08 Nov Students’ Corner – A Little Leaven
As one who enjoys baking, yeast has always intrigued me. It appeared to have no power. It is an interesting process that takes place once you mix the yeast with sugar water mixture. After a minute or two of no apparent activity, you could see the little lumps doing somersaults! Then they foam and bubble, becoming more voluminous – a humble reminder that what was once dry granules is now life,
ready to bring change. In fact, the effect was almost magical. That tiny amount of yeast could work all the way through my flat lump
of dough and transform it into bread with a lovely texture and mouth watering aroma!
Interestingly in the Scriptures, out of the seven references Jesus made to yeast; five are negative and for good reasons. But, let’s go
for the good ones first! We find in Luke 13:20 where Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven being like the yeast a woman mixes into a
large amount of flour. There are two things we see here. One, God’s ways of working is far different from our own. He can use anyone
to bring his plan to pass. Two, numbers really do not matter to Him! God uses a few people to bring about a great change.
The flipside is seen in Mark 8:15, He charged them, saying, ‘Take heed, beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod. The association of yeast with corruption was something the Jews were familiar with. To understand this, we need to go back to the Old Testament. In Leviticus (2:11-12) God instructs the Israelites that they are not to offer up any burnt offerings that are leavened or fermented in any way. Later, when the Israelites fled Egypt we read in Exodus 12: 19-20, For seven days no yeast is to be found
in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel. Eat nothing made with yeast.
Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread. God made it clear that He is holy. As yeast was symbolically associated with corruption and this time (The Passover) was set apart for Him they had to remove it. Perhaps, it is also because once the yeast begins to act, the changes it brings are irreversible. In terms of the chemistry involved, there is no way the alcohol and carbon dioxide formed can be converted back into sugar. Additionally, a very small amount of yeast is required for the leavening process . . . and there lies the danger.
It is understandable why Jesus uses this metaphor in cautioning His disciples. They were new in their faith. Jesus also had a short
time to complete the work that His Father had sent Him to do. He invested most of that into teaching them the new way of living and of
the kingdom to come. His teaching was new and in stark contrast to the accepted norms of that time. How often we hear Him repeat the
standard terms, You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you . . . The disciples were also few in numbers as compared to the
teachers of the Law. Jesus knew that if the corrupt ideologies of the Pharisees and Sadducees got a toehold, they would work their
way through His disciples. The pressures to conform to the ways of the world would be so great that all the valuable teaching He had
imparted would be supplanted and come to naught. The very purpose for His coming would be lost. It was thus vital that the disciples
understood the significance of the ‘bad leaven’ and dealt with it at the earliest.
In our world with numerous ideologies and new religions floating around and where voices are clamouring for our attention, ours is a similar situation to that of the disciples. How are we to respond? How do we know what to listen to and what to filter out? There is one answer. We must let down our roots deep into the Word of God and draw our strength from it. We should chew and ruminate over it and allow God to make it part of our being. With that done, we will be able to recognize the leaven that can destroy our faith. Even when the presence of the enemy is innocuous and subtle, we will be able to guard our faith. And, we will be salt that can purify and can destroy the leaven and shed His light around.
About the Author
Jerusha is pursuing Ph.D. at the University of Alabama after her masters in Biotechnology at VIT and was a member of Vellore ICEU.