More Interested in what God Does than in God

Matthew 16:1-12


Jerry A Collins



²                 What is the significance of a sign?

²                 What was it Jesus said the disciples did not understand?

²                 What does a lack of comprehension say about both groups?


Whenever we begin to learn something new we normally begin with very little, if any knowledge. So we begin the quest for new knowledge, insight, or perspective. This has been true for my son, Guthrie, as he has developed the desire to learn how to golf. He began with a small amount of knowledge—he did not know what he did not know—and has increased to a greater degree of understanding. Further practice, study and lessons will develop his comprehension and ability. Jesus confronted the need for increased knowledge about Him by both his enemies and his disciples. The problem was the unwillingness on one hand and the inability on the other, to put the pieces together. The Pharisees and Sadducees were not interested in learning but only accusing. The disciples were interested in comprehending and had little ability to do so. This section heightens the tension for the need to comprehend the revelation of God in Jesus Christ for those either unwilling or unable to learn.

Observation 1-4

1. Another confrontation with the Pharisees and Sadducees. On a number of occasions the Pharisees confronted Christ. On a handful of occasions the Sadducees questioned Christ. But this is the only time Matthew says they came together as a group. That is significant because normally they were enemies. Nothing like a common enemy—Christ—to unite people. The Pharisees were conservative lay businessmen who vigorously defended the rabbinical traditions and the Sadducees were professional liberal priests not believing in the supernatural or the rabbi traditions.

2. They teamed up to attack Christ—Matthew tells us they came with an ulterior motive—to test Christ. The idea is to obtain information to be used against Him by trying to cause Him to make a mistake.   So they are hoping to set

Christ up with their enquiry.

3. They want Him to reveal a sign from heaven. They already had a sign—Jesus Himself and all that He had been doing. The idea is disingenuous anyway, especially since the Sadducees did not believe in miracles even while asking for one. So in essence they have rejected any signs already performed before their very eyes and are demanding an even more spectacular one. This additional sign would never have created faith in the hearts of these (Lk 16:31; Jn 11:47-48 Read).



2-3 Jesus asks how they can figure out the weather from looking at the sky, yet they cannot differentiate the signs of the times. They are fairly good weather forecasters yet are surrounded by spiritual signs relating to the person of Jesus Christ and had missed them all.

4 For the second time Jesus announces that an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign (12:39). Jn 20:29 Jesus responds blessed are those who do not see but believe. Heb 11:1 faith is the evidence of things not seen. There is something evil about seeking for a sign. Jesus calls it adulterous in sense that what God can do—wanting a miracle or mystical sign—is leaving your 1st love, God. It is the sin of being more interested in what God does than in God. The deity of Christ was found in His character not in His signs. The only sign anyone can base their faith on is Jesus resurrection—the sign of Jonah, Jesus says. This sign, too, would be rejected by these same Jewish religious leaders. When they heard of Jesus’ resurrection they bribed the soldiers who guarded the tomb to say His body had been stolen by His disciples (Mt 28:11-15). No explaining this time as before but Jesus just leaves them and goes. There will be no more signs or arguments for unbelievers—only additional truth for believers.


1. Look to God’s Word, not miracles, to determine the truth on which you base your faith. God’s Word reveals to us the character of our God and the confidence we can place in Him as a result. His exploits explain His person & forms basis of our faith.

2. There comes a time when the unbelief of an unbeliever disqualifies him from further revelation. So we leave them in their unbelief and give more truth to those who believe.

Observation 5-12

1. While the previous group refused to understand because of unbelief, here the disciples do not understand because of little faith vs 8.

2. The disciples went to the other side of the Sea but they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus used this as an opportunity to teach them. Interpretation


6-7 Jesus calls for diligent watchfulness for the leaven (influence) of the P&S. A two-fold command to look out for and also to pay attention to this. At first we learn the disciples are confused functioning with physical perspective which hindered their spiritual vision vs 7.  

8-10 Their failure to understand was not because of limited information or limited intellectual ability but because of their limited faith—you men of little faith. This small faith is connected to their inability to trust, and have confidence and assurance in the power of Christ to provide food as He had done before. Do you not grasp what I did or remember it either? I just fed 5000 and 4000 people and you are worried about bread vs 11a? He was saying that if this was just needing physical bread, it would be no problem. If I could feed all of those people, I can certainly feed you? Matthew specifies the exact amounts—five loaves fed 5000 and seven loaves fed 4000. And besides in both cases many baskets and many large baskets attests that the need was abundantly addressed by Christ.

11-12 The issue was much more serious—the need to beware of the leaven of the P&S. And what is that? Leaven is yeast which causes the bread to rise. So the influence of this group is what Jesus is concerned about. Lk 12:1 Christ says the leaven of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. The leaven of the Sadducees is never identified but religion was used as a primary means to earthly, temporal gain. Both focused on this life and reward from men rather than rewards from God. This kind of false teaching influence can penetrate, persuade, and corrupt others thinking misleading and deceiving them. Matthew informs us that the disciples got it vs 12. It was the teaching—the essence of influence they were to be on guard for.


1. We have to watch out for false and deceptive teaching influences today that corrupt God’s Word and God’s people. The legalism of the Pharisees added to God’s Word and the liberalism of the Sadducees took away from and limited God’s Word, both of which are forbidden (Rev 22:18-19).

2. Beware of the influence of groups which put value only on this side of the grave whether a liberal or conservative agenda or any earthly religious goals or systems (prosperity gospel, racial equality, social activism, political power, environmental activism, eradicating poverty, sexual freedom, gender based issues, or world peace) which diverts attention away from or dilutes the purity of the kingdom of God. Little faith is caused by replacing a commitment to follow God with something else that takes our eyes partly off God. Religion like the Pharisees and Sadducees will produce a partly divided allegiance to God, His Word, His agenda, His kingdom.