After being grilled with questions by the Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus taught His disciples how Satan lures us into his traps.
“Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any food. ‘Watch out!’ Jesus warned them. ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees'” (Matthew 16:5,6 NLT).
The disciples thought Jesus said this because they had forgotten to bring bread on the trip. Evidently they didn’t remember that Jesus had fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread just a few days prior to this trip.
No, Jesus wasn’t talking about food at all. There was a much greater purpose behind this statement. Jesus was about to expose one of Satan’s methods of trapping people. His point was revealed in the meaning of the word “yeast.” This word means something that agitates or causes fermentation; leaven (rising).”
“Fermentation” refers to a substance causing a state of excitement, commotion, unrest, boiling up, or agitation. The warning Jesus gave the disciples exposed Satan’s plan to use people or situations to agitate us, to bring us to the boiling point, or cause tension in our lives.
Satan will use any opportunity to agitate us in hopes of getting a rise out of us emotionally so we’ll lose our cool. The moment we allow that to happen, we have stepped out of the realm of the Spirit into the realm of the flesh where Satan rules.
The legal meaning of “entrapment” refers to a situation where a person is induced or persuaded to commit an act he had no previous intention of committing. The yeast, or the agitation, is meant to entrap us so we’ll yield to the flesh and say something foolish. That’s when the trap is sprung as Satan gleefully hangs us with our own words.
One characteristic of yeast is that it makes the object appear much larger than it actually is. Think back to the last time we were agitated by someone until we lost our cool. Maybe it was something as simple as a car cutting in front of us. Or perhaps the clerk at the grocery store was rude or extremely slow. One thing is certain, when we live in the flesh it only takes a small amount of yeast to get a big rise!
Yet when we realize that we’re in the midst of a conflict between kingdoms, we’ll become more skillful at recognizing the traps set for us and simply refuse to take the bait. We can ask the Holy Spirit to help us recognize the yeast before it has its agitating effect on us. Then the next time a situation arises that would normally push our button, we can resist the temptation to get agitated.
Instead, draw on the fruit of the spirit, such as longsuffering, patience, and gentleness. Soon those petty irritants won’t be able to agitate us the way they once did. And it won’t be long before we will be able to declare with confidence, “The devil has nothing on me!”