Choose your leaven wisely
Luke 13:1-21 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? 3 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
6 And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7 And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8 And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
10 And He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. 11 And there was a woman who for eighteen years had had a sickness caused by a spirit; and she was bent double, and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, He called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your sickness.” 13 And He laid His hands on her; and immediately she was made erect again and began glorifying God. 14 But the synagogue official, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, began saying to the crowd in response, “There are six days in which work should be done; so come during them and get healed, and not on the Sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites, does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the stall and lead him away to water him? 16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?” 17 As He said this, all His opponents were being humiliated; and the entire crowd was rejoicing over all the glorious things being done by Him.
18 So He was saying, “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? 19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.”
20 And again He said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? 21 It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”
In today’s text Jesus says: “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” In Luke 17:21 He says: “Behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst." Like leaven in flour, the kingdom of God exists within the natural, physical realm. It cannot be seen with physical eyes. It has no identifiable qualities that can be perceived by the natural senses, yet it affects everything it touches. It is an agent of change. That the kingdom of God is in our midst, literally within us, means that we too, while there may be no physical change in our appearance are affected, changed by the kingdom and so we too should be agents of change to everything and everyone we contact.
Unfortunately the same principle, of leaven permeating everything it touches, can be applied to sin and false teaching; and so to those who participate in or are influenced by them. In Galatians 5:7-10 it says: You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. In Matthew 16:6-12 it says: And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. To guard against the leaven of sin, we must be filled with the leaven of the kingdom of God. Philippians 4:4-9 encourages us, instructing us how to choose the leaven which will affect our lives. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. We choose daily, even minute by minute what things we will allow into our hearts and minds, what things we will allow to change us. In Psalm 37:3-6 the psalmist says: Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light And your judgment as the noonday.
If we are to guard against the leaven of false teaching, then we need to know true teaching. We need to know what God the Father and Jesus said. In John 12:49 Jesus says: “I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.” So the teaching of Jesus cannot contradict the word of God. While Jesus initiated a covenant of grace, He did not put an end to God’s requirement for righteousness. Jesus says: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Jesus fulfilled and fulfills God’s requirement of and for righteousness. Jesus says: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments…“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (John 14:15;23-24) If someone teaches that it no longer matters what we do because Jesus has forgiven our sin, they are spreading false leaven. Jesus says we are to keep His commandments. His commandments, what He says are the same as God’s commandments. Jesus redeemed and redeems people from sin. He did not redeem sin. Jesus fulfilled the requirement of righteousness for us. But we cannot put on His righteousness and also be filled with the leaven of sin. Jesus says: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (John 14:26) We need to know what Jesus Himself and God the Father have said, not what others say they said. The Holy Spirit will teach us and guide us, but we must know all that Jesus said so that we can remember it.
Jesus also gave another analogy about the kingdom of God. He says: “What is the kingdom of God like, and to what shall I compare it? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and threw into his own garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air nested in its branches.” If we will be permeated by the leaven of the kingdom of God, being both changed by it and agents of change for it, then we can also be like that mustard seed. If we allow the kingdom, which is in us, to grow in us and through us, then we can become a place of safety and shelter for others. We can be an extension of the kingdom of God to the people we touch. Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16) May we choose wisely with which leaven we will leaven our lives.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for the leaven of the kingdom of God in and for my life; the leaven which was added and applied through the cross of Christ. Thank You that through the cross I am changed and that I can also be an agent of change for others as I touch them with the leaven of the kingdom and the truth of Your word. Amen.