1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the multitude had gathered together that they trod upon one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Meditation: What does leaven have to do with hypocrisy? To the Jews leaven was a sign of evil. It was a piece of dough from left-over bread which fermented. Fermentation was associated with decay and rotting – the state of foul-smelling decomposition. Why did Jesus warn his disciples to avoid the ways of the Pharisees? The Pharisees wanted everyone to recognize that they were pious and good Jews because they meticulously and scrupulously performed their religious duties. Jesus turned the table on them by declaring that outward appearace doesn’t always match the inward intentions of the heart. Anyone can display outward signs of goodness while inwardly harboring evil thoughts and intentions. The word hypocrite means actor – someone who pretends to be what he or she is not. But who can truly be good, but God alone? Hypocrisy thrives on making a good appearance and masking what they don’t want others to see. The good news is that God’s light exposes the darkness of evil and sin in our hearts, even the sin which is unknown to us. And God’s light transforms our hearts and minds and enables us to overcome hatred with love, pride with humility, and pretense with integrity and truthfulness. God gives grace to the humble and contrite of heart to enable us to overcome the leaven of insincerity and hypocrisy in our lives.
What does fear have to do with the kingdom of God? Fear is a powerful force. It can lead us to panic and flight or it can spur us to faith and action. The fear of God is the antidote to the fear of losing one’s life. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears. ..O fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no want! ..Come, O sons, listen to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” (Psalm 34:4,9,11) What is godly fear? It is reverence for the One who made us in love and who sustains us in mercy and kindness. The greatest injury or loss which we can experience is not physical but spiritual – the loss of one’s soul to the power of hell. A healthy fear of God leads to spiritual maturity, wisdom and right judgment and it frees us from the tyranny of sinful pride, deceit and cowardice – especially in the face of evil and spiritual deception. Do you trust in God’s grace and mercy and do you submit to his word?
“Lord Jesus, may the light of your word free my heart from the deception of sin and consume me with a burning love for your truth and righteousness.”
1 Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
2 Praise the LORD with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings!
3 Sing to him a new song, play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
4 For the word of the LORD is upright; and all his work is done in faithfulness.
5 He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the steadfast love of the LORD.
6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.
7 He gathered the waters of the sea as in a bottle; he put the deeps in storehouses.
8 Let all the earth fear the LORD, let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!
9 For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood forth.
10 The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nought; he frustrates the plans of the peoples.
11 The counsel of the LORD stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
13 The LORD looks down from heaven, he sees all the sons of men