Dangerous Leaven
Matthew 16:6
Then Jesus said to them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.…

It is astonishing to us that our Lord's disciples should have been so slow to understand the simplest metaphors employed in the teaching of their Master. When he speaks of leaven, they think of baker's bread! The fact that the evangelists describe this singular backwardness is a strong evidence of the truthfulness of the Gospel writings; for it is not to be supposed that such humiliating circumstances would have been invented or imagined by a later generation which regarded the apostles with the greatest reverence. The backwardness itself must have been one of the trials of Christ; his efforts to meet it and overcome it reveal his wonderful patience and perseverance. By such means he succeeds in bringing his warning lesson home to the dullest comprehension (vers. 11, 12).


1. Evil influences in her midst. The leaven is plunged into the meal; it cannot produce any effect until it is thus mixed up with what it is to influence. We have to beware, not only of entirely external dangers, but of such as are found in the very teaching and practices of Christian people.

2. Subtle influences. The leaven is almost invisible. There is at first but "a little leaven." Obscure, unobserved influences may be the causes of much serious harm.

3. Spreading influences. The growing power of the leaven, its marvellous capacity for propagating itself, makes it a serious thing to admit but a little. Sinful ideas tend to spread and permeate Christian society when once they are permitted to exist unchecked.

II. THE LEAVEN OF EVIL MAY COME FROM RESPECTED AUTHORITIES, The Pharisees were the professed saints of their day; the Sadducces were the party of the priesthood and of the national council. Yet both of these were spoken of by our Lord as sources of evil influence. We can with difficulty picture to ourselves the immense significance of his words. It is as though the mediaeval Church were warned against the influence of the monks and priests; as though the Church of today were told that there was danger for her in the presence of the most pious looking of her communicants and the most respected of her ministers. Surely here is a warning against being misled by appearances in religion.

III. THE LEAVEN MAY ASSUME VARIOUS FORMS. It is startling to meet this conjunction of Pharisees and Sadducees, because we know that the two parties were bitterly opposed to one another; but then we also know that they were brought into a sort o partnership in their common enmity to Jesus Christ. Now, both of them are represented as constiuting the dangerous leaven.

1. Pretentious piety. This is one of the most dangerous of evil influences, because

(1) it ensnares with a show of religion, and

(2) it denies the true essence of religion. It is hypocrisy (Luke 12:1).

2. Worldly scepticism. The doubt of the typical Sadducee was not the perplexity of the serious student of truth; it was the scoffing indifference of the man of the world who did not believe in the spiritual because his whole life was absorbed in the earthly.

IV. THE DANGER OF THE LEAVEN NECESSITATES A WATCHFUL ATTITUDE. "Take heed and beware." It is not enough to cultivate Christian graces. The servant of Christ must be a soldier as well as a husbandman. He must stand as a sentry challenging all suspicious thoughts and influences. He must exercise the policeman's office in arresting the dangerous disturbers of the peace and purity of his soul. - W.F.A.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

WEB: Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

The Leaven of Error
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