Yeast, a matter of life and death…

For me, one of the strangest comparisons in the Bible is in Matthew 13:33, where the kingdom of heaven is compared to a woman mixing yeast into dough. It seems like such a strange way to describe the kingdom of heaven…so why did Jesus use this comparison? What was he trying to teach us through this parable?

Matthew 13:33
“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 all through the dough.”

What is the yeast? What is the woman? In order to understand the lesson of this parable we have to understand these things spiritually.

Matthew 16:6-12 [abbrev.]

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? […] How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Physical yeast brings about change in whatever it is mixed into – the fermentation of yeast creates the alcohol in beer, yeast mixed into dough reacts to create bread. But Jesus was speaking spiritually, not physically. The logic of spiritual yeast is the same as that of physical yeast. Spiritually it refers to teachings that bring about change in those who hear and accept it – good or bad, depending on the teachings.

Since  the parable is meant to be understood spiritually, with the yeast being spiritual yeast, surely the woman has to be referring to a spiritual ‘woman’…

Galatians 4:19 says, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…” Here Paul is speaking as though he is a woman in the pains of childbirth. Paul had received the spiritual seed (the word) from Jesus, therefore he was in the position of a woman – the one who receives the seed. He then “gave birth” to the believers in Galatia. From this we can understand a spiritual woman to be a teacher or pastor, the one who received the seed and then ‘gives birth’ to believers or congregation members.

The Pharisees would have been spiritual women, however, the disciples were warned to guard against the yeast of the Pharisees (Mt 16:12). This implies there are not only different types of ‘women’ (teachers), but also different types of yeast (teachings), and depending on which teachings you receive, it brings about different types of change.

At the time of the first coming, receiving the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees – the leaders and teachers of the law – led to spiritual death. They belonged to the devil, and spread his lies and false teachings: John 8:44

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

On the flip side, Jesus’ words and teachings gave life: John 6:63

“The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

I always knew too much beer and bread was not good for me, but who would have thought that consuming ‘yeast’ could be a matter of life and death…

From bread baskets to six-packs and everything in between, what is your indulgence (or staple…there’s no judgment here)? I’ll go first…