We’ve been studying the Gospel of Matthew in our small group Bible study at the jail. We went through chapter 16 this past week and I was reminded once again how Jesus’ disciples, along with the religious leaders of his day, just didn’t get him.
Of course the religious leaders had an ulterior motive which is why they had trouble with him. They were threatened by him, and although they claimed to represent God, they were too wrapped up in their particular traditions, or maybe we could say denominations, to accept him. No matter what Jesus did they were there to accuse him or charge him with breaking the law. It seems the enemy had an open path of attack through them around every corner. The voice of envy, jealousy and accusation was always on the tip of their tongues.
When it came to the disciples it wasn’t so much that they wanted to accuse him rather they just didn’t understand him. By the 16th chapter of Matthew, they had already witnessed him multiply food to feed thousands yet when Jesus told them “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” they thought he was talking about literal bread. In their defense, let me just say, it must have been extremely difficult for Jesus to speak to earthbound disciples about heavenly things. When you’re talking about something that is in no way to be compared with all we have ever known, the phrase “The kingdom of Heaven is like…” can only take one so far.
After it became clear the disciples were confused about Jesus’ leaven comment, He reminded them about his supernatural multiplication of the food as recorded in the former chapter. Then they realized he was talking about the hypocrisy the religious leaders were feeding everyone rather than a physical bread.
You see, when someone isn’t yet filled with the Holy Spirit they have no way to communicate in the language of the Spirit. The Apostle Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 2:14 “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” The disciples were in this exact state as they walked with Jesus. In fact in the 24th chapter of Luke we read where Jesus “opened their minds to understand the scriptures…” Without Spirit enlightenment we, like the disciples, are left to hear and understand things merely on an earthly, human level.
In recent days, perhaps even weeks, it seems my thoughts have been more and more focused on walking after the Spirit. We are instructed to walk by faith rather than sight. In other words, we can’t allow the merely physical realm, what our five senses tell us, to discourage us or stop us from trusting God. Just as Jesus continued to show his disciples there is another realm in which God works, He is not limited by what we see, feel or think.
I implore you to take Paul’s advice from 2 Corinthians 4:18 “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This is what we have been called to as a believer in Jesus Christ. We have been called to live a life that rises above the merely earthly, visible, temporal life.
While those around us, and around the world, are in a rage or fearful of what’s going to happen next, we that live by faith live in search of a city not built with hands. We live knowing this is not our permanent home. “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of his glory…”