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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 11: Matthew 16, by Kevin M. Williams

Leaven as a symbol for sin or false doctrine was a familiar concept to the Hebrews. Even among their liturgy of the day we find the prayer, “Lord of ages, it is revealed and known before thy face that we would do thy will; but do thou subdue that which hinders: namely, the leaven which is in the lump, and the tyranny of [heathen] kingdoms.”

The disciples seemed to have thought that Yeshua was rebuking them, that because they had forgotten the bread they were as the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Others have written than perhaps since they had so little bread with them, they were looking to Yeshua to multiply it, therefore requiring a miracle—a “sign”—from Him. Another understanding however, is that Yeshua had not yet finished his earlier train of thought.

Yeshua was not chastising them for forgetting bread. In fact, he seems completely unconcerned with food, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up?” (Matthew 16:8-10).

The Messiah, the bread of life, was more than competent, more than able to provide them with sustenance.

“How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:11).

Is there a question to which Yeshua did/does not know the answer? When God asks a question, it is not so that He can be informed but so that mankind will search their hearts. They were concerned about feeding the flesh, Yeshua was more concerned with feeding the soul—or in this case—what not to feed the soul. It would seem that Yeshua was more focused on the eternal.

Now that they were back on track and thinking spiritually instead of carnally, “they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).


Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16).

This region into which they have journeyed, Caesarea Philippi, has a long and unholy tradition. Originally it was a Caananite site of worship to Baal, a fertility god. Under the Greeks, it became known as Paneas, the city of the pagan deity Pan, another fertility god.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2003, Pneuma Review

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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