Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Then Jesus cautioned His disciples, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” Then they understood that He had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Matthew 16:11b-12
The Pharisees and the Sadducees, two quasi-political Jewish parties with quite different approaches to theology. The Pharisees might be seen as the “reactionary-conservatives” hoping that returning to the “old ways” would bring about the return of the glory of Israel and shake off this Roman occupation. The Sadducees might be seen as the “philosophical-progressives” hoping that accommodation of Graeco-Roman philosophy with the Jewish faith would bring about an enlightenment of the faith. Though they are so often paired together in scripture, they were seriously in conflict with each other with only the matter of the Roman persecution to hold them together in alliance.
But Christ cautions his traveling rabbinical school of disciples to be vigilant about “yeast” that is present in either of these religious-political parties, a yeast that seems to be but a bit of this or that but eventually changes the whole loaf. Yeast was an oft-used metaphor in Jewish theology. Often it is used to signify something that slowly changes a soul, sometimes for the good, more often for the bad.
So what IS this “yeast” of which Christ speaks? Oh, a million sermons have tried to flesh out the specifics and the possibilities are multitude. After a lifetime of reflection on these words of Christ I think Christ’s concern about the “yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” surely included the following.
The yeast of the Pharisees was the notion that a retreat into even more legalism of the past would restore glory. “No, my disciples, we must be pilgrims into a new future of Divine possibility and not a people trying to restore the past. Our salvation will not come through rules and laws ever more rigid and widespread, but by the entering to the Creative process of a new Realm of God.
The yeast of the Sadducees was the notion that we must alloy the faith with the understanding of this world in order to insure our survival and salvation. “No, my disciples, we must be guided not by the worldly rudders of materialism, self-indulgence, greed and lust for power, but by the heavenly rudders of love and mercy, compassion and self-giving, goodness and godliness.
To the contrary, Christ might offer that we are to be the good, pure, heavenly yeast in this world, transforming both souls and histories into a more heavenly realm.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz