Yeast of Pharisees and Yeast of Herod

Jesus summarized what he has been doing with a sermon to the disciples after another trip in the boat. The subject this time? Two forms of yeast. This article explores.

Jesus Reviews feeding 5000 and 4000

13Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. 14The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15"Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." Mark 8:14-1516They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread." Mark 8:1617Aware 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? 18Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? 19When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" "Twelve," they replied. Mark 8:17-1920"And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" They answered, "Seven." Mark 8:2021He said to them, "Do you still not understand?" Mark 8:21
(Mark 8:13-21 NIV)

In the common pattern of Mark, Jesus and the disciples get into a boat and cross the Sea of Galilee. With this trip a new parable is opened. The chronology is reset to 6020 AA, the year of Noah’s flood.

In this parable the disciples themselves find that they have only taken 1 loaf with them in the boat. This appears to cause them concern. The disciples appear not to have learned that Jesus can provide. As Jesus reminds, he had fed 5000 and then 4000 so feeding the disciples should not be a tough job for Jesus.

After reminding the disciples Jesus then warns them to stay clear of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.

The first reference, feeding 5000, showed up in an earlier parable and pointed at Jesus’ era (6020 AA + 5000 = 11020 AA, within days of the end of Jesus’ own earthly ministry.)

The second reference, feeding 4000, was woven into another prophetic story. But here, this story is retelling both in order, and they are measured from a boat ride. So the math runs more like this: 6020 AA + (5000 + 4000) = 15020 AA

Herod, of course, comes from the prophetic line of Nebuchadnezzar and Rome and represents worldly political power. This is the power that had beheaded John the Baptist. This is the political power that would control Europe for 2 millennia.

Jesus’ warning about this power, though, does not point out in the world. It points at the disciples, the early Christians who were surrounding Jesus. The Yeast of Herod, when it infects a body of believers has everything to do with political power and how it is used in a Church.

When Herod beheaded John the Baptist, Herod was more concerned with his relationship with his dinner guests than he was with hearing and obeying the word of God brought through John himself. The Yeast of Herod operates this way in Christian churches even today.

The "Yeast of Herod" is popularly called a "Spirit of Control." This spirit uses political power and political will to govern the church body instead of letting Jesus direct his church as he so pleases. Church leaders under this spirit are often insecure, as was Herod. Herod should have used his rightful position as ruler to defend John. Under the Yeast of Herod, issues of Right and Wrong are supplanted for political ends.

Church leaders under this spirit are often without prayer. Why ask for Jesus direction when political considerations will prevail anyway? If there is a claim to being directed from Jesus, the claim is often to prophetic words given in the past. "Dead Dogs tell no tales."

Unlike David, who would simply not touch someone with God's anointing, the Yeast of Herod causes people to operate with impunity against the people God sends. This is what Herod did with John, and it is often what happens when worldly experts are divinely sent to modern Church bodies. Expert advice is often often disregarded, as was John’s advice to Herod, because Herod projected his own political view on John. Since Herod operated for political ends only, Herod would assume the same on John. There is no Right and Wrong, nor any other expertise, in a world ruled by this spirit.

The Yeast of the Pharisees works differently. The Pharisees had reduced the genuine word of God into an extensive set of rules. It is unknown with certainty how many rules the Pharisees of Jesus’ day had produced, but all were thought by the Pharisees to be natural deductions from the Mosaic Law.

The problem, of course, is that they did not understand the principles on which the Mosaic Law was built, so deductive conclusions were always faulty. Of course they did not understand their own faults and operated as blind guides.

The Yeast of the Pharisees infects Churches even today. It is popularly called a "Religious Spirit." Church leaders caught by this spirit often concentrate on the form of religious practices.

Of course there is a need for political relationships, but they must not become prominent. Jesus must be able to rule.

Of course there is a need for understanding of God’s written word. But, proper understanding can only happen while lead by the Holy Spirit. Much of Church Tradition springs from the Yeast of the Pharisees.

It has been said that the two biggest problems facing the Church in the United States today is a "Spirit of Control" and a "Religious Spirit." These two spirits have always been the two biggest challenges to Jesus’ disciples. They always will remain problems for anyone involved in organized Church. They also haunt those who think they can avoid these spirits by avoiding organized Church.

When Jesus pointed at these two forms of Yeast, he used as the basis for this lesson the two times he fed large crowds. In all cases sitting at Jesus’ feet and eating from his hand is how people avoid these two forms of yeast. Jesus does not provide food with either of these two forms of yeast. This is the inoculation against this problem and it happens strictly through prayer and a willingness to do what Jesus says.

The two feeding times are referenced by the numbers of people that Jesus fed and this suggests a national application. Of course the 5000 were fed and this pointed at the time of Jesus, which was also the time of Herod. This was also a significant time in the history of Rome. The Roman empire was expanding and would maintain an iron grip across most of the Mediterranean world for another 400 years. The empire itself, as exemplified in the office of Caesar was less than 100 years old at the time of Jesus.

Jesus would feed Rome beginning at this millennium break. It would take about 300 years before the Roman world would become Christian in a legal sense. The start of that process began at the time of Jesus.

Remnants of that empire survive in the western world. The European Union marks the first time since the fall of the Roman empire that a single currency can be used across Europe. This empire marks the modern restoration of the Rome. It will always operate using the Yeast of Herod. -- refusing to listen to God’s people spread throughout the empire.

The feeding of the 4000 points at another period in world history. This story points at about the year 1000 AD. This period marked the time of the Christianization of Russia, and the start of the time when Jesus would feed the eastern peoples. The eastern branches of Christianity take after the southern kingdom of ancient Israel, the original home of the Pharisees.

In eastern Christianity authority is claimed by apostolic succession from Peter. Of course the Roman Catholic church in the west claims a similar succession, but in the west the protestant reformation broke this claim to authority. The eastern claims to authority are accompanied by further ancient claims of legitimacy. The Aramaic versions of the New Testament, likely the original New Testament language, are used by church authorities as a standard for gaining authority within the Christian community. Since the eastern branches of Christianity never when through a major reformation, they remain caught in a world where the Yeast of the Pharisees still prevails.

Further understanding of the significance of the events in the years near 1000 AD would come in Jesus’ next parable.

Jesus Heals a Blind Man

22They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23He 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?" Mark 8:22-2324He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." Mark 8:2425Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't go into the village." Mark 8:25-26
(Mark 8:22-26 NIV)

The next parable is taught at Bethsaida. This is a new place, but is not separated by a trip in a boat, so it is a chronological continuation of the time in the previous parable.

In this story Jesus leads the blind man out of town and there, in the remote place heals him so he can see. The blindness is severe and in the first pass at a healing the man can see only partially. At this point he has bad eyes, but can see some. After a second round of healing the man can see clearly.

Curiously, this man’s healing remains private.

Peter’s Confession of Christ

27Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?" Mark 8:2728They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets." Mark 8:2829"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ." Mark 8:2930Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:30
(Mark 8:27-30 NIV)

Finally, this section of the Book of Mark ends with a final trip along the road to the towns of Caesarea Philippi. This region is named after Caesar who built up the cities so they could be used as a base for projecting Roman power in the area.