The Book of Mark
James J. Barker

Lesson 27

Text: MARK 8:10-21


1.    My message tonight is entitled, “Beware of Leaven.”

2.    Today we use the word “yeast.”

3.    The words “leaven” and “unleavened” occur 73 times in the Bible, and represent a corruptive or evil influence.

4.    An important principle of Bible interpretation is “the rule of first mention.”  The first mention of leaven in the Bible is found in Genesis 19:3

5.    “And he (Lot) pressed upon them (two angels) greatly; and they turned in unto him, and entered into his house; and he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat.”

6.    The next reference to leaven is found in Exodus 12. Verse 15 says, “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”

7.    When we come to the NT, we notice that on several different occasions, our Lord gave warnings about the danger of leaven.

·        “Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33; cf. Luke 13:21).

·        “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matt. 16:6).

·        “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?” (Matt. 16:11).

·        Matthew 16:12 tells us that the leaven represents “the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”

·        “And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).

·        “He began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1; cf.  Mark 7:6, 7).

8.    From studying these Scriptures, we see leaven represents false religion and hypocrisy.

9.    We read the same statement in both I Corinthians 5:6 and Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”  It is obvious from the context, that here leaven is symbolic of evil (cf. I Cor. 5:6-8).

10. The Bible teaches that leaven slowly and invisibly permeates churches, and eventually corrupts the pure Gospel of grace (cf. Gal. 5:1-9).

11. One of the great themes of the Gospels is the fierce conflict between our Lord and the Pharisees and Sadducees.  These men represented the religious hierarchy of His day and they were nothing but religious hypocrites.

12. Our Lord had compassion on the publicans and sinners, the drunkards and the harlots.  But He had nothing but stern denunciations for these religious hypocrites.

13. Things have not changed much.  The vast majority of so-called ministers are not saved.  They are what the apostle Paul calls “deceitful workers” and ministers of Satan (II Cor. 11:13-15).

14. Oftentimes I am criticized for saying these kind of things, but these issues must be addressed.   Jesus said, “Beware of the leaven…” (Mark 8:15).

15. Not a day passes that I do not hear about some so-called minister who is an adulterer or a liar or a thief or a homosexual or an infidel.

16. I wish I did not have to deal with it but I must because Jesus said these false prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt. 7:15).  He said to “beware.”



1.    In Mark 8:15, our Lord said, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

2.    The Pharisees (rigid traditionalists) and the worldly, political Herodians were diametrically opposed to each other. 

3.    But they were joined together in their hatred of Jesus (cf. Mark 3:6; 12:13).

4.    We see the same thing today in religious circles.  I remember an Irish man, a hard sinner, once telling me he did not believe the Bible and had no interest in salvation.  Then he expressed his great admiration for Catholicism and Judaism, which he referred to as “the only true religions.”

5.    I was driving in my car one morning and heard a radio show.  I think it was called “Religion On The Line.”  It featured a rabbi, a RC priest, and a liberal Protestant minister. They were getting along fine and were in perfect agreement!

6.    But you can be sure that they would not enjoy the company of a Bible-believing Baptist.

7.    “Anything goes” with the religious crowd today.  The only thing that will not be accepted is a literal interpretation of the Bible.

8.    Things have not changed much since our Lord’s day. Notice that these religious racketeers were insincere.  They were “tempting” our Lord (8:11). 

9.    They wanted “a sign from heaven” (8:11).  Did you ever notice that the same people who want signs from heaven will not believe God’s Word, which came down from heaven (Ps. 119:89; 138:2).

10. There is still a big push today for “signs” from heaven, especially with the RC’s, the charismatics, and the Pentecostals.  In fact, just like with the Pharisees and Sadducees, we are seeing these groups work together in their opposition to the Gospel.

11. I firmly believe these various groups will all join together in one big “super-church” (Rev. 17).

12. We need to beware of all of this.  The leaven of ecumenicalism is spreading throughout Christendom. And it is setting the stage for the antichrist (Matt. 24:24; II Thess. 2:7-9; Rev.13:13).

13. The next time some unbeliever demands “a sign from heaven,” just give him the Gospel.  If that will not do, then show him what our Lord said in Matthew 16:4.  “The sign of the prophet Jonah” is the sign of the death and resurrection of Christ (Matt. 12:38-42).

14. You will recall that when this sign of Jonah was fulfilled, the Pharisees and Sadducees still refused to believe it (cf. Matt.27:62-66; 28:11-15).



1.    In the Bible, leaven always represents sin, corruption, and false doctrine. The first time leaven is mentioned in the Bible is in Genesis 19:3. Two angels came down from heaven and visited Lot in Sodom. “He made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread.”

2.    Then we next see leaven mentioned in Exodus 12.   There was to be no leaven eaten during the Passover.

3.    In the years to follow, Israel was to celebrate their deliverance from bondage with an annual memorial feast, a celebration which lasted seven days.

4.    During the entire week, leaven was to be removed from every house, and the people were told to only eat unleavened bread.

5.    “Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel” (Ex. 12:15).

6.    There was to be no leaven during the Passover. 

7.    In like manner, today we only use unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper (cf. Ex. 34:25).

8.    Note that the first mention of leaven is in Sodom, and the second is in Egypt.  In the Bible, Sodom and Egypt represents Satanic wicked worldliness.

9.    “And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified” (Rev. 11:8).

10. Coming to the NT, we see that leaven always represents evil (Matt.16:12; Luke 12:1).

11. This leaven has been corrupting Christendom for the past 2,000 years, and will continue to be a problem till our Lord returns.  In the meantime, all we can do is avoid it, warn people about it, and preach against it.

12. The leaven of the Pharisees is formalism and the leaven of the Sadducees is rationalism. The leaven of Herod is politics. Like leaven, these evils are still permeating the churches.



1.     Even today, many people misunderstand our Lord’s warning about leaven.  

2.     Some erroneously teach that leaven represents the Gospel, slowly and quietly growing and spreading throughout the world.

3.     To interpret the proper meaning of leaven, we went back to Genesis, and the rule of first mention – back to when God warned Lot to escape Sodom and Gomorrah.

4.     You will recall that before God warned Lot, He warned Lot’s uncle Abraham. 

5.     “And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (Genesis 18:17).

6.     So let us go back again to Genesis, and the law of first mention (Gen. 18:1-6).

7.     Note that Abraham said to Sarah: “Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal” (Gen. 18:6).

8.     These three measures of meal represent communion with our Lord.  Remember Jesus is the Bread of Life (John 6:32-35, 47-51).



1.     In 1870, Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached a message entitled, “Purging Out the Leaven.”

2.     In that message, Spurgeon prayed, “Search me, O God; try me, and know my ways. Thine eyes can see what mine cannot. May the great Purifier put forth from us every crumb of the old leaven of our natural corruption.”

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