The Religious Leader’s Demand

When a traveler in the early days of the west, came to the Mississippi, he discovered there was no bridge. Fortunately it was winter and the great river was sheeted over with ice. But the traveler was afraid to trust himself to it, not knowing how thick it was. Finally with infin … More


We find the Pharisees and Sadducees who are normally opposing each other, uniting in one common effort to silence Jesus (v. 1). The Pharisees were the traditionalists of their day and the Sadducees were the liberals. For the fourth time these religious leaders were asking for a sign more spectacular than healing.

In reply Jesus rebuked them for not being able to interpret the “signs of the times” that had already been given. They were able to predict the weather but they could not or would not interpret the spiritual signs of the times  (v. 2-3). They did not lack evidence; they lacked honesty and humility.  Their demand for a sign revealed the sad condition of their hearts; they were evil and adulterous. Once before Jesus had spoken of the “sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39-41). As Jonah had spent theee days in the belly of the great fish, so Jesus would spend three days “in the heart of the earth” before His resurrection.

As Jesus left these religious leaders, He warned His disciples against leaven (false doctrine) of the Pharisees and Sadducees (vv. 4-5). The disciples misunderstood Him and thought He was referring to the fact they had forgotten to bring along bread for the trip. They were more concerned about their own lack of food than what Jesus was trying to teach them (vv. 6-12). Because of this He rebuked them for their lack of faith in Him to provide. He reminded them of how He had multiplied the bread and fish for the 5,000 and the 4,000. Their “little faith” kept them from understanding His teaching and depending on His power to meet their needs.


Have I ever found myself so concerned about some need that I have, that I forgot that God has already met similar needs and He will meet this need also? Concerns and anxiety can hinder me from learning the spiritual truths He wants to teach me in a present circumstance.

Matthew 16:1-12 (English Standard Version)

And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." So he left them and departed. When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, "Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, "We brought no bread." But Jesus, aware of this, said, "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »