The Leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod
Mark 8:14-21
Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

The parabolic habit of mind of Christ was essential to the setting forth of Divine truth to the comprehension of men; but as yet the persons who might have been expected to understand his teaching most thoroughly, were continually mistaking it. Whilst their Master discoursed of heavenly things, the thoughts of the disciples were upon the earth. There is nothing so reveals the moral and spiritual distance of persons from one another as the difference in their habits of mind.


1. In over-anxiety. The disciples had by inadvertency omitted to take in a supply of bread ere leaving the shore, and their minds were full of trouble. They began to forecast the inconvenience to which it might expose them. Over-carefulness is a common feature of worldly character. It arises from too great self-dependence and too little faith in God. A certain, moderate attention to earthly wants is a duty, and will be bestowed by every well-regulated mind; but there are limits to be observed. "Be not anxious for your life," etc. (Matthew 6:25). It is a great aim of the spiritual life to be free from this bondage to minute worries and cares.

2. In failure to attend to or understand Divine things. The disciples were so taken up with this little matter that they utterly failed to perceive Christ's meaning, when he warned them against the Pharisees and Herodians. That they should be so was also a proof that they had forgotten the teaching of the two miracles of the loaves and fishes. For this Christ reproved them. His cross-questioning elicited the fact that the details of these miracles were still recollected; but the spiritual lessons had been completely lost. So to speak, these spiritual tours de force had been thrown away upon them. How hard a race has the Divine life with earthly concern and anxiety in the soul! There is a littleness in such habits of thought that effectually prevents the great ideas of the Divine kingdom from entering the mind. Herein is to be found the explanation of the failure of many services and sermons, which in themselves may have been faithful and devout enough: the hearers are occupied with worldly cares. "The cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the Word, and it becometh unfruitful" (Mark 4:19).


1. Christ, referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Herodians, warned against that conception of the Messiah, as one who was to be an earthly king, establishing a temporal dominion, which the leaders of Judaism held. The state of mind of the disciples was eminently favorable to such a view. In them it was only a tendency, in the Pharisees a fixed point of view; and thus the latter wholly missed the spiritual element in the Saviour's teaching. They were filled with visions of national restoration and individual aggrandizement; and failing to receive encouragement from Christ in these, "they were offended in him," and began to seek his destruction. The same danger still haunts the Church of Christ, the absolutely spiritual nature of the Divine kingdom having been one of the most slowly developed of Christian doctrines.

2. The power and the insidiousness of this point of view are suggested by the figure of "leaven." Leaven works slowly, but a very little affects a large amount. "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump." To minds already prepared by habit and tendency in that direction, it would be a comparatively easy thing to adopt the worldly interpretation of prophecy given forth by the Pharisees. Indeed, if they were only let alone, the "leaven" was already within them, and would assuredly develop into the same fundamental heresy. To think thus of Christ and his kingdom is "to come short of it," to our own hurt and ruin; "for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost" (Romans 14:17). - M.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.

WEB: They forgot to take bread; and they didn't have more than one loaf in the boat with them.

The Leaven of the Pharisees
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