Sunday, March 03, 2019

[Matt's Messages] “The Pharisees and Sadducees”

“The Pharisees and Sadducees”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
March 3, 2019 :: Matthew 16:1-12

I’ve titled today’s message, “The Pharisees and the Sadducees” which are the first four words of Matthew chapter 16.

They are very familiar words for anybody who has read the Gospels, but I was surprised to find out this week that those four words don’t appear very often together in the Bible.

They have already appeared together once in the Gospel of Matthew back in chapter 3 where these two groups of Israeli religious leaders were confronting John the Baptist.

But that’s it so far. And they won’t appear in the same verse again until chapter 22 which is during Passion Week.

One of the big reasons they don’t appear together very often is that these two groups, the Pharisees and Sadducees didn’t agree on very much.

They were very different groups with very different beliefs and values.

The Pharisees were kind of the ones on the right. They were the religious conservatives who were famous for their rules to retain “holiness.”

We’ve heard a good bit about them in the Gospel of Matthew. They were very focused on the “outside.” Remember a couple of weeks ago how concerned they were about Jesus and His disciples not ritually washing their hands?

The Sadducees on the other hand were more like those on the left. We haven’t heard about them tussling with Jesus yet. They weren’t nearly as scrupulous about details and rules, and they weren’t nearly as confident in the Scriptures. They were famous for not believing in the resurrection from the dead.

So they were...Sad, you see?

It may not be that funny, but it’s great way to remember the difference.

The Sadducees were more in the ruling class and the priestly class. So they were more in charge than the Pharisees.

But those were the two main and disputing parties within the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Religious Ruling Council.

They did not get along.

But lookee here. Here they are together.

Jesus has brought them together!

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” At least for a time.

Things have been heating up between Jesus and the Pharisees. And now the Sadducees want to team up and get into the fight, as well.

Matthew chapter 16, verse 1.

“The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.”

That should sound familiar to you. The Pharisees tried to pull this trick back in chapter 12.

We saw then that it wasn’t a request. It was a rejection.

Now it’s a team-up rejection. Not just the Pharisees but the Sadducees, too.

They demanded that Jesus show them a sign from heaven.

I take that to mean a sign from God. And they might have also meant a sign up in the sky. A heavenly sign that would prove once and for all that Jesus was the Christ.

They wanted fireworks. And they wanted them now.

It’s interesting that it says they were trying to “test” him. The Greek word there is the same word that Matthew used to describe what Satan was doing with Jesus in the wilderness.

These guys were not hoping that Jesus would produce a sign.

They were hoping He would FAIL to produce a sign!

It’s really awful what they are doing.

Think about it. Because what are they saying by asking for this sign?

They are saying, “What you have done so far is not enough. And you are not enough. We reject you as the Messiah. You may be Jesus, but you are not the Christ.”

“If you are, then prove it!”

Think about this in juxtaposition to the woman we read about last week.

She was a Gentile. She was a Canaanite. She was from Paganland.

And she had GREAT FAITH. Remember that? She amazed Jesus, “Woman, you have great faith!”

And then look at these men.

They should be bowing before Jesus and receiving Him as their king.

But instead, they are like, “Show us a sign from heaven!”

They are rejecting Jesus. And Jesus is rejecting them. V.2

“He replied, ‘When evening comes, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,'  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.”

That’s a rebuke.

He’s saying, “You want a sign in the heavens? You’re good at the signs in the heavens.

“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”

“You can see the obvious when it comes to the weather.

But you can’t see the obvious when it comes to Me.”

Jesus is saying that they shouldn’t need another sign.

It’s obvious.

It’s right in front of them.

But they cannot see it (because they don’t want to see it). V.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.”

Yet another strategic withdrawal.

And it’s a judgment upon them.

He turns on His heel and leaves them.

I have three points of application for us this morning.

Here’s the first one:


Remember in Matthew that we have to keep our eye on the ball.

And what is the ball? The identity of Jesus.

Who is this Jesus?

Jesus says, “By now it should be obvious.”

If you can lick your finger and tell what the weather is, then you can look at all of the evidence and tell Who Jesus is.

Read the signs.

Look the miracles. Listen to the teaching. Listen to the interactions. Watch Him at work and decide for yourself.

Is He a liar, a lunatic, or the Lord?

What you can’t say is, “Gimme some more.”

“More signs, please.”

“What you have done so far is not enough.”

“You are not enough.”

Jesus calls for faith. Jesus calls for us to believe in Him.

And for those who do not have faith, who do not believe, who refuse to believe, He has only one more sign for them.

“The sign of Jonah.”

Do you remember what that is?

Jesus said the same thing to the Pharisee back in chapter 12.

But He explained it more there. He said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

Jesus is going to be like Jonah, apparently dead and gone. Dead and buried.

But then on the third day, He will rise again!

Look for that sign!

Can you see that sign?!

Can you read that sign?!!

We’re coming into that season when we contemplate what Jesus did for us on the Cross and what happened at the Empty Tomb.

It was the sign of Jonah.

Death, burial, and glorious resurrection that makes all of the difference.

Have you read the signs?

Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ?

Do you believe that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, and on the third day He rose again?

If you have never believed that, I invite you to begin today!

Read the signs.

The opposite is unthinkable.

It’s Jesus leaving you and going away.

Leaving you with your hard, cold heart.

Your hard, cold heart that says, “I don’t believe. I reject you, Jesus. You haven’t done enough. Do me another miracle, and then maybe I’ll believe.”

Jesus says, “No.” Those with hard, cold hearts towards Him, those wicked, spiritually unfaithful idolaters will not get a sign on demand. Just the sign of Jonah which should be more than enough.

Read the signs.

Now, in verse 5, the story changes, but the focus stays on the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Jesus has left them, but He’s still talking about them to His disciples. V.5

“When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. ‘Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ They discussed this among themselves and said, ‘It is because we didn't bring any bread.’”

This is not one of the disciples’ better moments.

They are have failed to bring bread which was apparently their job.

And they are so focused on their failure that they clearly aren’t listening to what Jesus is saying.

“Jesus is talking about yeast. It must be because we forgot the bread!”

This is what we call “adventures in missing the point.”

By the way, I act like this all of the time.

I’m so focused on myself and my thoughts and my performance and what I think I’ve done wrong that I often am clearly not listening to Jesus.

I can be reading the Bible, and I’m so focused on me that I miss the Lord.

Can you identify?

I love how Jesus ministers to them at this moment.

He hits them with a whack up the backside of the head. V.8

“Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, ‘You of little faith [oligoipistoi. There it is again!], why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 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.’”


It’s a rebuke. But it’s a gentle one.

It’s like when my wife lovingly calls me, “You dummy.”

“C’mon, Matt. You know better than that.”

“C’mon, Disciples. You know better than that. You can trust Me more than that!”

Oligopistoi. You of little faith.”

Here’s point number two.


Jesus says, “Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?

Why are you worried about forgetting that food when I am here with you?

I can take care of the food!”


God wants us to remember what He has done.

How often do we forget what God has already done?

That’s why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper so often.

Jesus said to do it, “In remembrance of” Him.

To remind ourselves what Jesus has done.

Yes, when we come to the Table, we are reminded of what we have done.

We are reminded of our sins.

And worse sins than just forgetting to bring some bread.

But that’s the biggest things we’re supposed to remember at this table.

The biggest thing is not what we have done, but what He has done.


“Remember how much was leftover when did those miracles.”

Jesus is saying, “Remember that I am more than enough. I am more than satisfying. I am more than you need.”

So often we act like Jesus might be less than we need.

But Jesus says, “Remember the leftovers. That’s Me! I am more than you need.”

What do you need to remind yourself this week that Jesus has already done for you?

Maybe you want to write a few things down on the back of you bulletin?

Maybe you are focused on yourself right now.

On Wednesday night before Stay Sharp, I was lying awake and I couldn’t get to sleep, and my mind was just swirling with worries and concerns and frustration, and I just couldn’t corral myself or my mind.

Sometimes I’m a self-tightening nut.

I was so upset.

And my wife said to me, “Can you pray? Can you recite Scripture?”

I could hardly do that, I was so twisted up in a mental knot.

But then I started to thank the Lord for things.

I just started to list the things to the Lord that He had already done in my life. Over the years and recently.

And the list got longer and longer, and then eventually I finally fell asleep.

Remember the leftovers.

Jesus has always been more than enough, and He always will be.

And number three.


Finally, they got the point. V.12

“Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread [duh], but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

Oh, that’s what You meant!

Not yeast but yeast. Right!

It’s interesting that Jesus uses yeast as the illustration here of false teaching.

He used yeast positively back in chapter 13 for the secret growth of the kingdom.

But there is a bad kind of yeast as well. The false teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Both of which will kill you.

Yeast is seemingly insignificant.

It is mostly invisible.

It seems innocuous.

It’s easy to miss.

But it’s pervasive.  And it’s contagious. It grows and grows silently.

And before you know it, it’s all over.

Today, we might use the illustration of a cancer.

False teaching is a cancer.

It’s not easily detectable, but it spreads and grows and metastasizes and next thing you know, it’s killing the body.

That’s what Jesus is warning us.

“Be on your guard against the bad yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

What is that teaching?

Well, both of these groups went wrong in different ways.

The Pharisees, we’ve seen, were focused on the externals, on legalism, on rule-keeping and they ignored the insides and they tried to get out of actually keeping the Law or loving people.

They were always adding to the gospel and trying to dodge obedience in the kingdom.

The Sadducees were unbelieving. If the Pharisees were adding, the Sadducees were subtracting. They didn’t believe in the resurrection! They believed in power and wealth and prestige and position.

Both of them were hypocrites. In the Gospel of Luke Jesus says to beware of their hypocrisy. Saying one thing and doing another.

False teaching comes in many different disguises.

Again, that’s why I’m glad we have things like Stay Sharp to learn about false teaching and be aware of bad ideas with bad consequences.

Ideas have consequences.

They are not neutral.

Do you know what ideas are true and which ones are false?

Can you recognize the bad yeast of false teaching?

The one big false teaching that these two groups had in common was the teaching that Jesus was not the Christ.

They didn’t agree on much, but they agreed on that!

Jesus warns us to beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Because bad ideas have consequences.

Especially the bad idea that Jesus is not the Christ.

They were getting that one wrong.

“Don’t be like them,” Jesus says. “Don’t be like this wicked and adulterous generation that rejects Me looking for a miraculous sign.

No. Put your faith in Me.”

In the next section, Jesus will flat out ask His disciples if they get it.

He’ll ask them, “Who do you say that I am?”

Keep your eye on the ball.

Because that question is all important.

Don’t fall for the false ideas that swirl out there in the culture about Who Jesus is.

Come to trust Him as Savior and follow Him as Lord.


Questions for Group Discussion
“The Pharisees and Sadducees”
March 3, 2019

1. Read Matthew 16:1-12. Why do the words “The Pharisees and Sadducees” appear together so infrequently in the Bible? Why are they together here?

2. Focus on verses 1-4. What did Pastor Matt mean by “Read the Signs?” Why did he say that their asking for a sign was not a request but a rejection? What does it mean for the Pharisees and Sadducees to be “wicked and adulterous?”

3. Focus on verses 5-11. What did Pastor Matt mean by “Remember the Leftovers?” List 9 things that the Lord has done for you recently for which you are grateful. What difference does it make in our lives when we focus on thanksgiving and remembrance?

4. Focus on verse 12. Why is yeast such a good metaphor for false teaching? What is the bad yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Where do you see it popping up around you? How can we resist false teaching?

5. How can the group pray for you as you seek to live out what you learned this week?


Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation
34. Get It?
35. What Is Really Going On Here?
36. Baptizing the Disciples
37. The Treasure of the Kingdom
38. Living the Last Beatitude
39. Five Loaves, Two Fish, and Jesus
40. It Is I.
41. Worthless Worship
42. Great Faith in a Great God