Red Letter Year: 4/26

Matthew 16:1-12

16 One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’  You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times! Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.” Then Jesus left them and went away.

Later, after they crossed to the other side of the lake, the disciples discovered they had forgotten to bring any bread. “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “You have so little faith! Why are you arguing with each other about having no bread? Don’t you understand even yet? Don’t you remember the 5,000 I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of leftovers you picked up? 10 Or the 4,000 I fed with seven loaves, and the large baskets of leftovers you picked up? 11 Why can’t you understand that I’m not talking about bread? So again I say, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’”

12 Then at last they understood that he wasn’t speaking about the yeast in bread, but about the deceptive teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


If it seems like we just read this demand for a sign passage, we sort of did. This is very similar to Matt. 12.38ff. What I find interesting here is the red sky folk wisdom, which is a very handy example of the importance of interpretation. The same exact thing (observing a red sky) occurring at different times can mean something very different, in this case the exact opposite. Jesus is not introducing a new method of interpretation here, he is just pointing out that we all engage in nuanced interpretation. But we can be quite stubborn we want to be, setting reasonableness aside and insisting on something that gets us out of our interpretive responsibility. Since we’ve already given up being reasonable and charitable, what we insist on when we act like that is the impossible. We want proof, but there is no amount of proof we would accept as true. They didn’t need another sign. They needed to pay attention to the signs they were already seeing. Matthew calls them deceptive. They cynically ask for a sign, knowing full well that same cynicism would reject any sign offered. Jesus refuses to play their game and compares their cynicism to yeast. It spreads like yeast and takes over any host. Unlike yeast, it does not produce nourishing bread but deadly poison. So we must beware. And what is the protection against that poisonous yeast? Another sign? No, that just cycles us back around. The only protection is memory. Remember what Jesus has done. Remember  Jesus healing you. Remember  Jesus feeding you. Remember  Jesus setting you free. And then leave space for others to interpret the signs in their lives as the Holy Spirit leads and they see fit. You may both be looking at a red sky, but that might mean something quite different for each of you. Reminds me of the end of John’s Gospel. Jesus was giving Peter instructions, and Peter motioned to John and said, “What about him?” I think the answer Jesus gave Peter is the same answer he gives to a lot of us a lot of the time: “What’s that to you? You follow me!”

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Red Letter Year: 4/25

Matthew 15:21-39

21 Jesus left there and went away into the area of Tyre and Sidon. 22 A Canaanite woman from there came out shouting and begging, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David, my daughter is badly demonized.”

23 But he did not answer her, not a word. His disciples came and urged him, “Tell her to go away. She keeps shouting at us.”

24 Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”

25 But she came and worshiped him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

26 He answered, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

27 But she said, “Yes, Lord, for even the dogs will eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28 Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith. As you wish.” Her daughter was healed that same hour.

29 Leaving there, Jesus went around by the Sea of Galilee, went up a mountain, and sat down there. 30 Many groups came and brought with them people who were lame, blind, maimed, mute, and many others. They laid them at Jesus’ feet, and he healed them. 31 The crowd was amazed seeing the mute speaking, the maimed healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd. They have stayed with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, they may faint along the way.”

33 The disciples said to him, “Where would we get enough bread out here in the middle of nowhere to satisfy such a huge crowd?”

34 Jesus said to them, “How much bread do you have?”

They replied, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

35 Jesus told the crowd to relax on the ground. 36 He took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke them, and gave them to the disciples, who gave to the crowd.

37 They all ate and were filled, and they picked up seven large baskets of leftovers. 38 Four thousand men were fed that day, plus women and children. 39 Then Jesus dismissed the crowd, got into a boat, and went to the region of Magadan.


We have a lot of funny ideas about what the word “faith” means. Sometimes we think it relates to a set of ideas, doctrines, beliefs – certain statements that we can choose to agree are true. Making such a choice is having faith in this sense. Other times we think it relates to some quality in us whereby we acquire the things we need or want in life. Faith healers and television preachers often encourage people to have “more faith,” to work up enough psychological moxie to gain the upper hand in life’s struggles.

Neither of these have anything to do with what is going on in this passage. This Canaanite woman (amazing that some survived the ancient genocide) does not have a set of beliefs or care anything for such. She is not interested in positive thinking or talk herself into a miracle. She has a daughter who is being tormented by evil spiritual forces. The only thing she knows is that she is in over her head and that this guy Jesus can – and will – help. She begs in a loud voice and keeps on shouting her plea. The disciples quickly grow tired of her expression of faith and make their own plea to Jesus – get rid of her. Jesus plays along and says the awful things his disciples are thinking, but the woman is used to racial slurs and is undaunted. She knows Jesus can help. Even a crumb from him will be enough. She has no pride. No shame. No pretension. Just a desperate case and a guy named Jesus. This is what Jesus calls great faith.