Tonight I'm baking bread. It's an interesting and somewhat challenging procedure -- yeast needs a certain amount of heat to rise -- too much and it dies, too little and it doesn't rise at all. I tried cinnamon rolls tonight, which I've never done before. Let's not mention them again, OK?
The process has gotten me thinking about yeast. Jesus told a parable about yeast:
He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with hid in three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’ Matthew 13:33It's a short, little parable, isn't it? What does it mean?
I looked around on the internet and found some conflicting interpretations, so who knows if what I'm going to say is right or not, but it's an interpretation that I like:
- Three measures of flour is about 40 pounds. Forty pounds of flour is a lot! Yeast could easily be hidden in forty pounds of flour.
- One source said that yeast was considered unclean in the Jewish society. Remember unleavened bread? Women weren't thought of very highly, either.
- Yeast is a living organism. Through fermentation, yeast metabolizes sugar to release ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. The gas is trapped in the matrix of the dough, and causes it to rise.
- This parable comes right after the 'mustard seed' parable.
Looking at these tidbits, and thinking about baking bread tonight, I think the parable says much about Christianity.
First, I think it speaks to the idea that Jesus took what was once considered unclean (yeast) or of little value (women) and placed value on them. He transformed them.
Many interpretations will call the yeast "the church" and the flour, "the world." The yeast (church) is to mix with the flour (world), but should not loose it's yeasty characteristics. I'm not sure I like that. If you think of bread baking, it is the flour which is the main ingredient in the bread. The whole story is about the flour. What's important? The flour.
What if the yeast is grace? What if the yeast is Christ? What if the power -- the rising power -- is the power of God? The woman is mixing a very small amount of grace into a large amount of flour. The flour is transformed by the yeast into bread. In the process the yeast dies -- it is heated to inactivity by the baking process.
In the parable, the woman is transformed from worthless to an agent of grace -- she is the one who brings the yeast to the flour. The power of God -- Christ -- the yeast -- enters the world because of the woman, and transforms the world -- changes the flour into bread.
I like that it follows the mustard seed parable. A tiny amount of faith is all that is needed.
What do you think? Am I way off track?