THE LEAVEN OF THE PHARISEES
Luke 12:1-3 In the meantime, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, He began to say unto His disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light;and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
In the previous chapter, Jesus had just completed an extremely scathing condemnation of the Jewish spiritual leaders, who were primarily the scribes and Pharisees. He accused them of heaping heavy burdens of religions rites upon the people, which was difficult, and even impossible, for them to bear. He also accused them of raising monuments of adoration for the prophets of old, but refused to understand and accept their prophecies, and in doing so, denied the Jewish people access to God's promised kingdom. Having completed His admonition for their unfaithful leadership, which led the Jews to reject God's plan of redemption, He now turns His attention to the innumerable multitude of (Jewish) people that had gathered around to hear His teaching of God's will, and witness its confirmation by many infallible miracles. The word used to describe the size of this gathering of Jewish people literally means "myriads, (one myriad is equal to ten thousand)." Luke says that the multitude was so numerous that they trode one upon another in their effort to get close enough to see Jesus, hear His discourse, and witness His miracles.
Having just condemned the scribes (lawyers) and the Pharisees, Jesus, speaking directly to His disciples, and indirectly to the entire multitude, exhorts them with this extremely important lesson: Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. A similar warning was given to the Jewish people on a different occasion, and was recorded by the apostle Matthew. He said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Those gathered on that occasion thought that Jesus was referring to the eating of bread. Realizing their misunderstanding of His teaching, Jesus told them in clear language that the "leaven" of these spiritual leaders referred to the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees (See Matt. 16:6-12). A similar discourse of Jesus was also recorded in Mark 8:15-38.
The meaning of "leaven" used by Jesus in these teachings carries the same meaning it had in the warning to the Jewish people as used in the lesson text. They were to beware of the "doctrine" of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. Leaven causes the same reaction in bread dough as hypocritical doctrine taught by false teachers brings about in an audience of eager listeners. Leaven has a delayed reaction when added to bread dough. It has a latent effect and is not immediately noticed, but gradually affects the whole bread mixture with a fermenting action that results in the entire mass of dough raising and become airy. Spiritual leaven, says Jesus, has the same effect. When introduced to a mass of receptive listeners, hypocritically false doctrine initially goes unnoticed. And, if undetected, it will spread through the entire body of people. Not only are the false teachers puffed up with vanity and self-pride, but by accepting their false doctrine, those that follow their teaching also become vainly hypocritical to the same degree.
Jesus continues warning the multitude of Jews by saying: For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. This being true, Matthew told the Jews that they must accept the gospel of Christ and not to fear any recourse from these false teaching Jews (Matt. 10:26). No doubt at the time of this occurrence, there were many Jews that feared standing up to and opposing the teaching of their appointed "spiritual" leaders, so Jesus was telling them to remain steadfast, and in due time God's truths would be revealed and firmly established. Just hold on for a little while and all of the Old Testament prophecies acknowledging Jesus to be the promised Messiah, that was hidden by these false Jewish teachers, would soon be uncovered and God's truths would be made known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. Soon the acceptance of Jesus as the Savior would not have to be fearfully whispered among the people, but would be shouted from rooftops. Indeed, on the Day of Pentecost, those that were taught in private, proclaimed salvation through Christ Jesus to the world.