In Matthew 16 Jesus tells His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The Pharisees were religious zealots. (The Sadducees are called Herodians in the account in Mark 8. In other words, the Sadducees were Jews who allied themselves to King Herod and to secular power.) It is clear from the context that Jesus is not talking about hypocrisy and legalism. There is a larger question.
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Jesus fed thousands with a few loaves (Matt 14:15-21). Then He walked on water (Matt 14:22-25). Then He healed everyone who came to Him (Matt 14:35-36).
Miracles … impressive? Not to everyone it seems. The Pharisees said: “Your disciples don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (Matt 15:1-2). That’s religion for you.
Faith says: my God is a miracle-working God. Faith says: my God will supply all my needs in Christ Jesus.
Religion says: the show is the thing. Religion says: do what we tell you to do. Religion says: “don’t break our traditions” (Matt 15:2)
“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees”, Jesus said (Matt 16:6). The leaven is the teaching of these religious types, we are told (Matt 16:12). And that’s what their teaching does … it makes the managers of the religious system powerful. It gives them control. It gives them authority. And religious groups fight to protect their status.
But Jesus tells His disciples: God works supernaturally. You don’t have bread? … don’t fret. You’ve seen … God multiplies.
God doesn’t respond to religious rituals and rule-keeping. God is looking at your heart. Do you believe? Don’t set up a religious system. Teach people to know Me … and trust Me, Jesus is saying.
There was a tax levied to pay for the running of the temple. The collectors came to Peter: “Does your Teacher pay the tax?”, they asked And Jesus said to Peter, “We are sons. Sons are exempt. But, so we don’t offend them, go to the sea, throw in a hook, take the first fish and in its mouth you’ll find the money to pay the tax” (see Matt 17:24-27).
Religion collects a church tax. Faith trusts God to provide. And, for God, it’s ridiculously easy to provide … if we will trust Him.
The only reason to set up organisation, resources, money-raising, is to establish something man can control.
In Jerusalem, Jesus cleansed the temple … once at the start of His ministry (John 2:13-16) and again before His death (Mark 11:15-17). Jesus drove out the people trading in the temple … doing business in His house. “My house is a house of prayer,” He said. “You have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 15:17).
The first Kingdom teaching [Mark 4:26-29]
The first teaching on the Kingdom of heaven says: “… a man sleeps. And while he sleeps the seed sprouts and grows. He has no idea how! The soil produces the crop by itself.”
That’s the life-force of God. Working in hearts … hidden. Man can’t do that. That’s God’s work.
The parable of the sower
Jesus’ first parable is the parable of the sower. It’s found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke [Matt 13:3-23 Mark 4:3-20 Luke 8:4-15].
Seed is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). The seed is cast wide. Some listen. Some don’t. Some grow. Some don’t.
Is the message forced on some and withheld from others? No. Seed falls on soil. The soil is the heart. Fruitful soil has vital characteristics.
#1 … Good soil is an understanding heart (Matt 13:23).
And the understanding is about Jesus, and forgiveness, and grace … in the cross … not self serving … but knowing Him. The word for “understanding” is the 7396th word in the original Greek text of the New Testament. (See LivingGreekNT.org for text and word order.) The word order is not accidental. God has arranged it this way.
7396 is 86 x 86. And 86 is the numeric value of the first word in the Bible for God … Elohim.
#2 … Good soil is someone who accepts the Word (Mark 4:16)
Mind is engaged … understanding. Will is engaged … free will. The fruitful person believes, and responds. Christianity isn’t something that is done to us. It’s a life we participate in.
#3 … Good soil stands for the person with a good and noble heart (Luke 8:15)
Mind is engaged. Will is engaged. And heart is engaged. This word … translated good or noble … is the 35,828th word in the original Greek text of the New Testament. And that number works out at 26 x 26 x 53. And that is not an accident. 26 is the value of the Old Testament word that represents the Name of the LORD. Jesus is the LORD.
The first heart condition … understanding: 86 x 86. The ultimate condition … a good heart: 26 x 26 x 53
What is the context of the parable of the sower? Context tells us something. Immediately before the parable, Jesus says: “These are My brothers … those who do the will of God.” (Matt 12:49-50 Mark 3:34)
Israel as a nation was chosen by God. But people had to respond … individually … in faith. Did they believe? If they didn’t believe God then they excluded themselves from His promise.
The parable of the sower shows this. Some seed grows but doesn’t develop deep roots and those fall away in time of trouble. Some seed gets choked by thorns … the cares of the world, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things kills the life of the Spirit.
But God’s people endure. Mind, heart and free will respond in faith, and out of the life of the Spirit fruit comes.
Immediately after the parable of the sower, in Luke, we read: “… light your lamp, put it on a stand … let everyone see …” (Luke 8:16-17). Jesus is the Light. And that’s our response. We lift up Jesus. We confess Him. It’s His life, His light in us.
And then Jesus builds His Kingdom. And He doesn’t need a religious system to do it.
With understanding of Hebraic thought, and awareness of design elements in the Scriptures, we take a journey of growth in Christ Jesus.
The seminar “Bringing sons to glory” starts with Session 1: “You are gods” What did Jesus mean? ... and continues through the Psalms of Ascent.
This series will increase your knowledge of biblical Hebrew.