33He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Matthew 13:33 (ESV)
A few years ago, a Wednesday night small group I was in went through the parables of Jesus. When we got to this one it was interesting to hear how different people read and interpreted it. A couple of the people in our group thought that this one was a warning from Jesus about negative influence in the church. I came across at least one commentator (Warren Wiersbe) who took the same view. Given the various other passages in the Bible which use leaven in a similar negative manner, I guess I can understand the reasoning for reading it that way.
However, given the immediate context in which this parable is recorded (the parable of the mustard seed), I would have to agree with most of the commentaries I have read and say that it is describing either the permeating work of the Gospel in the world or the permeating work of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. If backed into a corner, I would probably choose the first of those. Even though leaven is often used in a derogatory manner, even in Jesus’ teachings, there seems to be no reason why it must always be used in such a way.
I used to work in a pizza joint. One of my tasks was to come in early in the morning and make dough. I am fully aware of both the positive and negative characteristics of yeast. This passage seems to be describing a woman using yeast in its proper sense. She is making bread and the yeast is a necessity. Without it’s influence, the bread would not rise and would be ruined. It does not take much of it to properly prepare the dough either. The Gospel may seem insignificant to many, but when it is administered, it has the power to transform the world. That, to me, seems the most obvious message that Jesus was trying to convey.
Grace and peace.