Jesus’ entire purpose for ministry was to announce, bring and enact the kingdom of God. It’s all He ever talked about, all He ever did. Almost every sermon, every parable, every miracle, and every prayer was to teach, announce or bring about the Kingdom of God. It is all He ever talked about.
So it is here in Luke Chapter 13. Jesus is preaching and teaching about the kingdom of God. Verses 20 & 21 read – And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”” Luke 13:20-21 ESV. Short and sweet, but packed full of lessons from Jesus Christ.
Jesus would have taken this illustration from something He probably saw everyday growing up. In those days, of course, bread was baked at home. There were no 7-11s, no supermarkets. Leaven is a little piece of dough which had been kept from the previous loaves baking for extra fermentation. Leaven was commonly referenced in Jewish thought as a comparison for influence. Jesus had Himself seen Mary put a little leaven in the dough and the whole character of the dough changed because of it. According to Jesus, this is how His kingdom comes.
So many points can be made from this illustration. The first is that the Kingdom of Heaven starts from the very smallest beginnings. You’ve seen how in your place of work, or in any committee or board, or on any team, one person can be the beginnings of trouble or the beginning of peace. The Kingdom of Heaven begins with the lives of individual men and women. Wherever we live or work, there may only be one person professing Christ. It is our job to stay strong in our faith where we are.
The Kingdom of God works unseen. Not that it’s hidden away, we know it’s there. Sometimes, we just can’t see the work being done right in front of us. The leaven is always working even though we can’t see it. Seneca, probably the greatest Roman thinker and philosopher, wrote in AD 60 “We strangle a mad dog; we slaughter a fierce ox; we plunge the knife into sickly cattle lest they taint the herd; children who are born weakly and deformed we drown.” In AD 60 that was normal. We wouldn’t dream of that today, we can’t even comprehend, because indeed the kingdom is on the way.
The Kingdom of God only works from the inside. The leaven can change nothing from the outside. Men and women are never changed from the outside. New surroundings, new homes, nicer cars, more material possessions only affect the outer surface. It’s only a spit shine, some nice new paint.
Christianity is about making new men and new women. Once men and women are made new, the world will follow. That is the importance of the church. It is the factory where new men and new women are produced. The staging point from which God is changing the world.
The power of the kingdom comes from outside. The dough has no power to change itself. Neither do we. We try and try, but to no avail. To change our lives we need a power outside and greater than ourselves. We need the master of life, the creator of the world. He is “…the way, and the truth, and the life...” John 14:6 ESV. We need Jesus Christ to plant his leaven inside of us. He is always waiting to give us a life of victory. Seen or unseen, the Kingdom of God is at work.
“And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.””
Luke 13:20-21 ESV