In Luke 13, after Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed, He uses another unlikely example to picture God's kingdom- a lump of yeast! It is a picture from everyday life, but this time, it has a twist. Scripture almost always uses yeast as a negative image. But in this case, Jesus uses yeast to symbolize the way the Gospel would expand and affect an unsuspecting world. This time yeast is seen as a positive influence.
So, what does the yeast in Jesus' parable do? First when yeast is placed in a lump of dough, it changes the dough (Lk. 13:21). Like the yeast when the Gospel is brought into the world, it changes the world. It has been deliberately placed there by God. The Gospel, or Kingdom, works like yeast in two ways: 1) it changes individuals until their whole being has been transformed. 2) It changes society as a whole. When it affects individuals, they in turn affect the culture in which they live.
Yeast also changes and transforms bread. Bread made from water and wheat alone, is hard, dry, and not too nourishing; but yeast, mixed into the dough, changes and transforms it. Yeast does at least four things: 1) it makes bread soft, no longer hard. The Gospel does the same. It penetrates hearts and softens the hardness of life. As a result we become softened toward God too. We become a more caring and giving person. Softness is one of the trademarks of a transformed person. 2) Yeast makes bread porous and moist, no longer dry. The Gospel does the same. It penetrates the dryness of a person's heart and life. The Gospel moistens our hearts so that we can grow into a moist or fruitful person. 3) Yeast makes bread satisfying. The Gospel changes a life with no purpose or meaning and gives a person purpose, joy and hope. 4) Yeast makes bread nourishing. The Gospel not only gives purpose, but it inspires, commissions, and cultivates. A person transformed by the Gospel is able to bring truth to the world. The Gospel is able to explain the reasons for the emptiness and loneliness of the human heart and to replace them with love and fellowship.
It should be noted that yeast works quietly and silently. You don't hear it fizzing or crackling like Rice Krispies but you know it's working because you can see the difference in the dough. This says something about the way we should be living as transformed people in this world. As part of the "yeast of the kingdom" we are to be making an impact in our homes, at our jobs or wherever we may be. Yeast changes the whole lump. It permeates every pore of the dough's being. And so it should be with God’s people. Much has been said about the movement our culture has made away from God and godly principles. Some claim the Gospel, and all that goes with it, is irrelevant today. And yet it is obvious from the headlines that people need to hear the Good News now more than ever. As "yeast" in this world, we should be making an impact wherever the Lord calls us to go. Jesus is challenging us to make a difference.
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
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