After spending sixty years preaching and teaching the great truths of the Bible, my greatest challenge is still to give a clear picture of biblical Christianity. I believe that Jesus himself also found this very challenging and discovered that one of the most effective ways to teach these eternal truths was by using parables Ð simple stories from everyday life.
In our text today, Jesus uses a story from the kitchen. He says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked through the dough” (Matthew 13:33).
Jesus had watched his mother make bread for the family. She would take the meal and add some leaven to it. The commentators tell us this was a little piece of dough kept from a previous baking. It had fermented, and the introduction of this leaven to the dough caused a transformation. Unleavened bread is hard, dry, unappetizing, and uninteresting. However, bread baked with leaven is soft, spongy, and tasty. It is good to eat.
The whole point of this parable lies in one thing Ð the transforming power of the leaven. God’s leaven is the Gospel, which can transform a person’s life. When it transforms many lives, society is changed. Add the Gospel to your life, trust Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you are a different person. You become a carrier of the Gospel, which changes the lives of others.
What the yeast is to the dough, the Gospel is in the life of a person. How does this leaven become a part of a life?
A child enters a covenant relationship with God at the baptismal font. Her parents take her home and introduce her to Jesus Christ over the course of years. She learns at home, at church, and at Sunday school how much Jesus loves her. He died on the cross to pay the price for her sins. Three days after his resurrection, Jesus was raised from the dead and won the victory over sin, death, and the devil.
As this person lives in God’s Word, the Holy Spirit is at work in her. She is taught the Ten Commandments, revealing how God desires us to live. God is supreme in her life, and his name is to be honored, not used profanely. She gladly hears God’s Word and deems it holy. It is the authority of her life in matters of faith and life. God teaches her to obey her parents. She learns that sex is God’s gift to be practiced only between a husband and wife as an expression of their love for each other.
Honesty is an important part of her life as a Christian, for God has said that we are not to steal in any way Ð either at gun point or in more sophisticated ways. God also said that we should not destroy our neighbors’ reputation, but instead speak well of him and put the most charitable construction on all that he does. Neither should we be jealous nor covet anything that our neighbor possesses.
Still, we are sinful people. So what do we do when we break these commandments of God? We go to Christ in repentance and faith asking our Savior to forgive our sins. By his grace, we are forgiven.
This is an example of a life that is lived in its baptismal covenant. Often this person cannot recall a time in her life when she was outside a relationship with God. This means that the relationship with her Savior is one where she can turn to him daily and know he will receive her.
Another scenario of how the Holy Spirit works through God’s leaven Ð the Gospel Ð is when a person has lived several years apart from Christ. This person was either not raised in a Christian home, or else walked away from what she had been clearly taught, saying Christ had no part in her life. However, something happened and, empowered by the Holy Spirit, she turned to Christ. Perhaps a friend talked to her about Christ and her need for him in her life. Maybe she experienced a tragedy and felt all alone realizing she did not have the strength to face life with all its troubles and stresses. Christ received her, her sins were forgiven, and she became a born-again child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
This is a conversion experience. What joy is in a congregation when someone comes to Christ through such an experience!
The Gospel Ð God’s leaven Ð has worked in a life, and they are changed people. That is what millions of people have experienced in their journey through life.
Can we afford to discard this lesson of Jesus that comes from the kitchen? Where else but in the Christian faith do we learn these basic truths that can make our lives full and assure us we are God’s children forever?