"Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." (Luke 12:1)

As a large crowd was gathering to hear Jesus speak, he spoke these words to his disciples:
Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying:

So why does Jesus utilize the word "yeast"?

This word is translated from the Greek word ζύμη (zymē) - which means, according to the lexicon, "leaven" but used in a metaphorical manner as Jesus uses it, "of inveterate mental and moral corruption, viewed in its tendency to infect others." This is because, as it states further, "Leaven is applied to that substance which is small in quantity, yet thoroughly pervades a thing by its influence."

Thus Jesus is speaking of the reality that the Pharisees' influence will pervade and infect Jesus' students. How does this work?

The Pharisees were the appointed leaders of the Jewish temple institution that had a commanding grip over the people. While the Romans effectively ruled the lands of Judah from an aristocratic standpoint, the Jewish temple institution meted out most of the judgement regarding conduct of the people - as the institution was empowered by the Roman government.

We saw this effect when Jesus was arrested by the High Priest and then handed over to the Roman court where Pilate - the governor - sentenced Jesus to death following pressure from the High Priest and his appointed Pharisees. We find the Pharisees were involved in Jesus' persecution directly:
The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. (Matt. 27:62)
The bottom line is that the Jewish temple hierarchy was more of a political institution. While it operated and managed the temples - and the Pharisees gave their sermons and lectures there - the institution was more of a political organization.

Similarity with today's sects

The Jewish temple institution of Jesus' time was not much different from many of the so-called Christian institutions we find today, where its leaders are appointed or elected and its concerns relate to the institution's collection of money, expanding its base of followers, and protecting the institution's reputation.

As we learn from Jesus' teachings and throughout the scriptures, this Jewish institution was very powerful, and prevailed over the society at the time. This is not so different than the Roman Catholic institution that dominated Christianity for more than 1,500 years, and still commands power among the various sectarian sects today.

And what made the Jewish institution so seductive - not unlike the institutions today that claim to represent Jesus - was the fact that should one be appointed to a position within the institution's hierarchy, that person received great respect and honor for his title and power.

This is why Jesus referred to this as "yeast" or "leaven" - because this powerful institution exerted its seductive influence through power and respect, and dominated the society - thus one's having a position of authority within the institution was very attractive.

Furthermore, bucking this institution led to difficulty - leading to one being insulted and condemned by those in positions of authority within the institution. This is evident as the Pharisees repeatedly criticized and offensively challenged the teachings of Jesus and the activities of his followers.

So not joining up with this institution or being a follower within it had a double-edge to it.

What is the "hypocrisy" that Jesus is referring to?

Yes, Jesus is certainly referring to the fact that the Jewish institution supposedly represented the Prophets such as Moses, Abraham, David and Isaiah, while the institution's leaders did not follow nor teach the central precepts of the Prophets' teachings - the most important of which is to love and serve the Supreme Being.

Contained within this is the fact that while they supposedly represented those Prophets who were chosen by God to represent Him, they themselves gained their positions of power within the Jewish institution through appointment and election by others - a political process.

Thus they effectively removed the Supreme Being from the equation by creating an institution that chose its teachers and leaders through a political process - allowing charlatans to pretend to be devout and magnanimous while they were really only interested in gaining power and authority - and having many followers.

So while they claimed to represent those Prophets who were singly devoted to the Supreme Being - and came to their authority through the empowerment of the Supreme Being - they themselves had created false power and authority through political assembly - and thus removed the Supreme Being from the equation.

Why is this important? Because these leaders and teachers of the Jewish institution were being followed. Their teachings were accepted as being spiritual guidance and able to supposedly save people.

Yet they didn't have this ability to save anyone because they only represented a politically-influenced institution: They did not represent God. Thus their teachings had no potency.

Such is the state of the various sectarian institutions that claim to be representing Jesus today. In the very same way the institution of the Pharisees and High Priest was a political organization, these sects - some very large institutions with sect names such as Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, Anglican, Seventh-day Adventist, Mormon and others - have created these political institutions whereby its leaders and its ministers are politically elected by councils of members.

So while Jesus was not elected by any institution to his position - but rather singly and individually devoted to and represented the Supreme Being, and he rejected the institutionally-appointed Pharisees: These organizations today claim to represent Jesus while they elect their leaders and ministers using the same type of political system used by the Pharisees.

Now that is hypocrisy.

The Supreme Being does not empower authority that is granted through political institutions. These institutions are for those who seek self-centered authority over others and seek followers. They are not representing Jesus or the Supreme Being. They are representing their politically-oriented institution and its political aspirations to dominate religious thought and attract many followers.

The Supreme Being does not empower those who seek respect and followers. He also does not empower those who seek a return in the form of salary or other compensation for their so-called service.

Rather, the Supreme Being empowers those who devote themselves to Him, follow His loving servants, and reject any kind of reward or respect in return for their service to Him.

The clear wisdom here - the excellent potency of the Supreme Being - is that this same hypocrisy that Jesus expressly warned his students about is applicable to those institutions that claim to be following Jesus today.

In other words, while claiming to follow Jesus, these sectarian institutions are actually following in the footsteps of the Pharisees, the High Priest and the Jewish institution that Jesus is warning his students to avoid.

Jesus also predicted this would take place among those who claimed to follow him:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matt. 7:21-23)