Summary: Where the kingdom is depicted as having remarkable growth despite humble beginnings, and was probably told to reassure Jesus’ disciples that their involvement in the kingdom would not be for nothing
THE LEAVEN-YEAST-Mt 13:33
Mt13: 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."
Our previous study examined ‘The Parable Of The Mustard Seed’ Mt13: 31-32,
Where the kingdom is depicted as having remarkable growth despite humble beginnings, and was probably told to reassure Jesus’ disciples that their involvement in the kingdom would not be for nothing, especially after hearing two parables where we see that not all would receive the Word properly, and Satan’s efforts to hinder growth of the kingdom would be noticeable
Another parable that seems to have the same purpose of reassurance, The Parable Of The Leaven is found in Mt 13:33 and Immediately we can see similarities to The Parable Of The Mustard Seed, both are quite brief, with no explanations by Jesus recorded and both appear to be describing the remarkable spread of the kingdom of heaven but there are some differences, so this parable is certainly worthy of careful consideration
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON "LEAVEN"
Leaven is a small portion of fermented dough used to ferment other dough (Holman Bible Dictionary) and once inserted into a batch, it continues its process of fermentation until the whole batch has risen (Hendrickson, New Testament Commentary). Today we use the term yeast instead of leaven.
In the New Testament, "leaven" is often symbolic of corrupting influence, Jesus warned of ‘the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees’, which included their teaching and hypocrisy- Mt 16:5-12; Luke 12:1. Paul also wrote of the danger of how ‘a little leaven leavens the whole lump’, as he addressed the need to withdraw from the impenitent brother - 1 Co 5:1-13. There are some that believe leaven represents something evil.
There are several reasons why this is not likely to be true because it is used elsewhere in scripture, and to read the use of the figure as found elsewhere into this passage is a form of ‘eisegesis’, that is, reading something into the passage not actually there, as opposed to ‘exegesis’, which is to read out of a passage what it actually says or means, and should be the goal of proper Bible study
THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
I don’t think Jesus meant to use leaven in this context as symbolical of corrupting influence. He was merely establishing that like leaven permeates, so to will the Kingdom permeate, to spread and flow throughout the world. It has been suggested that the loaf represents the world, and the leaven is the kingdom
Indicating that God will gradually make his influence felt in the world. The reign of heaven could manifest itself in many ways, in the form of the gospel (the "word" of the kingdom, Mt 13:19), as it is proclaimed to all creation - Mk 16:15-16-. In the form of the church, which spreads as people accept the gospel or in the influence of the Word and the church, as there influence is felt in society. It is also possible that this parable may also illustrates the "invisible" growth of the kingdom, that is to say as leaven does its work with less than noticeable effect so to the spreading influence of the kingdom is often unnoticeable, but real nonetheless!
THE KINGDOM’S INFLUENCE WILL BE COMPLETE...
Speaking of the loaf, Jesus said "till it was all leavened" No part of the "loaf" (world) will be untouched by the influence of the kingdom.
Paul expressed that the gospel did indeed spread in this way in Ro 10:17-18; 16:25-26; Co 1:6,23
APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE
Don’t measure the growth or success of the kingdom solely by visible standards for as Jesus said to the Pharisees. "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say ’See here!’ or ’See there!’" - Luke 17:20-21a, "For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." - Luke 17:21b. The spread of the kingdom (the rule of God) is taking place wherever the "word of the kingdom" is being sown, and fruit will be borne as it falls on "good and noble hearts", Remain confident in that: what began as a mustard seed will become a great tree and that what started in one small portion of the loaf will eventually spread through the whole loaf
Allow the "leaven of the kingdom" to permeate your own heart and life and take the Word of God into your own heart, study and meditate upon it, and then seek to apply it! Allow that Word to produce fruit in your life, so that you become a leavening influence for the kingdom of God! By word, as you share the gospel of the kingdom with others. By deed, as you do good works that glorify God, for as leaven, we are also "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" - Mt 5:13-16, designed to glorify God by our good works and so influence our world for good as well!