Mark 8:15
"Watch out!" He cautioned them. "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod."
A Sign from HeavenR. Green Mark 8:1-21
The Feeding of the for ThousandJ.J. Given Mark 8:1-21
Craving for SignsE. Johnson Mark 8:11-21
LeavenR. Green Mark 8:14-21
The Leaven of the Pharisees and of HerodA.F. Muir Mark 8:14-21
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.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.
Our Lord's warning against false doctrine.

I. A SUGGESTIVE FIGURE OF SPEECH. "Leaven."(1) A suggestive figure of the power of influence, good or bad.


(b)Subtle in its aggressiveness.

(c)Unless resisted, all-conquering in its subtlety.(2) Our Lord's suggestive use of this figure.

(a)To represent the powerful influence of erroneous doctrine.

(b)To represent the danger to which His disciples were exposed from erroneous doctrines, notwithstanding their superior advantages, arising from the instructions He gave them.

II. A SUGGESTIVE EXAMPLE OF THE EXERCISE OF BAD INFLUENCE.(1) Its agency. Pharisees.(a) The secret of their power.

1. Their ecclesiastical, social, and political position.

2. Their great pretensions to piety — in fasting and prayer.(2) Its method. Doctrine.

(a)Public teaching a great power for good or evil.

(b)As the respect felt for the Pharisees enhanced their power, so our respect for either the genius or supposed sincerity of a public teacher enhances his power.(3) An imperative duty in view of this fact. "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good."

(D. C. Hughes, M. A.)

This caution was probably suggested by His late interview with the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

I. THE DOCTRINE OF THE PHARISEES chiefly hinged upon two tenets.

1. Acceptance with God on the ground of legal performances.

2. The obligation of the tradition of the elders. These led to multiplied observances of a legal kind, pride and boasting, hypocrisy, laxity of morals.

II. THE DOCTRINES OF THE SADDUCEES, here called the leaven of Herod, were opposed to these. Notice only three, as having a practical influence. They denied —

1. The separate existence of the soul.

2. The resurrection of the dead.

3. The superintending providence of God.These led to the removal of restraint to vicious indulgences. Sadduceeism characterized the generation which has disappeared. Phariseeism the present.


1. They affect the whole character.

2. The whole mass of society. "Take heed," etc. The one, sanctimoniousness; the other, licentiousness.

(Expository Discourses.)

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