Sermon #32 Series: Mark
Title: Watch Out For The Leaven!
Text: Mark 8:10-21
Readings: Office: Ron Wood Auditorium: Larry Criss
Subject: The Leaven of The Pharisees
Date: Sunday Evening - November 9, 1997
Tape # U-19
We have before us a very solemn portion of Scripture. The Lord Jesus came into a place called “Dalmanutha” preaching the gospel. We are told that he came there by ship. What a blessed opportunity the people of that region were given! The Son of God came into their midst with his disciples, with the gospel of free grace and salvation. But the opportunity and privilege afforded them in God’s good providence was despised. Not one person in that place seems to have availed himself of the privilege set before him. Instead, our Master was confronted by a group of self-righteous religionists who wanted to argue doctrine with him. Because of their folly, the Holy Spirit tells us, that the Lord Jesus turned around, got back into the ship with his disciples, and sailed away. What a solemn passage of Scripture this is. May God the Holy Spirit be our Teacher and open it to us, and open our understanding to it. May he be pleased to effectually instruct our hearts and use his Word to convey to us the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Proposition: In these verses the Holy Spirit uses the Pharisees, their doctrine, and the weaknesses of his own disciples to teach us three very important lessons. May he give us grace to learn them and lay them to heart.
I. NOTHING IS MORE DISGUSTING AND CONTEMPTUOUS TO THE SON OF GOD THAN SMUG, RELIGIOUS HYPOCRISY AND SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS (vv. 10-13).
These Pharisees, presuming themselves to be righteous, had no need for the grace preached by the Son of God and the redemption he had come to accomplish. To them the gospel of grace was an affront. Who needs grace, when you are righteous? Notice four things here.
A. These men came to the Master not to learn, but to ask carping questions of no prophet.
“They began to question him.” They did not ask questions to learn, but to discuss and debate, to show how much they knew. We are warned again and again to avoid such people.
There are many who are ever learning, but never come to the knowledge of the truth. They play religious games, trifling with the Word of God, with less reverence than the Supreme Court does the Constitution of the United States. They think they are smart, spiritual giants; but they are really spiritual morons and pigmies. Our Lord refused to answer their question. He would not stoop to debating with them about holy things.
B. These religious zealots came to the Lord Jesus seeking a sign.
Paul told us later, “The Jews, (lost religious people), require after a sign. The Gentiles, (lost irreligious people), seek after wisdom.” Both groups reject the authority of God and his Word. Both pretend that they would believe, if you could give them either a sign from heaven or intellectual proof. But they deceive themselves. Notice this fact - The Lord Jesus refused to give them a sign. He said, There shall no sign be given to this generation.”
They wanted a sign from heaven. Many signs had already been given on earth, signs that could be easily investigated; but they would not receive them. There was a public sign from heaven at his baptism, in the descent of the dove, and the voice (Mt. 3:16, 17). If they had attended John the Baptist’s ministry as they ought to have done and could have done, they might themselves have seen it. Our Lord’s miracles of mercy were all performed in the most public manner. Not one of them was ever disputed by anyone. But those whose faith is built on signs and miracles never have enough signs. We see this in the fact that afterward, when the Lord of glory was nailed to the cross, they prescribed a new sign; Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe him.
Matthew Henry correctly observed - “Thus obstinate infidelity will still have something to say, though ever so unreasonable. They demanded this sign, tempting him; not in hopes that he would give it them, that they might be satisfied, but in hopes that he would not, that they might imagine themselves to have a pretence for their infidelity.”
C. Nothing is more contemptuous than religious infidelity and hypocrisy.
The Scriptures tell us here that “He sighed deeply in his Spirit.” Here is the God of glory sighing, sighing deeply in his spirit, groaning as one in painful vexation of soul. Then he said, “Why doth this generation seek after a sign?”
· This Generation - that was so unworthy to have the gospel brought to it, and to have any sign accompanying it?
· This Generation - that so greedily swallows the traditions of the elders, without the confirmation of any sign at all?
· This Generation - into which, by the calculating of the times set and revealed in the Old Testament, they might easily perceive that the coming of the Messiah must fall?
· This Generation - which had seen such great wonders and miracles as were given to none before or since? What an absurdity is it for this generation to seek after a sign!
When God speaks to you in his Word, as he has, it is the height of presumption to demand signs and proofs from the Almighty. Shall a man teach God knowledge? Our Lord denied the demand of these pompous Pharisees. With disgust and contempt he said, No. I will not give you a sign!
D. Now, look at verse 13.
Oh, what a solemn word this is. “He left hem!” He left them in the darkness of their own light! He left them in the corruption of their own self-righteousness! He left them in the ignorance of their own brilliance! He left them forever!
Now, listen to me and hear what I am telling you. If God Almighty is kind enough, good enough, merciful enough to speak to you by his Word, by the gospel of his grace, and you are fool enough to spit in his face, despise his grace, and refuse to believe the record he has given of his Son, the time will come when he will leave you alone. And if God ever leaves you to alone to yourself, you will be left to yourself forever!
May God be pleased now to conquer you by his grace and cause you to both hear and heed his Word. May God now grant you faith in his dear Son, for Christ’s sake.
II. OUR GRACIOUS LORD WARNS US ONCE MORE TO BEWARE OF THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES AND OF HEROD (v. 15).
"Take heed, beware, lest you partake of the leaven of the Pharisees, lest you embrace the tradition of the elders, to which they are so wedded, lest you be proud, hypocritical ritualists like them.”
This was not an isolated warning. It is given to us numerous times. Matthew adds, and of the Sadducees; Mark adds, and of Herod. The Pharisees were religious conservatives. The Sadducees were religious liberals. Herod was an infidel. Our Lord warns us to ever beware of the leaven of these three groups. We are not left to guess what our Lord means for us to beware of
A. The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees is the leaven of false doctrine.
False doctrine is any doctrine, liberal or conservative, Catholic, or Protestant, or Jewish, or Muslim, or otherwise which makes salvation dependent upon you. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two distinct, doctrinally different religious sects among the Jews.
1. The Pharisees were self-righteous religious ritualists and conservative, theological purists, a form of religion which appeals to many. The Pharisees’ religion would appeal to most of the people you and I know.
2. The Sadducees were self-righteous religious liberals, just as ritualistic as the Pharisees, but theological liberals, the smug intellectuals who were tolerant of anything except the dogmatism of the gospel. The Sadducees’ religion is the religion of people who think they are smarter than God and more diverse thinking than hell.
3. Herod and those like him were self-serving, self-righteous worldlings, self-serving materialists, infidels who believed nothing and stood for nothing except that which would advantage themselves. They were pragmatists.
B. Our Lord warns us to beware of the leaven of false doctrine because “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump”.
That statement is used twice in the New Testament. Both times, the one making the statement is the apostle Paul.
1. We find this statement first in 1 Corinthians 5:6.
The leaven here refers to sin. The Spirit of God is warning us that like a little yeast in a large lump of dough will gradually spread through the whole lump, so the tolerance of any sin is disastrous. We must never be satisfied with anything less than perfection. Our goal must always be to “sin not” (1 John 2:1).
2. Paul tells us the very same thing about false doctrine in Galatians 5:9.
If we tolerate anything, be it a work, an experience, a feeling, or even a decision, if we tolerate anything, be it ever so small, as a condition we must meet in order to be saved, we cut ourselves off from Christ and from the grace of God in him. Salvation, from election to glorification, and everything in between, is the work of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. The voice of the world, the whole world, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herods, constantly says, “That’s too strict. That’s too dogmatic. That’s too bigoted.” But remember, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
False doctrine, like leaven in the dough, always begins with something small, almost undetectable. It moves through and permeates, with great very subtlety, but with deadly efficacy. The same thing is true of sin and worldliness. The deceitfulness of riches, the care of this world, and the lusts of other things, like leaven in the lump, begins with such small, insignificant compromises that they are hardly detectable until their work is done.
III. OUR TEXT SHOWS US PLAINLY THAT AS LONG AS WE ARE IN THIS WORLD WE WILL HAVE A SINFUL, FLESHLY DULLNESS TO ALL THINGS SPIRITUAL.
Read verses 14 and 16-21, and understand that the strongest believers in this world are very weak and full of unbelief. The most godly of saints in this world are only sinners still. The most learned and well instructed of God’s people are still dull of understanding. Abraham sometimes trembles. Lot, the righteous man, sometimes makes sinful choices. Job, the perfect man who fears God and eschews evil, will on some occasions curse the day of his birth. Noah, that man, on some given day, may be found in a drunken stupor. Moses, the meekest man who ever lived, will strike out at God himself with his rod, in a fit of temper. David, the man after God’s own heart, will, when left to himself commit adultery and then murder to protect his image. Bold Peter will wither before a maiden, cuss, and deny the Master he loves above anything. The Apostle Paul and his companion Barnabas, loyal, faithful friends, loyal, faithful servants of God, will, when weak and in the flesh, part company and never walk together again in this world. Is that not what you see here?
We are often overwhelmed with present cares and distrusts, because we do not understand, and remember, what we have known and seen of the power and goodness of our all glorious Savior.
Matthew Henry said, “When we thus forget the works of God, and distrust him, we should chide ourselves severely for it, as Christ doth his disciples here; ‘Am I thus without understanding? How is it that my heart is thus hardened?’’’
Why is it, do you suppose, that our God so plainly sets before us such weaknesses, sins, unbelief, and dullness of understanding in the lives of his beloved people? Let me give you a few reasons, and I will send you home to meditate upon them and apply the message to your own heart.
A. We must constantly be reminded that salvation is God’s work alone.
B. We must constantly be reminded not to think too highly of ourselves.
C. We need to learn to be tender, patient, forbearing with, and forgiving of one another.
D. We constantly need to be reminded that Christ alone gives us acceptance with God.
E. We must ever be reminded that it is he alone who keeps us in life, and in grace, and in faith.
F. We must never imagine, not as long as we live in this world, that we have arrived at anything close to perfection.
G. Yet, we must also be constantly reminded that though we are sin and do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, an ever living, ever faithful High Priest (1 John 2:1-2).
1. Beware of religious hypocrisy.
2. Beware of the leaven of false doctrine and of sin.
3. Beware of the sin that is in you.
4. Be aware of your all sufficient, ever faithful God and Savior.