Matthew 13:33 (NIV): He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Jesus always picked His parables and figures of speech very carefully, so that the words, the pictures, the concepts clearly communicated the point He was trying to get across. They were not just slapped together, but carefully planned, much like sermon illustrations today.
This parable is particularly well built, even though it is one of His shorter ones. In talking about the kingdom of God immediately before this, Jesus had used the figure of a mustard seed – a small beginning from which a great plant grows. Now He talks about how that growth occurs. Jesus knew that His time was growing short. His job was primarily to give His life to pay the price for the sins of all humanity. But before that moment came, He was establishing the foundation of the kingdom of God as a here-and-now reality. At the end of His ministry, practically everyone knew who He was, but He only had about 120 committed followers (cf. Acts 1:15). Not a very impressive beginning. This truly was the mustard seed start that He knew would grow into a great, earth-filling Church.
But how could a mere 120 people spread the gospel to the whole world? The very idea seemed impossible. But Jesus’ illustration of the yeast is entirely appropriate. Even though few, if any, knew back then how yeast worked, Jesus did. A small amount of yeast can leaven a huge amount of dough merely by consistently, constantly multiplying itself. If there was only a single yeast cell, at the end of the first multiplication there would be two. Then each of those cells multiplies itself again, and there are four, and so on. At the end of only 20 multiplications, there would be over 1 million yeast cells (specifically 1,048,576)! Of course this assumes that each cell is truly yeast (which multiplies like that by its very nature), and that ALL cells are involved in the process. It doesn’t work well if most of the cells just hang around to be “fed” and leaving the multiplying to the special yeast cells that are “called” to the work of multiplying. But if the cells are all truly yeast cells, and are truly committed to the job of multiplying, in a very short length of time, they will leaven the whole batch.
It’s exactly the same way with the kingdom. A small number of Christians can bring huge numbers of people into the kingdom merely by consistently, constantly multiplying themselves. Of course this assumes that each of those people are truly Christians (which multiply themselves by their very nature), and that ALL Christians are involved in the process. It doesn’t work well if most of the Christians hang around to be “fed”, leaving the multiplying to the pastors and leaders who are “called” to do evangelism. But if the people are all truly Christians, and are truly committed to the job of growing the kingdom of God by consistently multiplying themselves, in a very short length of time, all working together, they can change the whole character of a community, a state, a whole nation!
Father, that really is a great analogy! Help us, ALL of Your people, to be faithful in the work You have called us to do. Help us to faithfully multiply ourselves everywhere, starting right here, right now. Amen!