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May 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Day Forty-four – Matthew 16:1-12

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you
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. Matthew 16:11-12

In Matthew 16, we revisit themes from the beginning of Jesus ministry, perhaps because from this point on, Jesus is looking toward its end (e.g., v. 21). For example, in both chapters 4 and 16

  • Jesus’ identity is placed in the spotlight (4:3, “If You are the Son of God” & 16:13-17, “But who do you say that I am?”)
  • Jesus is challenged to prove who he is by performing a miracle (4:3 & 16:1)
  • Jesus experienced the challenge as a temptation (4:1 & 16:1 where “testing” translates the same Greek word for “tempting”)
  • Bread is an important issue (4:3 & 16:5-12).
  • Jesus responds to temptation with the command, “Go, Satan” (4:10 & 16:23, where he says, “Go behind Me”).
  • Jesus defines the role of his disciples (4:19, “Follow Me” & 16:24, “deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me”)
Pharisees and Sadducees were divided theologically and therefore they seldom appear together, but they were united in their attack on Jesus (Mt. 22:15, 23).
When they asked for “a sign from heaven,” Jesus referred them back to their ability to read the sky (the same Greek word for heaven). They asked him to deliver something from the supernatural realm, but there was plenty in the natural realm to lead them in the right direction if they would “discern the signs of the times” (Mt. 16:4). What would have happened if at that moment Jesus had given them a sign big enough to convince them that he was “the Christ, the Son of the living God”? (v. 16) If you said, “They would have believed in him,” you are wrong. They would not have believed, they would have been convinced.
The request for a sign that proves God exists, that the Bible is his word, or to show the world that he is God, reveals our desire to eliminate doubt. But if all doubt is removed, then there is no more room for faith. Certainty is not faith, it is something else.
God wants our faith, because believing and trusting him reveals our love for him. God will never, in our lifetime, so satisfy our rational mind as to leave no room for faith.
Teaching is to a community what leaven is to bread–it permeates and affects everything. So Jesus warned his disciples away from the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Jesus does not offer himself to us through miracle, but through faith. Jesus refused their request, saying all they would get was “the sign of Jonah” and “then He left them and went away. This is how it works, you either love him or lose him.
Lord, we are exactly like Your first disciples. It is our “little faith” that prevents us from understanding You, from moving beyond what we can learn from others to what is learned only by revelation. Thank You for Your generous patience with us. May Your Spirit prepare us for the next step with You. (See Mt. 16:17)
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