Now, I’m not a baker, but I understand that one of the key ingredients is yeast. Just a little bit of yeast can work its way through a large amount of dough. Yeast transforms the dough into something that rises and expands. Jesus understood this and He used yeast to as teaching point to illustrate both healthy and unhealthy activities in our lives.
So using stories and analogies, He took the concept of yeast to explain a couple points:
1) He explains that God’s reign in our lives and the resulting expansion of His kingdom through us is like a little yeast added to a lot of flour. (Matthew 13:33) Accepting the Kingdom’s authority in our lives transforms us, and it works through every area of our life, changing us from “glory to glory”.
2) However, He used the concept of yeast working through dough to also explain our need to stay away from bad teaching. When talking to His disciples, He warned them to be on guard against the teachings of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod (Matthew 16:1-2, Mark 8:15).
At first glance, this warning may seem to be directed at just the church fathers, something entered into the historical record to say: “Hey guys, you don’t know it, but you’re going to start my church and I want you to steer clear of all the bad teaching that’s out there. You know what I mean? Get the church off to a good start!” But I don’t believe His warning was just for the early church and just to establish the right foundation. It is an encouragement for every believer to hold onto good teaching and cast off any bad doctrines. So after 2000+ years, has any bad yeast made its way in? Just a few years (maybe decades) after Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul wrote: “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” So to answer my own question: “Yeah, I think there’s some bad stuff out there.”
Let’s think about this further. Jesus mentioned a few people by name and depending upon which Gospel account you’re reading, He says: “Steer clear of they’re teaching!” So who exactly were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Herod?
The Pharisees were the legalistic church. “Follow the law or be killed!” (or ostracized, excommunicated, ridiculed, etc.) In his own words, prior to a life-changing encounter with the Risen Jesus, Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees – he followed the law with miserable perfection. Yet in his religious eagerness, he murdered members of the early church. Legalistic, he was out for justice over grace… that is until Jesus showed Paul just how blind his religiosity had made him.
The Sadducees on the other hand were the liberal church. They were willing to explain away the teachings of scripture as it fit their appetite of the day. Not too different from the liberal theologians of today, they would pick and choose what they wanted to believe from Scripture, more as a self-edification exercise than to truly understand how to enter the Kingdom of God.
Meanwhile, Herod was the government and the culture. There were several Herods, and they were an interestingly dysfunctional family, but I think it’s safe to say that Herod represented the secular worship of Self and the original sin of man: to become one’s own god. Rather than submitting to the reign of God, Herod submitted to Caesar, playing the political games necessary to elevate himself. He received his reward from the worship of other men, but was truly not a good role-model.
Looking at what each of these represented, I can’t help but believe bad yeast is still out there: the legalistic church, the liberal church, and the secular worship of Self. As His disciples, we’re each called to listen with a discerning ear, to question what subtleties of bad doctrine we’ve allowed to enter into our thought processes, and to humbly ask God to continue to reveal truth to us – transforming truth that will work its way through our way of thinking, change our knee-jerk reactions, and influence the world around us so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the King of our lives, and the great Friend we all so desperately need!
May the good yeast of the Kingdom work in you, through you, for you, and for the restoration of a needy, fallen world!copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)