Robert Whiting In search of awesome

The Kingdom: Yeast


I’ve been reading through the parables of Jesus that describe the kingdom of the heavens, so I can better understand this kingdom I’m a part of. The parable of the yeast always interested me as a way to explain the kingdom: yeast is very small but it permeates and transforms the dough. As a winemaker, I think about yeast more than the average person. In wine, it does the same: a tiny amount permeates and transforms the whole into something new.

The parable of the yeast is incredibly short. It’s a single verse, a single sentence (Matthew 13:33)

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast, which a woman took and worked into three measures of flour until all of it was yeasted.

This parable is not explained, but as a baker and winemaker, I find it intuitive. Next to the other parables, it seems almost redundant. For being so short, it does have a couple details that are unnecessarily specific. A woman worked the dough, and she used 3 measures of flour. Many translations convert that measurement to a modern equivalent, but in this case, that actually hides what Jesus is doing.

There is only one location in all of scriptures where a woman uses 3 measures of flour. All other instances are 1, 2, 5, or an undetermined amount of flour. So to a first century Jew, the statement, “3 measures of flour” was like saying “Luke, I am your father” in our context.

What is the one story he’s pointing back to? Abraham looked up and saw 3 men, he bowed down and humbly requested that he be allowed to wash their feet and give them food and drink. He ran to his wife Sarah and said, “Get 3 measures of flour, knead it, and bake some bread.” Genesis 18.

Abraham acted in overwhelming humility, generosity, and hospitality to 3 strangers, and one of them was God. In this encounter, God promised that Sarah would have a son within a year and revealed his plans to investigate and deal justly with two cities nearby.

So then, what in this story of yeast is like the kingdom of the heavens?

A small amount of yeast permeates and transforms the world, and what does that transformation look like? People acting in overwhelming humility, generosity, and hospitality to 3 strangers.