The Leaven

“He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” (Matthew 13:33)

We have spoken of the Parable of the Mustard Seed and now we will look at the Parable of the Leaven. From last week we determined that the Mustard Seed is a small seed that grows into a large plant. This in comparison to the Kingdom of God is that it has a small beginning and grows to a remarkable size. With the Leaven we see the same similarity of a small beginning producing a large result. We also noted that perhaps these two Parables were to encourage the disciples in the work that laid before them.

Let us first define what Leaven is. The simple definition from Webster is “a substance (such as yeast) that makes dough rise and become light before it is baked.” Today in our society the term Leaven has more likely be replaced with the word yeast.

The word leaven has symbolic meaning in the New Testament. Jesus warned of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” (Luke 12:1) In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he warned how a little leaven in a lump of bread could ruin the whole lump. His point was that we should stay clear of an unrepentant person. (1 Corinthians 5:1-13) “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” (1 Corinthians 5:6) Theses uses of the word have caused some commentators to view the word leaven in this Parable as representing something evil.

If this were the case of Jesus using the word leaven then this would not be an encouragement to the disciples. Also it would mean the Kingdom of God was destined to fail as the leaven would spread throughout the whole Kingdom. This would be contradictive to the truth that sin cannot be in the presence of God and that God could be subjected to the evil personality of Satan. Neither of which is possible.

In keeping in the context of our previous observations then the use of leaven is to mean that the Kingdom of God will experience great growth throughout the entirety of the world. One thought is that the loaf represents the world and the leaven is the Word of God. With this view the Kingdom of God will make its influence felt across the whole world. This is already true as Christianity has reached every corner of the globe.

This is the command that Jesus gave His disciples before His ascension to the Father. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) God loves the people of the world and all deserve to hear the gospel of the Kingdom. “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16) This has been the mission of the Church to take the Word of God to every nation. The effect of that has influenced every society here in the world. Leaven does its work in an unnoticeable way when it works in the loaf but its result can be clearly seen. The spread of the gospel message may not be a celebrated work but its effect is clearly seen in the world.

In the Parable Jesus said that the loaf, the world, would be completely influenced by the leaven. “Until it was all leavened.” The Kingdom of God will leave no part of the world untouched. As Paul proclaimed, “Which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.” (Colossians 1:6)

Unfortunately, as we saw in the first Parable of the Sower, not all will respond to the gospel message. But to some, those who respond, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a fragrance of His knowledge. His disciples in the world are also a sweet aroma to those who are being saved by His Word. Those who heed not to the message of hope and salvation it bears have the aroma of death. “But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

Yet we see the continued influence to the Word of God in the world today as the reign of Christ shall never end. The Church continues to see growth and His Word has an effect in the societies of the world and in its judicial systems and charitable organizations. Every aspect of life today is touched by the influence of Jesus Christ. “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

It is important then for us not to lose heart. It is not for us to measure the success of Christianity by our visible standards. God is sovereign and He is in control of all events in the world. His Church will prevail even against the gates of hades. “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” (Matthew 16:18)

Jesus said to the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” (Luke 17:20-21) For the Kingdom of God is within the follower of Jesus Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God and His rule is taking place where ever the Word of God is being sown into the hearts of men and the good and noble hearts will produce its fruit. That which started as a small seed will become a great tree and what started in a small portion in the loaf will spread to the whole loaf.

We as Christian followers must do our part to leaven the whole loaf, the whole world. We do so by speaking His Word into the hearts of those who so desperately need to hear. We do it by our good works that we were created to do. This is our calling and we serve the King by fulfilling our call. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth and we must flavor the lives of those who are wandering aimlessly without purpose for their life. We are the light of truth that people may see their way through the darkness of this world and find the narrow path that leads to their home in eternity. We were designed to glorify God by our word and actions and to be an influence for good in a world that has lost its way. “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, October 27, 2016

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