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Yeast or Leaven

Yeast, or leaven, is a powerful fungus that can cause a lump of dough to rise into bread, ferment liquids into alcohol, or cause painful infections. When Jesus spoke of yeast in His comments about the Pharisees and Herod (v. 15), His disciples were quite confused. What could He mean? What was the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod'

Jesus reminded His followers of His miracles of feeding the five thousand and the four thousand (vv. 19-21; 6:35-44; 8:1-9). What was the response of the Pharisees? They disputed with Him and tried to test Him by appealing for a miracle (v. 11). In short, they refused to believe—despite the miraculous provision of meals for more than nine thousand people! Furthermore, they were already in league with Herod and his supporters to destroy Jesus (3:6; 12:13), just as Herod had done away with John the Baptist (6:14-29).

Clearly, Jesus was warning His followers against the insidious infection of unbelief. Like yeast in dough, a lack of faith can permeate one’s life until it breaks out in open rebellion against God. No wonder the Lord was so displeased with the disciples’ lack of perception (8:17-18). Perhaps the yeast of unbelief was already at work among them. After all, they had apparently failed to understand the significance of a feeding miracle the first time around (6:52); now they were missing it a second time!

Jesus had grave concern about the condition of His followers’ faith. He knew that there was danger ahead. Powerful enemies would lay hold of Him, and the disciples would be sorely tested. No wonder He took measures to keep a low profile (vv. 26, 30). He wanted to avoid exposing these men to the full force of His opponents before their faith was ready to handle such a trial.

None of us knows what dangers lie ahead for our faith. We may be headed for trials and challenges that we never imagined. Is our faith ready to meet whatever challenges come our way? Or have we let the yeast of unbelief gain a foothold, breaking down our trust in God and spreading resistance to Him throughout our life'

The Word in Life Study Bible, New Testament Edition, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville; 1993), pp. 160-161