Summary: Evil, symbolized by yeast, permeates our lives and our Churches: an unpopular interpretation of the parable.
The Yeast Matthew 13:33
INTRO.: As a child, I watched my mother bake bread. She would mix the dough and the yeast and let it sit in a large basin until it rose. Then she would knead it some more and divide it into smaller pans for baking. My brother and I would come around often to see if it had risen high enough to bake. I was always puzzled by its rising. My mother explained it was because of the yeast, but I really didn’t understand.
In Jesus’ day bread was made, in the homes of the common people, from barley flour. He must have watched Mary many times as she combined flour and yeast, kneaded the dough, and let it sit to rise, sometimes overnight. Bread was very precious in those days and was the mainstay of their diet.
The popular interpretation of this parable is that the Kingdom of God will permeate and change the world as yeast does in bread. This interpretation may be valid. It is certainly God’s intention for the kingdom to do this.
But, I believe, along with some biblical scholars, this parable means the Kingdom of God will be permeated by sin and influenced by evil until the Lord returns. In this connection, I want to introduce you to a few principles of biblical interpretation and explain why I accept this interpretation.
I. Some of the principles involved:
A. Scripture must not be made to contradict itself. Every place yeast is mentioned in Scripture it indicates an evil influence.
1. Forbidden in Passover and all Jewish feasts. "Do not offer the blood of a sacrifice to me along with anything containing yeast. Ex. 23:18
2. "Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." Matt. 16:6 cf v. 12
3. "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod." Mark 8:15
4. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy." Luke 12:1
5. "Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness" I Cor. 5:8
6. Empty formalism, trust in the flesh. Gal. 5:9
B. Scripture must be understood in its context:
1. Four parable are recorded in the first part of this chapter.
2. The first two clearly teach the Kingdom will not be completely triumphant in this world. The next two should not be interpreted to contradict that teaching.
3. The mustard seed story (32) shows perverse and unnatural growth. Mustard is an herb, not a tree. The Church has often been huge and powerful in the eyes of men, but not what God intended it to be.
C. Scripture must be interpreted consistent with observable historical events:
1. There has never been a complete conquest of good over evil at any age. The Gospel has not completely changed the world as yeast changes dough.
2. Even in the Church, the mixture of good and evil is evident.
3. The Church has never completely permeated the world, but the world has always permeated the Church.
4. The witness of the Church is corrupted and crippled by the presence of "yeast."
II. The Bible mentions several things that pollute symbolized by yeast.
A. Hypocrisy, the yeast of the Pharisees. Luke 12:1
1. This is pretending to be something we are not.
2. There are less hypocrites in the Church than some folk think, but there are too many.
3. This is an evil influence that feeds on itself. We pretend to be what someone else pretends to be in order to please men.
B. Rationalism, the yeast of the Sadducees. Matthew 16: 6, 12
1. Rationalism means everything must be explained by what we see and understand.
2. Hence, Sadducees disbelieved in angels, spirits, resurrection, and most things connected with the invisible realities.
3. Incredibly, many Christians and Churches doubt the reality of miracles, the Holy Spirit, and the resurrection.
C. Materialism, the yeast of Herod: Mark 8:15
1. Herod believed pageantry and display would awe the people and win obedience.
2. Didn’t realize true greatness is the willingness to serve others.
3. The Church is in danger of Herod’s yeast when we are more concerned with buildings and budgets than with serving and winning souls.
4. Or when we think a giant organization and huge facility will bring people to Christ because it is big.
D. The yeast of malice and wickedness: I Cor. 5:8
1. Love and righteousness should characterize the Church.
2. The context of this verse involves the Corinthians’ tolerance of adultery, incest. Paul advises "kick the adulterers out." get rid of the old yeast.
3. Wickedness cripples many modern Churches because Christians don’t live like Christ.