"THE PARABLES OF JESUS"
The Leaven (Mt 13:33)
1. Our previous study examined "The Parable Of The Mustard Seed" - Mt 13:31-32
a. Where the kingdom is depicted as having remarkable growth,
despite humble beginnings
b. Perhaps the parable was told to reassure Jesus' disciples...
1) That their involvement in the kingdom would not be for naught
2) Especially after hearing two parables in which we see not all
would receive the Word properly, and Satan's efforts to hinder
growth of the kingdom would be noticeable
2. Another parable that seems to have the same purpose of reassurance
a. Found in Mt 13:33
b. This has become known as "The Parable Of The Leaven" (READ)
3. Immediately we can see similarities to "The Parable Of The Mustard
a. Both are quite brief, with no explanations by Jesus recorded
b. Both appear to be describing the remarkable spread of the kingdom
4. But some differences can be noted, so this parable is certainly
worthy of careful consideration
[Let's begin, then, by noticing some...]
I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON "LEAVEN"
A. WHAT WAS "LEAVEN"?
1. A small portion of fermented dough used to ferment other dough
(Holman Bible Dictionary)
2. Once inserted into a batch, it continues its process of
fermentation until the whole batch has risen (Hendriksen, New
3. Today, we more likely use the term "yeast" instead of "leaven"
B. SYMBOLIC USES OF "LEAVEN"...
1. In the New Testament, "leaven" is often symbolic of corrupting
a. Jesus warned of "the leaven of the Pharisees and the
Sadducees", which included their teaching and hypocrisy
- cf. Mt 16:5-12; Lk 12:1
b. Paul wrote of the danger of how "a little leaven leavens
the whole lump", as he addressed the need to withdraw from
the unpenitent brother - 1 Cor 5:1-13
2. This has led some to conclude that "leaven" in the parable
represents something evil
3. But there are several reasons why this is not likely true...
a. There is no reason why its use elsewhere must be the same
1) A speaker or writer is certainly free to use a figure
any way they wish, even differently in different
2) To read the use of the figure as found elsewhere into
this passage is a form of "eisegesis"
a) That is, reading something into the passage not
1/ Though in this case one may not be reading their
own preconceived ideas into the passage, as is
2/ But reading the ideas of another Biblical context
into this one is still a form of "eisegesis"
b) As opposed to "exegesis", which is to read out of a
passage what it actually says or means, and should be
the goal of proper Bible study
b. The last phrase would then suggest that the kingdom is
destined to fail!
1) The "leaven" is to eventually fill the whole loaf!
2) If "leaven" represents corrupting influence, how
c. The close proximity of the parable to "The Parable Of The
Mustard Seed" would suggest similarities in meaning
(cf. the two parables in Mt 13:44-46
[If Jesus does not mean to use "leaven" in this context as
symbolical of corrupting influence, then what does He mean?]
II. THE MEANING OF THE PARABLE
A. THE KINGDOM'S GROWTH WILL BE PERVASIVE...
1. That is, having the quality to permeate, to spread or flow
throughout the world
2. One suggestion is that the loaf represents the world, and the
leaven is the kingdom
3. Thus the church (as part of the kingdom of heaven) will gradually
make its influence felt in the world
4. This spreading of God's kingdom could be manifested:
a. In the form of the gospel (the "word" of the kingdom, Mt 13:19,
as it is was proclaimed to all creation - cf. Mk 16:15-16
b. In the form of the church, which spreads as people accept
c. In the influence of the Word and the church, as their
influence is felt in society
5. This parable may also illustrate the "invisible" growth of
a. As leaven does it work with less than noticeable effect
b. So the spreading influence of the kingdom is often
unnoticeable, but real nonetheless.
-- Today, as Christian ideals are implemented by a number of nations
we can see how the influence of Christ improves the quality of life
for their citizens, Christian and non-Christian alike. Compare the
quality of life between some non-Christian nations and western
Europe or the United States.
B. THE KINGDOM'S INFLUENCE WILL BE COMPLETE...
1. Speaking of the loaf, Jesus said "till it was all leavened"
2. No part of the "loaf" (world) will be untouched by the
influence of the kingdom
3. That the gospel did indeed spread in this way was expressed by
Paul in Rom 10:17-18; Rom 16:25-26; Col 1:23
4. Of course, not all have obeyed the gospel - e.g., "The Parable
Of The Four Soils"
a. While the "fragrance of His knowledge" is diffused in every
b. ...to some it is "an aroma of death" - cf. 2 Cor 2:14-16
5. Yet, we still see the leavening influence of the Word and
a. In the growth of the church
b. In the influence of the Word in society (cf. our judicial
system, charitable organizations, etc.)
III. APPLICATION OF THE PARABLE
A. DON'T LOSE HEART...
1. Don't measure the growth or success of the kingdom solely by
2. As Jesus said to the Pharisees...
a. "The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor
will they say 'See here!' or 'See there!'" - Lk 17:20-21a
b. "For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you." - Lk 17:21b
3. The spread of the kingdom (the rule of God) is taking place
wherever the "word of the kingdom" is being sown, and fruit
will be borne as it falls on "good and noble hearts"
4. Remain confident:
a. That what began as a mustard seed will become a great tree
b. That what started in one small portion of the loaf will
eventually spread through the whole loaf
B. DO YOUR PART TO BE A LEAVENING INFLUENCE...
1. Allow the "leaven of the kingdom" to permeate your own heart
a. Take the Word of God into your own heart
b. Study and meditate upon it, and then seek to apply it!
2. Allow that Word to produce fruit in your life, so that you
become a leavening influence for the kingdom of God!
a. By word, as you share the gospel of the kingdom with others
b. By deed, as you do good works that glorify God
c. For as leaven, we are also "the salt of the earth" and "the
light of the world" - cf. Mt 5:13-16
1) Designed to glorify God by our good works
2) And so influence our world for good as well!
1. With an understanding of these two parables ("The Mustard Seed" and
"The Leaven"), we can take heart in knowing that the work of Christ
in regards to His Kingdom will not be for naught
2. As we close this lesson, let us ask "What kind of leaven are you?"
a. This parable has been describing "leaven" as a positive force
b. But remember, "leaven" is also used to illustrate that which is
1) The "leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy" - Lk 12:1
2) That which is a corrupting force, and needs to be purged -
1 Cor 5:6-8
Will you allow the grace of God to make you to be the kind of "leaven"
that can be used to His glory...?
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