Ver. 8-12. Mark, giving us an account of this passage, Mar_8:17-19, useth some harsher expressions: And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? Perceive ye not yet, neither understand? Have ye your eyes yet hardened? Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not? And do ye not remember? When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve. And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand? Our Saviour here charges them with three things, ignorance, unbelief, forgetfulness.
1. Ignorance, in that they did not understand that his usual way was to discourse spiritual things to them under earthly similitudes, and so by leaven he must understand something else than leaven with which men use to leaven their bread.
2. Unbelief, that they having seen the power and goodness of the Lord and Master, to feed four thousand with seven loaves, and five thousand with five loaves, leaving a great remainder, and that he did this for a mixed multitude, out of a mere compassion to the wants and cravings of human nature, should not judge that he was able to provide for them, although they had brought no bread; or doubt whether he would do it or no for them, who were much dearer to him.
3. Forgetfulness, which is often in Scripture made the mother of unbelief and disobedience. Deu_4:9,23 25:19 Psa_78:11.
There is nothing of difficulty in the terms, only from this history we may learn these things:
1. That God expects that we should not only hear and see, but understand.
2. That he looks we should not only hear for the present time, but for the time to come. Christ expected that his disciples should have learned from his doctrine about washing of hands, that he could not mean the leaven of bread, but something else, which might defile them.
3. That he is much displeased with his own people, when he discerns blindness and ignorance in them, after their more than ordinary means of knowledge.
4. That former experiences of God’s power and goodness manifested for us, or to us, ought to strengthen our faith in him when we come under the like circumstances; and a disputing or doubting after such experiences argues but a little and very weak faith, and a hardness of heart, that the mercies of God have not made a just impression on our souls.
Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mark, instead of and of the Sadducees, hath, and of the leaven of Herod, which hath made some think that Herod was a Sadducee. The doctrine of the Pharisees is reducible to two heads:
1. Justification by the works of the law, and those works too according to that imperfect sense of the law they gave.
2. The obligation of the tradition of the elders; whose traditions were also (as we have heard) some of them of that nature, that they made the law of God of no effect.
The doctrine of the Sadducees we are in part told, Act_23:8. They said there was no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit: these were principles excellently suited to men of atheistical hearts and lives, and it is more than probable that Herod and his courtiers, and some of his lords and great captains, had sucked in some of these principles, and these were the Herodians mentioned, Mat_22:16Mar_3:6.
These doctrines are by our Saviour compared to leaven, not only because of the sour nature of it, but also because heretics’ words (as the apostle saith) eat as doth a canker, and are of a contagious nature; as leaven doth diffuse its quality into the whole mass of meat. Our Saviour had upon this account compared the gospel to leaven, Mat_13:33, because by his blessing upon it it should influence the world, as we heard, in Mat_13:1-58.