Matthew: Jesus, Pharisees, Sadducees And Disciples

Memory Verse: Matthew 16:12

16:1-4 The Signs Of The Time

  • 16:1 Jesus is now in the coasts of Magdala (or the region of Magadan). The Pharisees and Sadducees came together to Jesus to put Him to the test with a desire that He would fail and they would show the true nature of Jesus according to what they believed about Him. Therefore, they asked (desired) Jesus to show them “a sign from heaven.” They wanted Jesus to perform an undeniable miracle that would verify that was divine in nature and therefore proving Jesus is who He claimed to be. They weren’t asking out of sincerity, but they were antagonist—actively hostile and opposing Jesus—thus it seems they were looking for another reason to find fault with Jesus according to their own standards, even if the miracle was performed.
    Matthew 15:39
  • The Pharisees (legalist) are a Jewish religious sect who hypocritically try to follow the law, making their own rules and regulations, and who are proud of their own righteousness after the tradition of man. They believed in angels, heaven, and life after death. They didn’t welcome cooperation and compromise with others.
  • The Sadducees (liberals) were also a religious sect who denied supernatural things. They only accept the first five books of the Old Testament. They denied belief in angels, heaven and life after death. They welcomed cooperation and compromise.
  • 16:2-4 Jesus responds to their request in the following manner:
    Matthew 4:5-7; 12:24, 38-40
  • First, He points out their ability to distinguish the weather based on the sky. They knew that if the sky was red in the evening there will be fair weather the following day. But if the sky is red and gloomy (lowring) in the morning there will be foul weather that day.
  • Second, He called them hypocrites because they could discern the face of the sky but they couldn’t discern the signs of the times—meaning they couldn’t discern who Jesus was from all the signs that He as already given to them. Jesus, the Son of God, was among them but they were so set in their ways that they couldn’t understand who He was.
  • Third, Jesus calls them a “wicked and adulterous generation”—meaning they were morally bad or wrong and they had gone after other gods and not been faithful to the one true God, therefore, no sign would be given to them—especially not the kind of sign that is demanded by skeptics. Signs are received not by demanding for them but received as God freely gives them according to His own purposes. They are only useful to those who have faith and not to the faithless. We are not to tempt God and put Him to the test. It shows our lack of faith, trust and dependence on Him and His word. Jesus knew this and would not play their games or do “magic tricks” for their entertainment.
  • Fourth, the only sign that will be given to them is the sign of the prophet Jonah (Jonas). This sign will be sufficient for them. Like Jonah was in the whale’s belly for three days, so will Jesus be buried for three days and then resurrect from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection will be the sign and infallible proof that He is the Messiah. Finally, He left them, and departed. Application: Jesus resurrection is the greatest sign that we have that Jesus is the Christ. We don’t need to seek any other signs, but we need to put our faith in the sign that we already have. Trust Jesus.

16:5-12 Beware Of False Doctrine

  • 16:5-6 When Jesus and His disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, His disciples realized they had forgotten to take bread with them. Jesus uses this as a teaching time and says to them “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” At this time, people often made their own bread. Leaven is a substance (often some of the dough from last week’s bread) that is used to produce fermentation in the dough and causes the bread to rise. The focus is on the changing power of the leaven in the meal or the “influence” of the leaven. So Jesus is clearly telling His disciples to be careful, prudent and on guard about the influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Even though their teachings were different (legalism and liberalism), they represented a common adversary against Jesus and His teachings (grace).
  • 16:7-12 But the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ meaning and they reasoned among themselves thinking that Jesus’ saying had something to do with them not taking bread with them. When Jesus perceived that they didn’t understand His saying, He responded by saying:
  • First, He points out their little faith. Even if Jesus was referring to the fact that they didn’t bring bread with them on the trip, did they not understand and remember the two miracles that Jesus already performed among the hungry multitudes. He fed over five thousand people with five loaves of bread with twelve baskets of leftovers. He also fed over four thousand people with seven loaves of bread with seven baskets of leftovers. If the lack of bread was a problem, then they are to have faith in Jesus to provided for them. Application: How often do we forget what God has done for us and even though we have seen Him do great things, we don’t trust Him to do the same when we run into problems in the future?
    Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39
  • Secondly, Jesus is still a little baffled at how is it that they did not understand what He said about the bread. He then repeats the warning: “that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” Finally, after this explanation from Jesus they understood its meaning. Jesus told them to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Therefore, “leaven” is referring to the doctrine or the teachings of these two groups and the negative influence that it has. Application: We are to “be on alert” against false teaching or any teaching that is against Jesus. It doesn’t matter that actually teaching, as the teachings of these two groups were different, because their teachings is unified in their antagonism—to actively oppose Jesus and His mission in this world.

Review Questions

  • What were the Pharisees and Sadducees seeking?
  • How did Jesus respond to them?
  • What is the greatest sign we have from Jesus?
  • What were the disciples confused about?
  • How did Jesus respond to them?

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