Beware the Leaven of Unbelief (Mark 8:11-22)

Today we see Jesus challenging both critics and disciples to consider all that He did and said and trust in Him as the Son of God. The signs and evidence are there for us in the gospels, but will we soften our hearts and believe?

The Text (Mark 8:11-22)

11 Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. 12 But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

13 And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side. 14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat. 15 Then He charged them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”

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

17 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up?”
They said to Him, “Twelve.”

20 “Also, when I broke the seven for the four thousand, how many large baskets full of fragments did you take up?”
And they said, “Seven.”

21 So He said to them, “How is it you do not understand?”

Jesus has just done a great miracle, feeding thousands by multiplying a single serving of lunch into a bountiful feast for many. Yet the religious leaders come to Him demanding more proof that He is indeed sent from God. They want some kind of sign from heaven, like the fire that God sent down for Elijah or making the sun stand still as He did for Joshua. All of the healings, casting out of demons, and demonstrations of power over nature have not been enough for them. Jesus’ authoritative teachings have not been enough to convince them that He is even a messenger from God, let alone the Christ, God’s Anointed Son. Jesus refuses to give them another sign. He knows that no sign will ever convince them because they don’t want to be convinced. These religious leaders have already made a conscious decision to reject Jesus and His message. 

What is even more surprising, though, is that the disciples struggle with unbelief, too. These are people who have already publicly committed themselves to following Jesus. Yet Jesus warns them to beware of the same “leaven” of unbelief that they have seen in the Pharisees and the Herodians (people who followed Herod the Great). Both of these groups did not love and believe in Jesus, the Pharisees because of their self-righteous hypocrisy and the Herodians because of their love for sin. Neither group was willing to repent and turn to Jesus. The disciples had already made initial decisions to follow Christ, but to press on and grow in their faith, they would need to keep responding to trials with repentance and faith. Jesus reminds them that this was the purpose of His multiplication of the loaves and fishes. He wasn’t just feeding people’s bodies physically; He was proving that He was the Christ who could feed their souls spiritually.


As we have seen in earlier passages in Mark, unbelief is always a matter of the heart. If you have not yet decided to follow Jesus as your Lord and Savior, then God’s message for you in these verses is to stop looking for reasons to reject Him. If you have honest doubts about who Jesus is and whether or not the Bible is true, I beg you to seek answers until you find them. Try reading the Bible with an open attitude and asking God to show Himself to you. I firmly believe that if you do this with sincerity, you will find God.

If you know Christ as Lord and Savior, then today’s passage tells us to keep seeking Him in faith. In whatever areas of your life where you are struggling with doubt and fear, turn from your own understanding and trust in Jesus. Trust in the promises He has given us in His Word, the Bible. Praying for God to give us understanding and faith today!

In Christ,

Mr. Reel 

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