old ground, it seems prudent to me for us to recall what transpired previously in Matthew 12–We call this Vitamin E, Expository Exegesis of Examples; “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.’ But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign shall be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall stand up with this generation at the judgment, and shall condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Jesus continually teaches, preaches and performs many miracles but the Pharisees will not repent and demand a sign. Nevertheless, they will be given a specific sign and sadly, most of them still don’t repent; or, change their minds after being with.

Delving deeper into expository exegesis of examples we read in Jonah, “So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days’ walk. Then Jonah began to go through the city one day’s walk; and he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.’ Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.”

The wicked Ninevites changed their minds after being with the preaching of Jonah. They didn’t require a sign from heaven but only the preaching of an incredibly flawed prophet named Jonah. Contrarily, the Pharisees had heard the teaching of Jesus, they even called him “teacher.” They also studied the Scriptures and were present for many miracles, yet they would not change their minds after being with Jesus.

Moving on in the context, “And He left them, and went away. And the disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread. And Jesus said to them, ‘Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ And they began to discuss among themselves, saying, ‘It is because we took no bread.'”

Jesus, who speaks primarily in parables and who performs many miracles including feeding five thousand and four thousand men respectively, said to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Did the disciples really think Jesus was rebuking them for not bringing bread? It’s like the disciples discernment is that of a teenager–they saw a metaphor and immediately misconstrued​ it. The man constantly spoke in metaphors, they have witnessed the many miracles with their own eyes and have just seen another exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus, surely they have grown accustomed to Jesus by now. No, they have not, the context confirms this; “It is because we took no bread.”

The disciples, like the Pharisees and Sadducees and scribes and the “lost sheep of Israel” and me, have not yet changed their way of thinking based upon being with Jesus. If they had only remembered to bring bread, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this situation, in which we all need to ask ourselves, have I truly changed my way of thinking?

Forget about my life in its entirety but focus on the 10-12 days a year that I join a group of short-term missionaries and head to a certain communist country in the Caribbean. Every year it is met with challenges. This year we were denied religious visas meaning that we couldn’t teach, preach or work, we could only help. Fast forward to today and once again, we have returned from a semi-successful mission trip. We wish we could have done more but the Lord’s providence in our trip was clearly seen by us, as it always has been. We were limited in what we could do so it was important that the church down there took ownership of the projects. Nevertheless, please pray for religious visas next year because they need to be taught to consider the context.

Ironically, we brought bread. Bread being an amalgam of different foods. But like the disciples, not one of us understood what God was doing by allowing our religious visas to be denied.

“It is because we took no bread.’ But Jesus, aware of this, said, ‘You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?'”

Jesus is the most patient person ever present on the planet. The disciples did what we all do, took the metaphorical meaning of what Jesus said out of context and applied it to themselves. Leaven or yeast, is used to rise bread. They forgot bread. Therefore the Lord is scolding them, even though he said, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Sarcasm alert: Pharisees, Saudducees, beware, watch out for, leaven–add it all up and it equals forgetting bread. In conclusion, just remember the bread!

The very patient Jesus reminds them; “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?

We are more than half way through the context of Matthew and it appears that the only people who understand Jesus remotely are the “dogs.” I believe this is one of Matthew’s aspirations to his audience. Look at all this context. Jesus continues to preach and teach and perform many miracles but the “lost sheep of Israel” don’t seem to get it. But the “dogs” and foreigners do. They entreat Jesus humbly with their requests, laying low and begging Jesus for healing.

And yet it was all predicted in Isaiah 65. Taking another dose of Vitamin E: “I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here am I, here am I, To a nation which did not call on My name.”

That’s all well and good for the nations, but what does the Lord say to the nation of Israel? “I have spread out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in the way which is not good, following their own thoughts, (Matthew 15:3-9, which quotes Isaiah) people who continually provoke Me to My face, Offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; Who sit among graves, and spend the night in secret places; Who eat swine’s flesh, And the broth of unclean meat is in their pots.”

Now, remember that the disciples are sent out in the end of Matthew and they are all Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Paul was exceedingly, abundantly Jewish and he writes, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” There is no call or allowance for anti-Semitism. Nor is there any call for discrimination of any kind. God does not condemn the people of Israel, they are his first fruits. He only condemns their traditions and culture. Yes, most of blood Israel will not be saved. But here is a newflash for us to reckon with, most of the other nations will not be saved as well. “Narrow is the path, and few are those who find it.” Matthew is in fact, writing to a Jewish audience to prove Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Anti-Semitism is completely out of the question.

As we continue in the context we will see that Jesus is doing away with nations, bloodlines and boundaries and making all nations a part of the true Israel, that is Himself. If members of said nations change their minds after being with Jesus.

Therefore watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. They may talk a good talk but they do not walk a good walk.

 

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