“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.”
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had a sinful effect on the community. What was the yeast of these who were influencing religious thought and practice?
Jesus clearly states that the sinful influence is hypocrisy.
In Luke’s story, Jesus and the disciples are experiencing ‘Bieberesque crowd mania’. People were trampling on one another to get close. In this situation, we are reminded of the ‘loaves and fish’ miracles where the disciples witnessed and shared in feeding thousands in a miraculous way. When the disciples were worried about a lack of bread (Mark 8), Jesus reminded them that he always provided generously for them, even if required a miracle to do so. Had they so easily forgotten his care for them?
The hypocrisy warning has to do with being seen as powerful, virtuous or faithful when the truth is otherwise. The Pharisees were masterful at showing people a good religious act, but inwardly being far from God.
Every time they had a problem (bread shortage, storm at sea, no money for taxes, competing for position) the disciples would opt for fear and doubt instead of remembering the recent miracles. Then when the show was about to take place, the disciples put on the mask and lavished in the attention of Jesus’ fans.
This kind of hypocrisy is the leaven of the Pharisees and Jesus warns them about it. It is a religious expertise and authority that caves in the midst of crisis. It is trust in earthly circumstances more than in heavenly plans. Success is measured by the size of your following and not by the sincerity of your heart. It happens to people who get caught up in their own importance.