Matthew 16:5-12

5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.”

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “It is because we have taken no bread.”

8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?

9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up?

10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up?

11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

take heed (v.6) = lit. “stare at it” — discern

beware (v.6) = lit. “hold yourself against it”

leaven (v.6) — throughout Scripture, a symbol of permeating evil

O you of little faith (v.8) — Compare “great is thy faith (Matthew 15:28). The heathen woman, who only met Christ once, understood His figurative language and said: “I am a dog.” The disciples, after two years teaching, failed to understand the figurative word “leaven.” Her faith was consequently great and theirs was little. — Williams, page 715

remember (v.9) — On two occasions, the Lord had provided bread for large numbers of people, with much left over. The disciples had witnessed this and should have remembered that they had no reason to worry about physical bread in His presence. They were concerned with material things and relying on their own reasoning. This is why the Lord rebuked them.

The leaven of the Pharisees is explained in Luke 12:1 as hypocrisy. With this was coupled self-righteousness. The leaven of the Sadducees was false doctrine: they denied the authority of all the Old Testament except the books of Moses, and they did not believe in spiritual realities. Such evil teachings work like leaven, spreading throughout any company beginning to tolerate them; hence the warning of the Lord to beware of them. — Ironside, pages 202-203

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