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Mark 8:14-21



Intro: As we approach these verses today, we would do well to take a moment to reconsider the events that bring us to this point.

         In verses 1-8 of this chapter, Jesus takes seven small loaves of bread and a few small fish and He feeds 4,000 people!

         In verse 8 the disciples collect the leftovers and they amount to seven baskets full. That is, the leftovers fill seven baskets large enough to hold a full grown man.

         In verses 11-12 Jesus is attacked by the Pharisees. They clearly proclaim their rejection of Him and demand that He perform some miracle in the heavens above to prove to them that He is really the Messiah.

         Jesus refuses to play their game, verse 13, and He simply leaves them standing there while He and His men get into a boat and sail away.

That brings us to our text. Verse 14 finds Jesus and His disciples on a boat sailing across the Sea of Galilee. While they are crossing the lake, the disciples still have their minds on bread. They realize that they have forgotten to bring along any bread for themselves. I can imagine their thoughts, “Oh brother! We had seven huge baskets full of bread back there and we forgot to bring any with us! Now we are hungry and we don’t even have enough bread to feed even one of us!

Of course, Jesus knows what they are thinking! He uses their forgetfulness as an opportunity to teach them a few much needed lessons. I would like for us to eavesdrop on this conversation between Jesus and His men because we need to hear what He has to say to them.

I’m just guessing, but I would imagine that the disciples were pretty caught up in all this miracle business. I would imagine that they thought they were somebodies, hanging out with Jesus and getting in on all the amazing stuff He was doing. I would imagine that they are feeling kind of smug having just witness Jesus put those Pharisees in their place. In these verses they are going to find out that they have some room to grow as well.

Guess what, these verses also speak to us today. There are times when we may begin to think to highly of ourselves and of own walk with the Lord. When that is true, the Bible has a way of cutting us down to size. That’s what these verses are designed to do.

Let’s observe the lessons the Lord teaches His men in these verses about their lack of faith and their failure to understand His power in their midst. I want to take the Lord’s words in verse 21 and preach on “How Is It That Ye Do Not Understand? We need this, because we are just like the disciples. Sometimes we just dont get it. Lets listen and learn.



         Jesus knew what they were thinking about, as I have already said. When He perceives their thoughts, He uses the thought of bread to speak to their hearts.

He warns them to beware of the “leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod. Our Lords warning needs a little explanation.

         Leaven is another world for yeast. Yeast is added to dough to make it rise. Yeast is a bacterium that feeds on the dough and these bacteria give off a gas that causes bread to rise. Yeast can lie dormant for many months, and then, at the first hint of moisture, it comes to life and begins its work. The yeast will completely fill the whole lump of dough. As I mentioned, the yeast feeds on the dough and produces gas which causes the dough to ferment. Fermentation, as you may know, is the first step in decomposition. The only thing that can stop the leaven is extreme heat. When yeast is exposed to the fire, it dies.

In the Bible, leaven is a picture of sin, evil and wickedness. It is used as a picture of corruption. Believers are commanded to “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened,” 1 Cor. 5:7. We are to lay aside evil and spiritual corruption and live for the Lord. We are also warned that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump,” 1 Cor. 5:6. The idea here is that a little sin is like yeast or leaven in our lives. When we tolerate sin in our lives, it will soon infiltrate every part of our lives.

         So, Jesus warns the about the “leaven or the evil influences of the Pharisees and of Herod. What is the leaven of the Pharisees? I found a great commentary that gave me this answer after just a moment of research. I want to tell you about this commentary so you can get one and use it for yourself. It is the greatest commentary on the Bible every written. It is called the Bible!

The leaven of the Pharisees is defined in Luke 12:1, beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. The Pharisees were religious men, but their religion was external; it did not change their hearts. They claimed to love the Lord, but they were nothing but religious fakes and phonies. When they infiltrated the lives of those around the, like yeast, they corrupted those lives as well. In Matthew 23:15, Jesus said it like this, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

Jesus is warning His men of the danger of having a hypocritical heart. That is something that we all struggle with! Isn’t it easy to get cold toward and distant from God in our hearts? Isn’t it also easy to pretend on the outside that all is well with the Lord? We are masters of pretending that our hearts are where they ought to be with God. Jesus is warning us all against hypocrisy in our hearts. We need to be sure that we are what we claim to be as we pass through this life. Beware of the leaven of hypocrisy.

         What is the “leaven of Herod? In Matthew 16:6, in Matthew’s account of these same events, Jesus calls it the leaven of “the Sadducees. The Pharisees were the religious conservatives of the day while the Sadducees were the religious liberals. They were worldly and secular and they joined forces with King Herod in compromising with the Romans. These people, both the Sadducees and the followers of Herod, are often called Herodians. The leaven that infiltrated their lives and teaching was materialism, worldliness and compromise with the world.

Jesus is warning His men not to get caught up in the quest for more of the world’s goods or more of the world’s favor. The only was to be a friend of the world is to be the enemy of God, James 4:4.

The Lord’s will then and now is that His people be separate from the world. We are to live as “strangers and pilgrims, 1 Pet. 2:11, not partaking of this world’s sins or being caught up in the desire for more of what this world has to offer.

As far as sin is concerned, we are commanded to a separate people, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 2 Cor. 6:17. As far as material things are concerned, we are to seek our treasure in Heaven and not in this world, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, Matt. 6:19-21.

         Jesus is simply telling His people, regardless of the age in which they live to beware of hypocrisy, worldliness and compromise. He tells us that if we allow just a little of those things to exist in our lives, they will infiltrate every area of life, just like yeast infiltrates an entire lump of dough. It is a simple command for the people of the Lord to be clean, holy and different. And, by the way, the Lord hasn’t changed His mind about this matter! He still expects His people to live different!





         The disciples hear the Lord’s warning and they immediately misunderstand what He is trying to say. Their minds are so focused on the material, physical world that they cannot see the spiritual side of anything.

They hear the Lord’s word and immediately they start trying to figure it out. Here are some possibilities as to what they might have been thinking and asking:

Is He rebuking us because we didn’t bring any bread?

Is He telling us not to buy bread from the Pharisees or the Herodians?

Is Jesus saying that we should have no fellowship with the Pharisees and the Herodians?

Of course, “none of the above is the correct answer! Jesus isnt talking about real bread at all. He is merely using the leaven found in bread as a metaphor, as a symbol of evil. They are so think-headed that they cant grasp what the Lord is trying to tell them.

         Let’s not be too hard on these fellows. There are a lot of times when we are spiritual dullards as well. The Lord will try to get us to understand His truth and we just keep on failing to get the meaning. That’s why we aren’t any farther along than we are right now. That’s why we continue to struggle with the flesh like we do. That’s why we don’t enjoy the victory like we could. We are think-headed and we often miss the spiritual truth that is all around us. We are so quick to dismiss what we see and hear without ever realizing that God is trying to grow us, teach us and develop us for His glory.

         Let’s take a church service for example. We always come in and do the very same things. We pray at the start, the choir sings, we receive an offering, someone preaches and we all go home. It’s the same formula Sunday after Sunday. We have gotten used to it and it’s just what we do. We have become so accustomed to the routine of doing “the church thing” that we fail to even consider God, or to even look for God in what we are doing.

  Have you ever stopped to think that just the privilege of going to church is a spiritual blessing? When you go to church, you are enjoying a privilege that many people around the world have never and will never have.

  Have you stopped to think that when you get to go to a church like Calvary, that you are especially blessed? Think about it! God has been good to this church! We have what people everywhere are looking for. We have it, but we fail to recognize it for the blessing it is. We take it for granted. I wouldn’t do that if I were you. When we take the blessings of God for granted, He has a way of removing those things from our lives and giving them to others who will appreciate those things and who will be thankful to the One Who gave them!

  Have you ever stopped to think that every message you hear is an encounter with eternity? That preacher has spent time with the Lord. He has gotten a word from God and He is sharing that word with you. What a blessing!

  Have you ever stopped to consider that every song and every service is an opportunity to offer praises to the King? We may sing the same songs and do the same things, but we are privileged to be here. Some may think, “Oh No! Not that song again! It doesnt matter if we have sung it thousands of times. Look at the words, offer them up as a hymn of praise and love for Jesus and He will make it real to your heart!

  Have you ever stopped to think that every testimony you are privileged to hear is a close encounter with Heaven? When people stand to testify, I guarantee you there is more than one who says, in their heart of course, “Well, there they go again! But, I say, if we look at that thing the right way, we will praise the Lord that someone loves the Lord enough to stand up and praise Him. If some of you stones would start standing and praising the Lord, then some of these saints could take a rest.

         Are you still with me? Consider for a moment other areas of your life. Have you ever stopped to consider that the trials and valleys you face might just be the hand of the Lord working in your life?

         Have you ever thought about the truth that God is intimately involved in your life, and that which you see as routine, accidental or coincidental is really Him at work? All I am saying that we need to learn to see beyond the obvious and look for the unseen hand of God working in us and around us.

         The disciples never seemed to get it. They were so focused on the material world that they failed to see the spiritual work of God in their midst. I fear that we are much the same. God is seeking to grow us, change us a develop us and we are so captivated by the world and the needs we think we have that we cannot see the Lord at work around us. What a shame! When we are like that, we miss out on so much that God wants us to enjoy.

         We need to pray that God will help us to look beyond the material to see the spiritual. We need His help to grow beyond our spiritual blindness.




         Remember, Jesus started out trying to warn them about the evils of the Pharisees and the Herodians. They totally missed the message and are focused on physical bread. In a sense, they are no different that the Pharisees that rejected Jesus in verse 11. The Pharisees saw what Jesus could do and they refused to believe. The disciples were with Jesus when He performed many of His miracles and they even saw Him multiply miniscule amounts of bread and feed multitudes. They still couldn’t understand that He could take care of them.

They were worried about bread to eat when they had one loaf. Didn’t they know that Jesus could take that one loaf and feed them all? Didn’t they understand? No, they didn’t!

         Now, it’s one thing for unbelievers like the Pharisees to fail to see and believe. It’s another thing altogether when those who claim to know and love the Lord to fail to see His power and believe Him for their needs.

When Jesus senses their thoughts, He asks them a series of questions, v. 17-20, that are designed to awaken faith in their hearts. These questions are designed to cause them to remember what the Lord has done. These questions are designed to remind them of what the Lord can do as well. Let’s take a look at those questions for a moment.

Jesus questions them about their memories. Didn’t they see Him feed 5,000? Didn’t they see Him feed 4,000? Didn’t they hear His words and response of the people? Have they forgotten His mighty creative power? Are their hearts so hard that they cannot be penetrated by the things that they themselves have experienced?

Then, Jesus asks them specifically about how many baskets of fragments were left over in the two feeding miracles. They answer that there were twelve in the first and seven in the second. Our Lord’s point in this is to get them to see Who they are dealing with.

The Pharisees had seen His miracles, yet what they had seen were not enough to convince them of His true identity. Apparently, the same is true of His disciples. They had seen enough to convince the hardest of hearts, yet they refused to believe what they saw. They failed to understand that Jesus Christ was and is God in the flesh.

         This unbelief among His Own men must have been frustrating to the Lord, v. 21. But, their failure to fully appreciate and trust Him has been handed down to you and me.

Isn’t it true that we are just like these men? The Lord has done so much for us, but when the next crisis of faith arises, we react in fear instead of faith. We need to do what the Lord was trying to get these men to do. We need to take the time to reflect on what He has done and remember His power in our lives.

When Israel came out of the wilderness and entered into Canaan, they set up a memorial of twelve stones in the river Jordan, Josh 4, at Gilgal. God had parted the river for them and allowed them to cross on dry ground. Before the water came back together, each tribe placed a stone in the river. When the river closed back in, the stones could be seen. They served as a memorial. They were a reminder of the great power of God in their lives.

         We need some memorials to His power as well.

  Stop and think about all the mountains He has moved in your life. Set up a memorial!

  Stop and remember when God answered your prayers and set up a memorial.

  Stop and think about all the answered prayers; the peace of God; the sense of His presence; the times when He blessed you for no apparent reason and set up a memorial.

  Stop and think about how He saved you. Set up a memorial! What a memorial it is! It stands higher and gleams brighter than all the rest. If He can do that, nothing is beyond His great power!

         Stop, reflect and remember, then realize that if He can do those great things, and many more besides, there is nothing in your life that He cannot handle.

Remembering what the Lord has done in your life is the first step toward real revival and genuine spiritual renewal, Rev. 2:1-7.

         You see, what Jesus is really trying to teach His disciples is that it isn’t what you have or what you can do that matters. Everything in your spiritual life comes down to Who you know and to Who walks with you. If He is in your boat, you don’t have to worry about where the bread will come from. He will take your little and make a lot out of it. If you are a child of God today, the best thing you can ever do is learn to trust Him wholly, without reservation, and He will never fail you.

Of course, if you aren’t saved and you don’t know the Lord then you need to come to Him today and get that matter settled.

         Jesus does not want us to live our lives focused on earthly matters like bread. But, that is often the case. He wants us to understand that a lack of bread is not our real problem. Our real problem is that we do not see, hear and think about the things of God. Our real problem is a serious lack of faith!

When that is addressed, we will find that we don’t have any problems. When your faith is in the Problem Solver, other issues cease to be important!


Conc: The heart of the issue in this passage is not the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians. The real issue here is the lack of faith among the people of God.

We see and we hear, but we do not comprehend. We read His Word, but we do not believe it. We have experienced His power, but it has not convinced us that we can trust Him completely.

The Lord is challenging each of us to examine our lives in the light of His work in us. He is calling us to radical, total faith in Him. He is calling us to lay aside our “what if’s and our how’s. He is calling us to trust Him. He is the Bread of Life and He knows how to minister to you.

He is challenging some of you to set up some memorials in your life. He is calling you to stop and remember what He has already done in your lives. He is calling you to faith.

He is challenging some to come to Him for salvation. You have never trusted Jesus and you need to do that. You see, it really does not matter how much of this world’s bread you have. If you do not have “The Bread of Life, you have nothing at all.

He is calling others to purge the leaven of hypocrisy and worldliness from your life. He is calling and you need to come to Him!

I know there are needs and I know that He is the “Need Meeter. Come while He calls. Come now and get what He has for you.

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