Reflections . . . . Sunday March 29, 2020 – Fifth Sunday in Lent
This Week’s Encouraging Word:
“Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 (NLT)
Hymn Of Praise: “Crown Him With Many Crowns” #85 “Hymns For The Living Church”
(We can sing this together in our hearts and minds)
Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity.
Crown Him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die. Amen!
Scripture Reading taken from Matthew 16:1-12
Reading of God’s Word:
“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He replied, "When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,' 3 and in the morning, 'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4 A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." Jesus then left them and went away. 5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6 "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread." 8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9 Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11 How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:1-12
“It’s Not About The Bread!”
What a nerve wracking time we are living in! Who would have believed this could happen in our modern day of technological breakthroughs! Shuttered in, shelves empty, people panicking, restaurants and businesses closing, the old ways of carefree life have come crashing down around us. We suddenly realize how we are so much a part of the big world we live in. It seems this globe we live on has all of a sudden shrunk to our hourly news broadcasts. We are all in this battle together. What a time for our Christian witness and faith to shine in the darkness of this world! What we have to remember is that God is still in control and that His word continues to predict these times we live in during the last days. We can trust that He knows all about our troubles and that God cares for every one of His creatures. Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
I took part of a live conference call this week put on by the mayor of Kansas City. The call was addressing the role of the churches in the Kansas City, Kansas area. The statistics are alarming as this disease spreads. It was reported that for every person who contracts this virus, they will pass it on to two to four more people in its primary stage. Most people don’t show symptoms right away so the spread of this virus could get out of control very quickly and this is the reason for the stay-at-home mandate. The health care system will be overloaded as these days go on and that is the scary part of all this. People, especially us older folks, have to be very cautious. I am not trying to put a scare into anyone but to present the reality locally of what we see going on in this part of the world. Go to the grocery store only once per week and keep social distancing (6 ft or more between you and others) and of course wash your hands frequently and disinfect all surfaces that you touch as soon as you get home. If anyone has any questions, or if you know someone who has contracted this virus, please give me a call so we can update our prayer list as we pray for one another.
With all of that said, let’s turn our attention to God’s Word. In our reading for this day, Jesus is going towards Jerusalem for the last time. What we have to remember is that in Matthew’s Gospel account, he didn’t write it to be linear over time. That is to say that it doesn’t reflect a week to week timeline but rather he writes this as a progression towards understanding who Jesus is in the context of the Jewish audience. We are in the center of His last year before He goes to Jerusalem for the final time. Where we are in this timeline is not as significant as to what is happening meanwhile.
Jesus had fed more than four thousand people with just a few loaves of bread and a few fish. After He left that place, some Pharisees and Sadducees came to Him wanting Jesus to perform a sign for them as they had heard of this miracle. Jesus rebukes them for wanting to have a sign before they would believe in Him. He responds “none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (verse 4). What Jesus is referring to is that He will be buried in the earth for three days just as Jonah was in the fish for the same length of time. I find that fascinating that He refers to an incident that both parties would know about in their writings. In other words, wait and see and the sign will be given to the world! A miracle was about to unfold!
Jesus tells His disciples on the trip in the boat to: "Be careful," . . . "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Right away they are thinking in terms of the bread and the feeding of so many people. Yet Jesus is talking about something more significant than just plain old bread. He is talking to them in spiritual terms! It’s not about the bread!
In these last few days when we have to try to think ahead, especially about our meals, Karen had purchased some frozen dinner rolls. These are the kind where you have to take them and let them “rise” for a few hours before you bake them. The yeast has to be activated by allowing them to warm up and expand. So she put them on a plate and covered them as the package said. After a few hours, when it was ready to put them into the oven, they had expanded as the yeast permeated the dough. They looked about the size of a baseball; they looked yummy! However to our surprise, when she tried to remove them from the plate to the baking pan, they deflated into about half of the size they once were! They were still good but about half the size. So much for reading the instructions. The next time she put them directly on the pan and let them rise then popped them in the oven!
Yeast permeates the dough just as sin permeates the world. The ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and the Sadducees is that of unbelief until there is a direct sign given before someone will believe. We are far removed from the first century when all this took place. People want signs that God is real, yet those signs are all around us in the way that He has formed our environment and our bodies. The complexity of our universe points to a Creator who fashioned all this by His command. Yet people want more signs that God is who He says He is. We have of course the greatest ‘sign’ that Jesus referred to, His Resurrection! Without that piece of the mystery of God, we would certainly be lost today and for eternity!
“How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Verses 11-12
Heresy is prevalent in our world today. Many have twisted the Gospel to make it sound like it is not believable anymore in our modern day. Yet God’s Word stands as the most comprehensive book that was ever published. It withstands the test of time and criticism. It transforms the very person who will open their hearts and minds to its truths. It transforms us from a destiny without hope and a future, to that of an Eternity with our Creator! The peace of God is revealed from within due to a relationship with the Author of life itself. People will never understand until they take Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and when they do, their world is filled with the promise of everlasting life beyond the throws of this diminishing world with all of its problems. Only Jesus can redeem us from the yeast that spreads through the world whether it is sin or a virus. We stand complete in Him!
We don’t know what tomorrow holds but we know ‘Who’ holds all our tomorrows! Let us band together in these difficult days in prayer for our world, our community and especially for one another. We don’t know when it will be safe enough for us to meet together face to face. But in the meantime we can hold one another up in the love that God has shown us through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Stay safe, don’t panic. God is still on His throne!!!
In His Glorious Name,
Father, protect us from the yeast of the world in whatever form it takes. Amen.