Free US Shipping On Orders Over $99
Free US Shipping On Orders Over$99

Parable of the Leaven

by Brant Pitre August 28, 2020 0 Comments

Learn more about The Mass Readings Explained >


Okay, so that is the parable of the mustard seed. What about the next parable? Again, this one is commonly referred to as the woman and the leaven, or just the parable of the leaven. It's a short one, but it's important. In verse 33 it says:

He told them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened."

Alright, let's pause there. Once again, where's the twist in this parable? Where is the unexpected part of this parable? Well it is in the very first line, “the kingdom of heaven is like leaven.” Alright, if you were a first century Jew and you knew the Old Testament, you would know that in the Old Testament, leaven — which is another word for yeast — is something that is considered unclean. It's frequently a symbol of being unclean. So when you want to celebrate the Passover meal, you had to eat bread without leaven, bread that had not had yeast mixed into it to make the dough rise. It was kind of a symbol of purification. You can even look at some of the other teachings of Jesus. For example, in Matthew 16 Jesus says “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” So the leaven of the Pharisees is their teaching and their hypocrisy. So it is a symbol of uncleanness. In 1 Corinthians 5, St. Paul does the same thing. He says “cleanse out the old leaven and bring in righteousness and holiness.” So he uses leaven as a symbol for sin. So that's a weird thing for Jesus to do, to take something that was known as being unclean and saying the kingdom of God is like that. Which by the way, just as a kind of scientific side note, it it interesting that the Jews regarded leaven as unclean, because as contemporary science has shown us, what yeast is, is it is a small microorganism. It is a small bacteria and what it does, the way it makes bread rise, is the the yeast, the microorganism, gets into the bread and it eats all the sugars, and when it eats the sugar it produces gas. The carbon dioxide that the little organisms emit, make bubbles and the bubbles cause the bread to rise. So you can see how even contemporary science would show that there is a certain natural logic to considering yeast to be unclean. Well in antiquity that was the kind of standard association with yeast, it was unclean. So when Jesus says that heaven is like leaven, people would be scratching their heads, “what is this guy talking about? The kingdom is like leaven!?”

The other element here that's interesting is that the woman takes the leaven, she hides it in three measures of meal, which is about 50 pounds — that is a lot of meal. And and even just a little leaven leavens the whole lump. So what's the meaning of this parable? Well again I think it is very similar to the mustard seed. The kingdom starts out really small, like a little bit of leaven, but it's powerful and it's transformative. Just a little bit of leaven is able to cause the three measures of meal to rise and to become this great loaf of bread. It is kind of like the mustard seed starts small and becomes a great bush. But it also shows that there's something mysterious about the way the kingdom grows, especially in ancient times too. They would not have had the science behind it. They wouldn’t have known how and why, that if you take some of this yeast and you put it into bread dough that it's going to make it rise. It's mysterious. You take the dough and often you put it in the dark too in order to let it rise, and then you come back and sure enough it has risen. So there is a kind of mystery there, and I think that's what Jesus is getting at too. The kingdom is not what you expect. It's mysterious. It starts out small but it ends great. And of course, there may be a Eucharistic image there as well. Anytime you see bread, bread is going to play a key role in Jesus' mission and message when you get to the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist.

The next few verses here are important, because Jesus once again gives us an insight into the parables when he says this:

All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Alright, pause there for just a second. This is very similar to what we saw last week with the beginning of the discourse. The parables are about revealing hidden mysteries. Jesus is leading the disciples into the mysteries of the kingdom, to the supernatural nature of the kingdom, to the invisible character of the kingdom. It is like yeast that grows and spreads in the dark. You can't see it and you don’t understand why and how it does it, and yet it does. By the way, from that he's quoting Psalm 78:2. So he's drawing on one of the passages from the Psalm to show that he's speaking in these mashalim, these parables, these riddles, in order to unveil these mysteries that have been hidden since the foundation of the world.

Brant Pitre
Brant Pitre


Also in Blog

Conquering Anger
Conquering Anger

by Brant Pitre August 19, 2021 0 Comments

Continue Reading

Jesus' Two Comings
Jesus' Two Comings

by Brant Pitre August 12, 2021 0 Comments

Continue Reading

Jesus' Descent into Hell
Jesus' Descent into Hell

by Brant Pitre August 05, 2021 0 Comments

Continue Reading

★★★★★ Reviews

Letting Customers Speak for Us

4422 reviews
Introduction to Sprirtual Life

Order and check out was fast and easy. It arrived quickly and I hope to dive deeper into the contents of the book by Dr. Pitre.

Keep it simple

Dr Pitre speaks in understandable terms. I heard his class cd’s then book. It’s great for information about growth in the spiritual life and perfect for reference as well as short readings for meditation

Must read!

I am about half way through and am loving this book. Really points out the importance of fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. References Jewish roots and where Jesus reaffirms it. How to apply it. Already changing my way of thinking and making me realize how important it all is, and made me realize where I am lacking and need to do more. And, of course, Brant Pitre always writes/speaks in such an easy to read and understand way, love all his books, CDs and DVDs.

How is 25 hours too short?

This is an amazing series. My initial reactions:

1) 25 hours.?!? Woah...
2) $95 for just downloads..? Seems a bit steep.

Thoughts now:
1) That flew buy
2) Totally worth it!

Once you consider you're getting a college level course and once you experience the quality of the instruction, you will recognize the value of this.

It's amazing to me that this has gone so quickly and I'm still desiring so much more. Definitely going to look into Dr. Pitre's other classes.

Wets the appetite

This talk was excellent and makes me want to dive even deeper into his longer class on the same subject. Would definitely recommend it to someone who's thinking about buying his class and wants to get a feel for what that might be like. Will open your eyes to what we do at Mass.