Mark 8:1-21

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?” “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked. “Seven,” they replied. He told the crowd to sit down on the ground.

When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people, and they did so. They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. About four thousand were present.

The Lord Jesus had just performed an extraordinary miraculous sign of feeding four thousand people by multiplying loaves and fish.

After he had sent them away, he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha. The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”

Despite the miraculous sign of multiplying the loaves and the fish—a powerful sign pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah—the Pharisees would not believe. Despite knowing of the unmatched miracles he performed, their hearts were hardened. No matter what he did they would simply not accept him as the Son of God. And so they asked him for a miraculous sign from heaven—as if any sign that Jesus performed would change their hardened minds. Of course it would not. This was pure hypocrisy and deceit: saying one thing but believing and acting in a very different way. Jesus, knowing their hypocrisy, not surprisingly refused to give them a miraculous sign—it would be wasted on them. But for the four thousand who had followed him to a desolate place, he graciously provided food for them to eat by multiplying the loaves and fish.

From Strong’s:

ὑπόκρισις or hupokrisis (hoop-ok’-ree-sis)

Acting under a feigned part; that is, (figuratively) deceit (“hypocrisy”): – condemnation, dissimulation, hypocrisy.

Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

Jesus here makes a point of warning his disciples to be careful and to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. Exactly what was this yeast?

They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8:1-21)

Jesus rebuked his disciples for failing to recognize the deceitful hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He had performed the extraordinary miracles of feeding the five thousand and then the four thousand. But still the irreversibly hardened Pharisees refused to acknowledge him. They still asked for a sign from heaven after all the miracles he had performed. The disciples were simply unable to comprehend this, and thought that the yeast he mentioned referred to their not having enough bread on hand.

Who are our modern-day Pharisees?

Today there may be modern-day Pharisees in the Church. Being in the Church they of course accept Jesus as the Messiah. But they
refuse to accept the miracles Jesus does today through his disciples. According to his promise in John 14:11-12, believers would do the works that he did in the gospels as evidence that He is the Son of God. But to justify their position, today’s Pharisees often quote Jesus’ words: “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” They forget that it was precisely to their spiritual forbears to whom Jesus directed these words—the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Indeed the Lord Jesus does not do miracles for modern-day Pharisees just as he would not for their predecessors in the gospels. But for the hungry and thirsty, he does miracles today as he did 2,000 years ago. He has not changed.

They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

Soon after this Jesus performs the miracle of opening the eyes of a blind man. We see that he was certainly willing to perform miracles for the people. But earlier he steadfastly refused to do anything for the Pharisees who were guilty of a most grievous sin in the eyes of God—hypocrisy. Is it possible that in some way there are such hypocrites in the Church today? They of course say that our Sovereign God can do miracles and that nothing is impossible for Him. But they don’t believe that God uses believers to do them as He did in Acts.

They say that in “this current dispensation” God performs miracles Himself directly from heaven. They cannot see that the Word had to descend from heaven to become flesh—a Man—in order to save us. They cannot understand that as the Father sent that Man, so that Man sent his disciples (John 20:21) into the world to do the works that he did, which included miraculous works to prove to the lost that he in fact was the Son of God and the promised Messiah. The Father used a human being—a Man—to accomplish His divine purpose, and that Man now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven uses his disciples—also men and women—to accomplish his purposes on earth.

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:11-12)

But modern-day Pharisees don’t believe that “in this dispensation” God still does the miracles recorded in Acts—they were merely a description of what happened in the past and not a prescription for what should be taking place today. Such believers have never witnessed such miracles. And perhaps now we understand why.

Luke 12:1  Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

It is interesting that yeast can make dough rise and cause a loaf of bread to appear big on the outside. But we know that it is mostly air and empty space inside. Jesus commanded us disciples to be on our guard again such yeast. Is it possible that yeast on the inside can make some institutions look very large on the outside?

Are there leaders in the Church today who have a form of godliness but deny the Lord’s miraculous power to do what he did 2,000 years ago according to his promise in John 14:12? Such leaders have sadly forgotten the absolute importance of the miraculous as evidence that Jesus is the Messiah, especially to the billions of gospel-resistant peoples inhabiting the 1040 Window.

John 20:30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. 

Interestingly, in verse 29 immediately preceding the above passage Jesus tells us, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Let’s consider the proper object of “blessed are those who have not seen.” Seen what or whom? The antecedent pronoun is found in “Because you have seen ME.” Therefore the proper interpretation of verse 29 is in fact “Blessed are those who have not seem ME and yet have believed.” That includes every believer among us who has never seen the Risen Christ and yet has believed. It is not referring to the miraculous signs Jesus performed back then or today. Therefore we cannot use this verse to teach that those who have never seen a miracle and then believed are more blessed than those who have seen one. Far more important than how we come to the Lord is what we do in obedience to the Lord after we are saved.