The Leaven of the Pharisees

What is the leaven of the Pharisees? Diving into Scripture, Jeff shows how Jesus Christ came for all people and that even now we must avoid the Pharisaic view and bring Christ to all people.

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Mark 8:14-21

“They had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. He enjoined them, ‘Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.’ They concluded among themselves that it was because they had no bread. When he became aware of this he said to them, ‘Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?’ They answered him, ‘Twelve.’ ‘When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?’ They answered [him], ‘Seven.’ He said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’”

Feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000

This passage does not always garner much attention but if we go back to the feedings of the 5,000 and of the 4,000, perhaps the importance of this passage can be revealed. In the feeding of the 5,000, there were 12 baskets of fragments leftover. These 12 baskets represent the 12 tribes of Israel. In the feeding of the 4,000, there were 7 baskets of fragments leftover. These 7 baskets represent the 7 nations of the Gentiles. Why this is important is because it reveals that Jesus Christ did not just come for the Israelites, but he came for every person on earth.

Mark 7: 24-30

This truth is more completely understood in Mark 7 when Jesus is approached by the Gentile woman who asks him to heal her daughter who is possessed. Jesus responds by saying, “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (Mark 7:27). She responded by saying, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps” (Mark 7:28). This dialogue is very interesting because Jesus’ initial comment to her was the “party line” of the Pharisees. Basically, the “children” are the Israelites and the “dogs” are the Gentiles. The Pharisees viewed that the Israelites were more important and that God cared more for them. The woman’s response is a true sign of faith because she believes that God still cares for them. Jesus recognizes her faith and sends her on her way telling her that the demons have left her daughter.

Avoid the Leaven of the Pharisees

Jesus is trying to explain to his disciples that they must not hold this Pharisaic view. He wants them to understand that he came for all people, both Israelites and Gentiles. And for us too, we must not limit who we reach out to and share Christ with. We must not make excuses or ignore what we are called to do which is to share the faith. Avoid the leaven of the Pharisees.


Mark 8:14-21
Deuteronomy 7:1
Mark 7:24-30


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Meet Your Host: Jeff Cavins

Jeff Cavins is passionate about helping people understand Scripture and become disciples of Jesus Christ. Though he was born Catholic, Jeff went to Bible school and served as a protestant minister for twelve years before reverting to the Catholic Faith. Jeff then received his MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. Since then, he has become a leading Catholic evangelist and author.

Jeff created The Bible Timeline learning system, which revolutionized Catholic Bible Study for millions of Catholics. Since its introduction, Jeff has developed The Great Adventure series of Bible studies to help people better understand Sacred Scripture and its meaning for their lives. 

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