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Leaven

by Derrel Emmerson - September 20, 2014

“He told them still another parable; ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked through the dough.’” Matthew 15:33

The first thing we must consider in this illustration is that unleavened bread is usually associated with the people of God. In particular, the unleavened bread represented the Israelites and was associated with their deliverance from Egypt. Twelve loaves of unleavened bread were also on the table of Showbread in the tabernacle and temple representing the 12 tribes of Israel in fellowship in God’s presence.

The only place where leavened bread was used in worship as a symbol was at the feast of Pentecost. Many think that as the priest waved the leavened loaves “before the Lord” that they were prefiguring the Gentiles who would come into the church after Pentecost.

Another way we may think of leaven in this illustration is that yeast meant putrefaction and mixture. Is Jesus saying here that the Kingdom of God will come with the infusion of the Gentile nations considered impure by the Israelites? Or, was he saying that evil influences will come into the Kingdom of God? It is problematic. So – we are left with deciphering the significance of the leaven in this parable.

For the sake of some insight let us assume that Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God will grow with the infusion of the Gentiles nations. After all, that is what happened. This definition means that the leaven represents their influx. That also means that there is a change what is considered holy in New Covenant thinking.

Until the church was born, the belief of the Israelites in the One True God was limited to a select people who populated a small area of the Mediterranean. They were the people of the unleavened bread. After the church was born the knowledge of His name spread throughout the entire known world. They were the people of the leavened bread. It appears that this is what Jesus was saying. The leaven of the Gentiles will enter the Kingdom and there will be an enlargement.

Whatever our interpretation of the significance of the leaven this one thing is true. The Kingdom of God is a potent force working invisibly and surely. It is growing and enlarging in an unseen way. And, what will come out in the end is something useful that will feed. The kingdom of God will emerge from histories oven as surely as leaven in flour makes bread. Don’t despair.