Today we’d like to talk about a parable of Christ concerning the Kingdom of Heaven. It is important to deeply pray over the parables of Christ, because as he said, many do not understand the meanings to them. Even the disciples of Christ who would later become Apostles, didn’t understand some of the parables He was giving them. They had to ask Him to explain His parables. The parable that we will discuss today, is the parable of the three measures of meal:
“Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” ~ Matthew 13:33
“And again he said, Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.” ~ Luke 13:20-21
What did Jesus/Yeshua mean when He gave this parable? Do you understand it? Is the meaning of this parable evident? Today lets take a deep look at this parable of the kingdom. The first thing to ask is, when Jesus refers to ‘leaven’, is this a good thing or a bad thing? We know that leaven is used throughout scripture to mean ‘sin’. Jesus warned the disciples not to eat the ‘leaven’ of the Pharisees, which was hypocracy (Luke 12:1). We are warned against the leaven of Herod which is best understood as an extreme sensualism (Mark 8:15). We are warned against the leaven of the Saducees which was full of rationalism and liberalism (Matthew 16:6). Paul used leaven as an image of malice and wickedness within the church (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). He describes legalism in the same terms as well (Galatians 5:7-9). In celebrating the Feast of Unleavened Bread, God’s people are called to cast the ‘leaven’ out of their homes, the ‘leaven’ representing sin. All of this being said, using the concept that leaven means sin, this parable doesn’t make much sense. Was Jesus saying that the kingom of God is like sin which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was full of sin? Of course not! There can be no sin in the Kingdom of God (Revelation 21:27). Sin in the Kingdom of God, would be a contradiction of scripture. Therefore, this term leaven must carry a different meaning.
What is Leaven?
For those that don’t know, leaven is actually “yeast.” That’s it. An interesting side note, is that yeast is a living organism. It is a form of fungi that reproduces. You put yeast into all of the other ingredients required to make dough, you mix them together, and over time the dough rises until it is ready to be cooked. Kneading is the process of pressing and rolling the dough repeatedly to firstly mix all of the ingredients, and secondly to firm up the dough so that it will be able to hold the air pockets that will form (because of the leaven), when it is heated. Once heated, air pockets form (because of the leaven) in the dough to produce fluffy bread. Without yeast, bread is called “unleavened” and is flat and hard with no fluff. They used to leaven a new batch of bread with a small lump of dough from a previous batch. This is much the same way that we make sourdough today. The yeast would permeate through the entire lump of dough, as someone would knead it. A common saying concerning leaven:
“A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” ~ Galatians 5:9
It is interesting to understand the amount of flour we are talking about. A “measure” in biblical times equated to approximately 3 omers. Ten omers made up an ephah which means that this “three measures” referenced was approximately an ephah. This is A LOT of flour. In modern terms you could equate this to a bushel. This can make a serious amount of bread, enough to feed a large group of people. We find biblical examples where they made three measures of meal. Gideon made this much unleavened bread for the angel of the Lord (Judges 6:18-19). Ezekiel mentions this amount of meal presented in sacrifice to God (Ezekiel 45:24). Hannah brought this among of flour up to the tabernacle at Shiloh when she brought Samuel there (1 Samuel 1:24). Abraham had Sarah make three measures of flour when showing hospitality to the Lord and the angels who were on their way to judge Sodom. Sarah had made enough bread to feed 100 people. The point here, is that three measures of meal, is a lot of food. It is a large quantity.
Leaven In A Positive Light
We’ve seen so far that leaven in dough has had a negative connotation. Now lets take a look at an example where the dough was given a positive connotation:
“For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.” ~ Romans 11:16
The firstfruit is Christ. The term “lump” in this text comes from the original Greek word “Phurama” meaning: a mass or lump, as of bread dough, that which is mixed. Here we read that if the firstfruit (Christ) be holy, the lump (the bread dough which is mixed) is also holy. This is an example where leaven doesn’t represent sin, rather it represents holiness and righteousness. It is interesting also to note the use of leaven in the Torah, and in the Feasts. After Atonement had been made through the blood offerings, and it came time to offer the peace offerings of thanksgiving- this offering required leavened bread (Lev. 7:13; Amos 4:5). The law required that leavened bread also be offered at the festival of Pentecost (Lev. 23:17). Why would God require leaven in these Feast offerings, if leaven always represented sin? Pentecost was a day celebrating the bringing down of the law by Moses at Mount Sinai. It is a day today also representing the dispensation of the Holy Spirit to everyone who believes, and on this day God required leaven in their bread offerings. Could it be that leaven while it could represent sin and wickedness, could also represent holiness and righteousness? Just as the lion represents Christ, the lion of Judah- but the lion also represents Satan, the one seeking whom he may devour. Realize, that the example of leaven isn’t given to be labeled one thing or another- rather it is given as an example of the effect that one thing or another has in us! There is good leaven, and there is evil leaven. Leavening is a process, it begins with a very small amount of yeast, it must be kneaded and pressed into the dough, and then it must be given time to rise. The effect of leaven, is that after the dough has risen, over time as it is being warmed it produces tiny pockets of air, wind, breath, carbon dioxide (Spirit) within the dough. This is what makes bread fluffy. Just a tiny bit of leaven will permeate the entire piece of dough over time. Also please note, that once a piece of dough is leavened, you cannot remove that leaven. It becomes a part of the dough. Once yeast gets into that dough, it is done and you can’t undo it. Leaven is equated to “growth.” In this same chapter as Jesus was giving parables, he uses the parable of the Mustard Seed, another parable concerning growth that begins in extremely small form.
Another positive example of leaven, is that when the Israelites were freed from slavery in Egypt, they were instructed not to take any Egyptian leaven with them. God wanted them to make a clean break from Egypt and its ways. Worth noting, is that once they entered the promised land, they were instructed to present leavened offerings in thanksgiving. Leaven is POTENT, whether it is for good or for bad. The process of leavening is mysterious, secret, and impossible to disrupt. Why should we believe that in this parable Jesus is referring to leaven as a good thing? It is because Jesus says “the kingdom is like leaven.” Is the Kingdom of God bad, evil, sinful? Of course not.
The Meaning Of The Parable
We can see that the Kingdom of God is like leaven, in that first it begins very small (just like the mustard seed), yet once it hits the dough it is done. When we are reborn with water and receive the Holy Spirit, we receive our portion of leaven. The Holy Spirit, like leaven, is ALIVE, a living being. It is as the parable says “hidden.” In other words, others around you may not notice it immediately. It isn’t big- rather it is small just like the mustard seed. It is the seed of the Kingdom of God, sown in us. You can’t see yeast once it is added to the dough, but you can see a change in the dough over time. You can’t see the Holy Spirit when it is given to a new believer, but you WILL see change in the new believer over time. It may be difficult to notice change in the beginning as you first walk as a new creature and new creation. Once you receive this leaven of the Holy Spirit, it gets kneaded into you by reading the Word of God, praying in the Spirit, establishing your sonship/daughtership with God, being edified by other mature believers, all with the assistance of this new spirit. This kneading strengthens your mind and soul, to be able to carry the “air pockets” of the Holy Spirit, the breath of God- as it will fill you more and more as you continue your walk. You begin to understand who you’ve become in Christ, and your new identity forms in you.
You begin to become “heated” by the trials and circumstances of the world around you, our testing ground. To walk in the Spirit of God and His Kingdom means that you no longer submit to the spirit of the world and Satan’s kingdom. You become a “marked man.” Here Satan uses temptation and trial to lure you into sinning willfully as you now have knowledge of sin. As you become heated, the Holy Spirit, breath, air, wind of God grows within you until your entire being is permeated with the Spirit and breath of God, just like a full fluffy loaf of fresh bread. You begin to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit as God fills you up completely and your old identity is gone, a thing of the past. You begin to exercise authority over Satan and his demons. It doesn’t stop there as this parable speaks of 3 measures of meal- a HUGE amount of dough. As God has filled you, you “GO OUT” to leaven others with this leaven of the Kingdom of God. It is constantly growing and expanding, filling yourself and others up with His Holy Spirit. The leaven in you creates an enormous amount of spiritual food (as 3 measures was a significant amount of food) for others to partake of as well. Once you have the Kingdom of God in you, it is only a matter of time before you rise, are heated, become FILLED with the breath/spirit of God, and effect the world around you. It all begins with that first tiny bit of leaven- the Rebirth. You must believe in Jesus our savior, repent for your sin, become baptized with water in Jesus’ name, and then you will receive the leaven of the Kingdom- the Holy Spirit. This mystery of God is amazing. What kind of leaven can be found in you- good or evil, God’s spirit, or the spirit of Satan and sin? Receive the leaven of the Kingdom of God today and watch it grow before your eyes!