Read Matthew 16:5-12
5-12 Then his disciples came to him on the other side of the lake, forgetting to bring any bread with them. “Keep your eyes open,” said Jesus to them, “and be on your guard against the ‘yeast’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” But they were arguing with each other, and saying, “We forgot to bring the bread.” When Jesus saw this he said to them, “Why all this argument among yourselves about not bringing any bread, you little-faiths? Don’t you understand yet, or have you forgotten the five loaves and the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up afterwards; or the seven loaves and the four thousand and how many baskets you took up then? I wonder why you don’t understand that I wasn’t talking about bread at all—I told you to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they grasped the fact that he had not told them to be beware of yeast in the ordinary sense but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (JBP)
One of the more puzzling aspects of Jesus is how his teaching is rather different in form and method to that which we might expect. Jesus never wrote a book. And the books written about him were not systematic expositions of his teaching but eyewitness accounts that are more like occasional words by him uttered in specific contexts.
This doesn’t mean we can’t make sense of Jesus. It means we have to take his teachings as we find them and not demand he teach in a certain way. He uttered proverbs, spoke in parables, used metaphors. Those who insisted on literalism found him a problem: we see this in today’s passage, but also in Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus and the woman at the well. He certainly spoke divine and incisive truth, but the way he spoke that truth may seem strange to our sensibilities.
C. S. Lewis described our attempts to pin down Jesus to our type of systematic teaching as like trying to ‘bottle sunbeams’. We cannot merely grasp him by use of our intellects; we need some imagination mixed in with our intellects. We dare not demand he conform to our ways of communicating truth. We simply accept he speaks the truth, and then enlist the help of his Spirit to make life-changing sense of it.