Matthew 16:1-12: The Pharisees Ask for a Sign Again
Posted by adventbiblestudy on March 16, 2012
Matthew 16:1-12 MKJV The Pharisees and the Sadducees came to Him, tempting Him. And they asked Him that He would show them a sign from Heaven. (2) He answered and said to them, When it is evening, you say, Fair weather; for the sky is red. (3) And in the morning, Foul weather today; for the sky is red and gloomy. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot see the signs of the times! (4) A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. And there shall no sign be given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah. And He left them and went away. (5) And when His disciples had come to the other side, they forgot to take loaves. (6) And Jesus said to them, Take heed, and beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. (7) And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no loaves. (8) And knowing Jesus said to them, Why do you reason among yourselves because you took no loaves, little-faiths? (9) Do you not yet understand, nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many hand baskets you took up; (10) nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many lunch baskets you took up? (11) How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you about loaves, but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? (12) Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
After Jesus repeated the sequence of healing and feeding thousands, the Pharisees once again approached Him, asking for a sign. John remembered hearing this same question before. He also remembered the answer Jesus provided. This time Jesus tried a different approach. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening, you say, Fair weather; for the sky is red. And in the morning, Foul weather today; for the sky is red and gloomy. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky, but you cannot see the signs of the times!”
John also remembered an encounter Jesus had with another Pharisee named Nicodemus. Jesus asked him, “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12 MKJV).
Jesus told Nicodemus about the Holy Spirit, and being born again. Nicodemus did not understand either of the subjects at the time, but asked Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” He did not know Jesus was referring to a spiritual birth which involved forsaking the ways of the world in order to learn the truth concerning the spiritual connection God is longing for.
Jesus was taking a new approach with the Pharisees. He was trying to show them their beliefs were flawed. Their methods may be correct to a degree, but they are not infallible. Having grown up on the edge of the sea, John knew how quickly the weather changes without warning. Storms roll in from the mountains with little notice. Winds travel faster than anything known to men. It reminded John of a verse in Isaiah. “Can anyone tell the LORD what to do? Who can teach him or give him advice? With whom does God consult in order to know and understand and to learn how things should be done?” (Isaiah 40:13-14 GNB).
Just as John had expected, Jesus repeated the same answer He provided to the Pharisees some months ago. “A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. And there shall no sign be given to it, except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” The disciples themselves still wondered what the answer meant. It reminded some of them, they wanted to review the scriptures to find the answer. Jesus looked at the Pharisees. Jesus could tell by the look on their faces, they had not consulted the scriptures for an answer.
Some times the answers can only come by a sincere and individual search for the truth. If Jesus had given them the answer at this time, they would have mocked Him. It was not the proper time. Their hearts were not open to the truth. The answer could have been found in the scriptures at any time. It was there for hundreds of years, ready to be revealed. All it needed was an open heart, praying to the Holy Spirit for guidance to understand the hidden meaning.
There was nothing more to Jesus to say. It was not the answer the Pharisees were looking for. In their minds they had gained a victory. As they congratulated one another, Jesus headed off along the shoreline, His disciples following close behind. The gentle splashing of waves helped ease the disciple’s tensions. After a short walk Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” The rhythm of the waves relaxed the disciples more than expected. For some reason it seemed they had forgotten the prior events of the day. Their minds went back to the mountain where Jesus had fed the four thousand. They suddenly realized, no one had brought the leftover bread. Sensing their confusion, Jesus listened to the explanations each offered to one another. After observing their reaction Jesus asked, “Why do you reason among yourselves because you took no loaves, little-faiths? Do you not yet understand, nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many hand baskets you took up; nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many lunch baskets you took up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you about loaves, but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?”
As soon as Jesus repeated the phrase, “the Pharisees and Sadducees,” the disciples immediately remembered the encounter only a few minutes ago. Now they understood, Jesus was referring to the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They could see how their doctrine had only one answer. They used doctrine to explain everything. Some of the disciples felt ashamed they did not take the time to study the question. They knew it could not be explained by human efforts.
John considered the relationship between Jesus’ talk with Nicodemus and His answer to the Pharisees question. “Truly, truly, I say to you, Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6 MKJV). John was beginning to see, they could not understand Jesus’ lessons until they put away everything they had learned. Something was holding them back. It had something to do with the doctrines they have been taught and observed all their lives.
John began to wonder if there was any connection between the three days in the story of Jonah, and the three days Jesus healed before He fed the people who followed Him to the mountain.
John was also beginning to see how the Pharisees used doctrine as a weapon. He remembered the words of David, the beginning of the Psalms. “Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, and has not stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of the scornful.” (Psalms 1:1 MKJV).