Religious Blindness: Matthew 16:5-12
“5) And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6) And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7) They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 8) But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9) Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10) Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11) 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.” 12) 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 ‭16‬:‭5‬-‭12‬ ‭‬‬
This story illustrates how quickly we can become blind to truth. Because they entered the boat without taking bread, they thought Jesus was scolding them by saying, “Watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Evidently, packing a little bread for the journey was becoming a religious tradition for the disciples. I’m amazed how quickly traditions can form and how controlling they can become.
Jesus quickly called them out for having so little faith. The Provider was right in the boat with them. He had multiplied bread to feed 5,000 and then 4,000 with many baskets in excess. He could easily take care of the physical needs of His twelve disciples. So what were they missing?
The teaching and traditions of the Pharisees and Sadducees were far more dangerous than physical hunger. Because of their religious traditions, they rejected Jesus as Messiah. Worse yet, they denied the realm of the supernatural altogether. The Sadducees even denied a resurrection and the after life. They reduced “God” to the small box of “religious traditions.”
Legalism can render faith and reliance on God void. It can hypnotize people to the point of self reliance. Soon they start living as if faith in God doesn’t matter in everyday life. It results in a spiritual naturalism where self and not God is the center of the universe. Religious traditions and ceremony can quickly become king.
I have watched many sincere Christians embrace man made traditions and doctrines to the point of displacing Scripture. They are so loyal to a denomination they miss the Savior. The Pharisees and Sadducees embraced their traditions to the point that they used them to nail Jesus to the cross.
This was the leaven Jesus was warning against. Beware lest you become so devout to a certain religious sect that you become blind to biblical truth! Institutional religion at some point displaces God and becomes its own standard of truth.
I can point to a long list of false world religions that have descended into this pit. Sadly, many Christian denominations have also displaced Jesus as Lord and replaced the Bible with traditions. Listen carefully; there is no blindness like religious blindness.
Beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees! Religious traditions and ceremony are an empty substitute for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the walk in the Spirit. It is a pit so easy to fall into that in this text Jesus issued a special warning to His disciples; “Beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees!”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global