Stories Jesus told with women in them

A woman baking bread (Luke 13:20-21)

Jesus was describing something that everyone had watched their mom, or grandma or auntie do a thousand times. In fact, for those of you who have children, this is a great story to do with your own kids, or grandkids, if you haven’t already. To a child, even for Jesus when He was a little boy, the process must have seemed like magic.

Flour is inert, it’s just powder. Then mom puts a little water in it, and leaven, which isn’t exactly yeast, it’s a piece of dough that was saved from the last batch of dough. She works in the leaven so that all the flour touches it, and becomes moist, then she covers the bowl with a warm, moist cloth.

What’s happening? The yeast is alive, the flour isn’t. But the life in the yeast starts bringing the flour to life, making it grow. Before your very eyes, ever so slowly, the dough begins to rise.

The whole point of the story is the transforming power of the leaven. Leaven changed the whole character of the flour.

Sometimes yeast is used as a symbol for an evil element in scripture, as a symbol of sin. But yeast was also used in sacrificial offerings. For example in Leviticus 7:13, instruction is given to offer God bread made with yeast. The difficulty in viewing the yeast as evil in Jesus' parable is that it permeates all the flour, until the whole batch rises to become a loaf of bread, and bread is wholesome and good.

Instead, Jesus used the common concept of yeast and turned it upside down. This story is very like the story about the new wine Jesus had also told about in the fifth chapter of Luke's gospel. New wine is still fermenting, expanding, so an old brittle wineskin can’t contain it. In the same way, the leaven permeates the flour, bringing abundant life and power, transforming the flour into the likeness of the leaven, transforming flour into bread.

Jesus was saying God’s word, though often dismissed, is active and powerful

  • How intensive is the activity of God's word in your life?
  • In what ways can you see God transforming you to be more like Him? 
  • In what new ways can you become more welcoming to the people in your life who are hungry and tired and need the gospel God has given you? 
  • In what ways are you participating in one to another growth and expansion in your church and community? 
  • In what ways can you worship and praise God for His wonderful plan. Do you have confidence in God’s plan and power? 
  • How do you see yourself as part of God’s plan?

The parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven show how the Kingdom of Heaven will grow. The extent of its growth will be so large that all the nations of the earth will be welcomed to find nourishment and rest. The inward growth of the gospel will result in making what was once lifeless now full of life and power, and will transform what it permeates into the likeness of itself.

All passages taken from the New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.