Bible Society of South Africa

An unexpected ingredient -16 March 2022

By Xanthe Hancox

Bible text(s)

The Parable of the Yeast

20Again Jesus asked, “What shall I compare the Kingdom of God with? 21It is like this. A woman takes some yeast and mixes it with forty litres of flour until the whole batch of dough rises.”

Luke 13:20-21GNBOpen in Bible reader

Like the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the yeast also points to something small that produces amazing results. To Jesus’s first listeners however, yeast often represented sin and evil, and certainly would not have expected to find it associated with the kingdom of God.

Only bread without yeast could be used at Israel’s feasts. The smoke of yeasted bread was unacceptable to God. (see Leviticus 2:11) Jesus had also warned against the yeast of the Pharisees, citing their hypocrisy. (Luke 12:1) And Paul wrote, “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch.” (1 Corinthians 5:7) Leaven, or yeast, was regularly identified with the pervasiveness of sin and wickedness.

So, mentioning yeast in a parable about the kingdom of God would have certainly thrown his Jewish audience off guard. What was Jesus saying? It didn’t sound like he was talking about sanctified bread!

Again, Jesus often used shocking imagery to make a point. God could use even something despised to produce great results in his kingdom. Jesus may well have been saying that a despised group of former fishermen, prostitutes, and tax collectors could not only have a place in the kingdom of God, but be instrumental in helping it grow.

And if God could use yeast, he can certainly use you and me!

Prayer: God, you who use the unexpected in your plans, use us to carry out your purposes and to spread your glory. May your kingdom keep spreading throughout your world. Amen

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