He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and mixed into fifty pounds of flour until all of it was leavened.”Matthew 13:33
This is one of the briefest parables of Yeshua, and yet it is rich with meaning and purpose.
In his parables about the Kingdom of God, Yeshua always likens an aspect of the kingdom that he is teaching about with some earthly counterpart; “The kingdom of heaven is like…” The simplicity of this method of teaching belies the profundity of its power. In a very direct way, these little “truth-bombs” summarize volumes of doctrine that explode into new areas of understanding and wisdom.
When studying the parables, we must also keep in mind that the parabolic style of teaching that Yeshua adopts was for a reason: so that the religious leaders would be given the message of the kingdom but they would also be confounded by it. This was a fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah.
Matthew 13:10-15 Then the disciples came up and asked him, “Why are you speaking to them in parables? ” He answered, “Because the secrets of the kingdom of heaven have been given for you to know, but it has not been given to them. “For whoever has, more will be given to him, and he will have more than enough; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. “That is why I speak to them in parables, because looking they do not see, and hearing they do not listen or understand. “Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You will listen and listen, but never understand; you will look and look, but never perceive. “For this people’s heart has grown callous; their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn back — and I would heal them.
This is why we have to keep in mind that the parables always revolve around the centrality of Israel, both as a nation and a religious standard.
Viewed from this perspective, the simple message of the woman and the leaven was a direct challenge to the traditions and exclusivity that the religious leaders had assigned to their religion of Judaism. Yeshua explains that “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven.” While it is small and unseen, once the leaven is mixed into the dough, eventually the entire batch of dough will become leavened. Once underway, the process cannot be stopped. The good news of the kingdom was ultimately to consume and overrun the stale traditions and practices of the corrupt and dying religiosity of the nation.
If we view the message of the kingdom as the leaven, and the batch of dough as the nation of Israel, Yeshua is intimating that the kingdom message, though small and insignificant to start, will grow among the people until it transforms the nation completely.
That the nation is equated with bread can be shown by the pattern of the tabernacle. Within the tabernacle (and later the Temple), there was always to remain twelve loaves within the presence of God; hence the “bread of the Presence.” Each small loaf was arranged in rows on the table of show bread and represented one of the tribes of Israel.
Exodus 25:30 “Put the Bread of the Presence on the table before me at all times.
2 Chronicles 2:4 Now I am building a temple for the name of the LORD my God in order to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him, for displaying the rows of the Bread of the Presence continuously, and for sacrificing burnt offerings for the morning and the evening, the Sabbaths and the New Moons, and the appointed festivals of the LORD our God…
Yeshua’s message implies that the leaven was already at work. As it was being mixed into the dough (the nation of Israel), the process of leavening was already underway. Typically, the bread of the Presence would be removed and replaced week after week with fresh bread. However, Yeshua is implying that the bread dough was not to simply be removed and replaced by fresh loaves, but was itself to be transformed into a different type of bread entirely.
This is how the kingdom would come: through individual transformation working its way through the whole batch of dough. This is also why Yeshua instructed his disciples to spread the message to every town in Israel first.
Matthew 10:5-7 Jesus sent out these twelve after giving them instructions: “Don’t take the road that leads to the Gentiles, and don’t enter any Samaritan town. “Instead, go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. “As you go, proclaim: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’
All of Israel would have an opportunity to hear and believe the message. Those who received the “leaven” of the message would be transformed. This was how the kingdom was to come: by transforming individual lives until everything in their lives became new. And as the message continued to spread, it would ultimately transform the entire nation into the bread of life for the world.
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