Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Leaven of the Pharisees

Mark 8:14-21 (ESV) Now they had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. [15] And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." [16] And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. [17] And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? [18] Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? [19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" They said to him, "Twelve." [20] "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" And they said to him, "Seven." [21] And he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?" The disciples come out to be a little dense at times, one of the great and funny things about the gospels. Most people when writing about events have a tendency to make themselves out to be better during the events than they really were. Not the disciples, they record their warts, their failings, their stupidity. It’s one of the things testifying to the overall trustworthiness of their accounts of what happened, they aren’t afraid to be truthful. It is something we can learn from the disciples. And it’s a bit ironic that it happens here as Jesus talks of the leaven of the Pharisees. That leaven is pride, that leaven is hubris. The disciples seem to have heeded the admonition of Jesus because the show none of it in the recording of this story. Leaven is code for sin. That is what it represents. And it only takes a little leaven to leaven the whole lump. Just a drop of legalism can ruin the gospel. Legalism breeds pride and hubris, boasting and other unpleasant things. Not the law, but legalism. There is a difference. The law properly applied should result in humility. But improperly applied it makes people think they are doing something great for God, that they are actually avoiding sin, climbing the down ladder as it were. And when legalism infects a community it gets people to start putting on airs, masking their true sinful self. In fact the other day I ran into this in a discussion with a friend and his friends, when I said I had enough trouble following the ten commandments and I didn’t need anymore rules, I was chastised for being a sinner, and others were told they probably shouldn’t listen to me. To them, I was obviously proud of my sin. I felt a little sad for them. Wondered what Bible they read, because there is only one guy in the Bible who comes out with no sin, and he died for the rest of us. This is what the disciples knew. They knew they were forgiven. They knew they didn’t have to hide who they were from anyone. They could be open about their failings because they knew that was the only way others who were hurting under their sins would listen to them, and receive the forgiveness they need from Jesus Christ. It’s those who think they have no sin, who have the most sin, if there really was such a thing as “most sin.” But they have a much more dangerous sin, because their sin, blinds them. Christianity isn’t about living a perfect life, it is about living a forgiven life. And when you live a forgiven life, you aren’t worried about hiding your sin, hiding yourself, or acting as if you are better than others.

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