The Parable Of The Yeast


We’re influenced by the world in all sorts of ways, but how much do we as Christians influence the world with Christ?

Jesus is still teaching about the kingdom of God and in this parable, He shares a lesson from something He saw His mother doing time and time again.

As we know bread was made at home in Palestine during this time and everywhere you went you would see women making bread. Everybody knew about the little piece of dough, which had been kept over from the previous baking, which was called yeast, and the yeast was basically a piece of fermented dough.

Let’s set the scene and keep the parable in its proper place. In Mark 13:10ff Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. And so Jesus saw her and called her forward and then healed her.

But the rulers of the people weren’t happy because Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath and so Jesus rebukes them. And in Luke 13:18-19 Jesus compares the kingdom of God to the mustard seed.

‘Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” Luke 13:20-21

Now let me ask you this question, has anyone ever said anything to you, which has greatly offended you?

Jesus told a parable here, which would have highly offended those who were listening. You might be thinking well, what’s the big deal, He’s talking about yeast.

Well to understand why they were offended we need to enter the mind of the Jews again. In Jewish thinking, yeast or leaven is almost always connected with an evil influence.

The Jews connected fermentation with deterioration and rottenness, and yeast stood for that which was evil, Matthew 16:6 / 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 / Galatians 5:9. So now we can understand why the Jews would struggle with this parable.

They would be thinking how could the kingdom of God be compared to yeast? How can God’s kingdom be compared with evil?

Remember when God spoke to Moses and Aaron about what the Israelites were to do in preparation for the Passover?

One of the ceremonies of preparation for the Passover feast was that every scrap of yeast had to be taken out of the house and burned and destroyed, Exodus 12:8-10.

I believe that Jesus chose this illustration of the kingdom deliberately. Imagine if you were a Jew and you were there listening to Jesus, there would be a certain shock in hearing that the kingdom of God is compared to yeast. But that shock would arouse interest and get attention, as an illustration from an unusual and unexpected source always does.

Jesus spoke of yeast in the good sense, He saw how the women use it for a good purpose to make light and wholesome bread. And so when you look at yeast the way Jesus looks at yeast, you can understand that the kingdom of God is like yeast in many ways.

So now that we understand the background to this parable, I would like to share with you 3 thoughts about this yeast or leaven as some translations have it.

1. The yeast of Christ works from the inside out.

Those of you who are bakers and make your own bread will know exactly what I’m talking about. When you’re making bread, you know that yeast will do nothing to your mixture unless you mix it through, and that’s because yeast does its work from within.

In other words, yeast can do nothing to the dough unless it’s put inside, it has to get right inside the dough to work properly.

And Christianity works the same way. The influence that changes a person works within a person’s heart. You know we’re living in a totally materialistic country and people are trying to change themselves all the time.

Some women go for surgery to improve their looks, some men go to the gym to work out and have a better-looking body. But they fail to realise that a new house, a new job, and better material things only change the surface.

You can have a million pounds in your bank account but you will still be the same person. You can change the external things about your life but your heart will still be the same.

A poverty-stricken nation may receive food and clothing and better housing, but that nation will not really be changed until it’s given something within.

The task of Christianity is to make new men, not new things. It’s not the outward things that are the problem, it’s the human heart that’s the problem, Mark 7:21-22.

In other words, once the new people are created, the new world will follow. A man isn’t converted unless he’s converted within, a person isn’t converted unless their heart is changed.

So Christianity is like yeast, it’s not the outside trying to get in, but the inside trying to get out, Proverbs 27:19.

2. There’s real quality in the transforming power of yeast.

Did you know that when yeast is put into the baking meal, it changes the ingredients?

It does, what happens is that the dough is turned into a bubbling, seething mass. When Christ and His kingdom are introduced to people, great changes take place.

And that’s because Christianity is a disturbing thing, it disturbs people, it upsets people, Acts 16:20-21. The Gospel of Christ upsets people and some people don’t like it.

When Christians talk about the Gospel, people get very angry, Acts 17:5-8. But why do they get upset? They get upset because God’s Word exposes their sin, Hebrews 4:12.

And sometimes you don’t even have to say a word about God but because they know you’re a Christian, you’re exposing their darkness, and people don’t like being exposed, John 3:20.

But you see, that’s the sort of person that Christ can help because when Christ comes into a person’s heart, that person becomes a new man or woman.

Paul says when a person lets the yeast of Christ work in them and through them, they have new thoughts, Colossians 3:1-4. A Christian starts to think differently about themselves and the world they live in. He says that a person who comes into contact with Christ starts to live differently, Colossians 3:5-7.

But something else happens to a person when they accept the yeast of Christ.

When the disciples were talking about places of honour, Matthew 20:25-28, what’s Jesus saying?

He’s saying that when you become a Christian your idea of work changes, and you get new ambitions of work and service. The yeast of Christ is so powerful it can take a person like the apostle Paul who said that he was the worst of all sinners.

He can take anyone, no matter where they are from or what they have done in the past. He can take these people and totally transform their lives. And how does He do that?

Christ does that because He loves us and He has told us that whoever becomes a Christian is a new creation because the old has gone, 2 Corinthians 5:14-17.

When you allow Christ to influence your life with His words, you will be amazed at the results. Jesus Christ can change someone who is willing to allow God to change them. And what are the results of a changed and transformed life?

The yeast of Christ is powerful loved ones and there’s not a person you have ever met or will ever meet who cannot be changed by the Word of God, Galatians 5:22-24.

3. The yeast of Christ cannot be contained.

You see yeast works contagiously, or in the words of Jesus in the parable in Matthew 13:33 “Until it worked all through the dough.” When yeast gets put into the mixture it doesn’t stop until it has spread through the whole mixture. And Jesus says that’s exactly what the kingdom of God is like, it spreads like an infection.

When you think about some of Jesus’ first disciples, other people brought them to Him. In other words, Andrew found Peter and Philip found Nathanael, John 1:40-45, and from then onwards the number of disciples just grew and grew and grew, and the early church multiplied by leaps and bounds.

When you think about the Lord’s church, it’s very much in the soul-winning business. Where we’re reps for Jesus Christ and the only way the church can do its business is for every single member to be a soul winner for Christ too.

We have seen that yeast used in the Scriptures is for either good or bad. A good example is contagious like yeast, but a bad example is also contagious.

But Jesus said that God’s kingdom grows and spreads like yeast and it cannot be contained. Because God’s people just can’t help but tell others the news concerning the kingdom of God. Even today, just over 2020 years later people are still giving their lives to Christ and God’s kingdom continues to grow.

And the question you need to ask yourself this morning is this, is your influence contributing to that growth?

You see it always comes back to your heart. God will not change a person’s heart if that person’s heart doesn’t want to be changed. It doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, it’s the inside that counts, it’s the heart that matters, 1 Samuel 16:7.

If your heart is right with God, then you will win souls for His kingdom. If your heart isn’t right with God then today would be a good day to do away with that old creation and put on the new, Galatians 6:15.

Why not come to Christ and allow Him to begin to work in and through you today.