OUT OF THE BLUE Jesus tells his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees.
Honestly, I wonder if some of the disciples rolled their eyes and whispered something like, “Add that to the list of his oddball sayings.”
As Mark tells the story, Jesus is sailing in a boat with his disciples, while they’re fussing about having to make this trip without any bread. They’re making this trip immediately after Jesus had miraculously fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.
So here these disciples are, complaining that nobody had the sense to bring any food on the trip. And Jesus blurts out,
“Keep your eyes open. You’ve got to watch out for the Pharisees and Herod, and for the yeast they produce that permeates everything” (Mark 8:15 Casual English Bible).
It’s a strange thing to say in that moment. Jesus could have said it earlier, after his heated argument with some Pharisees. They were demanding he perform another miracle for them.
The way I imagine it, on the boat Jesus is still having that conversation with the Pharisees. In his head, he’s still thinking about the damage they do with their ideas.
Rotten yeast at work
I did some homework on yeast. I had to. I’m not a baker. I found out what I suspect many bakers know.
A packet of dry yeast is a sleeping army of single-celled organisms. We wake them by throwing lukewarm water on them.
We feed them by adding sugar, which causes the cells to burp up carbon dioxide (CO2), a process called fermentation.
We mix it with flour and knead the dough, which traps the ripe CO2 inside a prison of gluten.
The gluten looks a little like a chicken wire fence. The more we knead the bread the more wire we add, the more effectively the CO2 gets trapped, and the higher the bread will rise.
What does that mean to me?
I don’t think the yeast story means to me what Jesus wanted it to mean to his disciples. I hope that’s okay.
I think Jesus wanted his disciples to know that sin can get trapped inside of us, and that the longer we work it into our lives, the more it blows us up. Before you know it, we’re toast.
In our world today, yeast reminds be more of propaganda. Purposeful misinformation. Lies built on the philosophy that the end justifies the means.
We hear it on talk radio. We wade through it in social media. We watch it on broadcast news, especially on programs I called News Pornography because it’s trash. Fox News is Hardcore. I know that many Christians disagree with me about that. Respectfully, they are remarkably wrong.
It’s important what we allow inside our heads. Because once it gets in there, it works its way throughout our life and, I suspect, into our spirit—for better or worse.
When I watch some programs like those I see on Fox News, I can understand why some people become conservatives and they learn to see progressive people as a threat. That’s what our brain is being fed from one commercial break to another.
Other news programs puff the flaws and failures of their conservative targets, creating progressives who learn to detest conservatives.
We Christians need to stop feeding on this kind of news pornography.
It’s devastating us.
It has destroyed previously cherished friendships, including some of mine.
It has broken up families, with in-laws calling their outlaws racist rednecks.
And though it is has become an international epidemic, here where I live it’s destroying the unity that built the United States.
Be careful of the yeast of oligarchs who buy the words they would feed us.
Those words work their way into our soul and can change us into what someone else wants us to become.
We carefully choose the words we speak, when we’re smart. Maybe we should carefully choose the words we chew on, too.
For objective news, I do not recommend any of the major broadcasters, and certainly not the political ads. I mute them and I got through the entire presidential election most recently without hearing any of them. I’m the better for it.
I recommend reading sources such as the Associated Press, Reuters, the BBC, and newspapers such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.
We can read articles there that are so objective that we have no idea what the reporter thinks about the facts he or she is reporting.
Granted, every one of these outlets will write editorials, in which the writer tells us what we should think. But they identify those as opinion pieces.
By comparison, when we go to broadcast news, almost everything we hear is an opinion piece.
We miss you Walter Cronkite.
Watch out for the yeast of God. You’ll know it when you see it. And when you see it, grab it. This is the good yeast.
Focus on good things. Let your mind dwell on whatever’s true. Whatever’s honorable. Whatever’s just. Whatever’s pure. Whatever’s lovely. Whatever’s commendable. If you come across anything worth praising, let your mind spend time there” (Philippians 4:8 Casual English Bible).