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Mark - Who is Christ?
A Bible Study Course on the Gospel of Christ according to MARK
PART 4 - Jesus' Great Miracles in Galilee and its Surroundings (Mark 3:7 - 8:26)

18. The Discourse on the Leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (Mark 8:14-21)

MARK 8:14-21
14 They forgot to take bread; and they didn’t have more than one loaf in the boat with them. 15 He warned them, saying, “Take heed: beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They reasoned with one another, saying, “It’s because we have no bread.” 17 Jesus, perceiving it, said to them, “Why do you reason that it’s because you have no bread? Don’t you perceive yet, neither understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, don’t you see? Having ears, don’t you hear? Don’t you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They told him, “Twelve.” 20 “When the seven loaves fed the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They told him, “Seven.” 21 He asked them, “Don’t you understand, yet?”

You cannot obtain righteousness acceptable to God through keeping the law by human power. It is only the offer of Christ’s grace that qualifies you to appear before the Holy One. This is the great mystery in our gospel, and the essence of its distinctiveness. When Jesus spoke the term “the leaven of the Pharisees”, he referred to the anti-Gospel, legalistic spirit, of those who adhered to the old covenant and demanded the practice of a set of rules and prayers, in addition to keeping the Sabbath. They also obliged the people to fast, make the pilgrimage, and give alms, that they might please God. This thought is the greatest of Satan’s deceptions, for whoever thinks like this believes and imagines that man is righteous in himself, and able to serve God by himself without forgiveness. However, Christ teaches us that man is neither righteous, nor innocent from his childhood, but we are all corrupt and unclean compared with God’s holiness.

Confessing our sinfulness keeps us from the haughty Pharisaical spirit. It keeps us from the deception of the hypocritical lawyers, and from imagining that abstention from certain foods or styles makes us gain heaven and prepares the way to God. He who trusts in human piety based on man’s diligence is unprofitable, unacceptable to God, and is going to hell.

Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, for the least legalistic spirit corrupts your faith. Consider Paul’s epistles carefully that you may recognize the hard struggle to obtain freedom from the law and continuing in the free grace of Christ.

The term “the leaven of Herod” refers to lustful desires and indifference to fear of the future. He who gives into modernism leaves the covenant with God. We who believe are not under the law, but are free in Christ who empowers us to walk cleanly, and live humbly, to whom we are willingly committed, with his law dwelling in our hearts. In this new covenant, we become free from bigotry, delivered from bondage to sin and our lusts of the flesh, and firm in faith through the unique freedom of Christ.

At that time, the disciples did not comprehend the meaning of those words spoken by Christ. They thought of their lack of bread, while he meant his spiritual righteousness instead of the strictness of the Pharisees, and the dissolute pomp of Herod. Christ wanted to save his disciples from drowning in sins, bonds of death, and temptations of the devil, and guide them to his heavenly Father. The disciples thought of earthly nourishment, and security in their earthly life. Christ upbraided them not because of their spiritual misunderstanding, or because of their care for bread, but because they were overwhelmed with material thoughts, present-day cares, and mistrusts, which strangled their faith. Christ showed them on two occasions how he could create plentiful food for the multitudes out of few loaves and fish. Then why did they worry about bread while he was present with them?

Do you recognize that Christ is present with you, helping you to work hard, and to do your work well that he may provide you with daily bread? He who prays and works faithfully becomes assured of Christ’s presence, for he delivers us from earthly worries because of our faith in his everlasting power.

PRAYER: O patient Lord, forgive our ignorance, our earthly worries, and care for daily bread. Free us from self-sanctification in the way of lawyers. Keep us from lust and immorality, and establish us with other believers in the freedom of your grace, and firm trust in your salvation. Amen.


  1. What was the answer that Jesus expected from his disciples when he had discussed the leaven of the Pharisees?


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