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You ever wonder about the origin of a word? I do, sometimes I find it by accident, which was the case recently. This can sometimes lead me up the garden path into the land of fancy and fun, oh yeah! Sometimes it’s sparked by a serious quest (Cue mystic trumpets and horse noises from random computer game) while I’m looking for something else, and sometimes I’m just being perverse and looking up things in Latin; Because. I. Can.

This time it was a mix of both. I was researching ‘yeast’ as found in Matthew 13:33 (NIV);

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

So I looked up all kinds of yeast things:

  • what yeast is (different kinds of fungus),

  • what yeast does (eat carbohydrates and makes carbon dioxide) (or eats sugar and poots depending on your level of maturity today…),

  • what yeast is useful for (bread etc., beer etc. and vegemite)

  • other things about yeast (athletes foot and other not fun stuff) (also bioremediation – breaking down hazardous chemicals and pollutants)

The yeast Jesus was talking about was probably a sourdough, which is quite easy to begin and grow yourself if you get the starter right. Growing yeast this way takes time. It’s straight forward, and a skill that can be taught and most competent housewives would have known it, but the ultimate test is in the final rise. Unless the loaf proves, you don’t know if you’ve grown your yeast well.

I find it interesting that He talks about the Kingdom being like yeast. In the OT, during the Old Covenant, yeast was referred to initially as an ingredient to leave out so you could make a quick bread – Lot make unleavened bread and fed it to the visitors in Genesis 19:3. After that it’s mentioned in the context of the Exodus and presentation of sacrifices, except for once in 1 Samuel 28 when the medium he’d consulted made a quick bread for Saul to eat.

There are two things that the Israelites were to never present as a sacrifice. Blood and Leaven. We draw the blood reference to Jesus’ blood quite readily, but the leaven connection is a bit further stretch. Is it because it’s another symbol of life? Yeast is a life. It dies when it is cooked (properly). I don’t remember ever hearing what the leaven is about. I think I know now…maybe. Hebrew scholar I am not.

Jesus made two references to yeast being a sign of different types of kingdom life. Both the sign of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the yeast of the Pharisees – whom He never referred to as being in the Kingdom of Heaven (Nicodemus’ personal search aside).

In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul talks to the Corinthian church about the behaviours that they are tolerating among their people. It seems that their old life had not been through the fire – had not been cooked dead out of them. He advised them to get rid of the old yeast, the old life that was causing them to be such bad bread and return to being a clean unleavened batch. Jesus said that the Kingdom of Heaven is supposed to be leavened bread, but leavened with what? Certainly not what Paul was reporting from the Corinthians and what Jesus was seeing in the Pharisees?

I posit that the only thing opposite to this is the fruit of the Spirit. Which no striving can produce. Only lots of little lovely deaths and the beautiful closeness.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV)

Did you know that the Latin for yeast is fermentum and the Latin for stir up trouble is fomentum. I wonder if Jesus was having a play on words with this parable considering the cultural time period. I can imagine the disciples standing around going “wot?” and Jesus saying “you know, fermentum, fomentum, you get it now?”

When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 6:5-12 (NIV)

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that Life and death is in the power of the tongue, and Matthew 15:18 reminds us that what we speak out comes from what has been festering inside us. A tiny grain of Fermentum or Fomentum that has been long buried and not dealt with can rule us.

Sometimes these things are within our control, things we have been putting off, or things that are our pet issues. Some things may be issues we consider to be other peoples’ problem, and because it’s “their fault” we refuse to take responsibility for releasing forgiveness and letting go of our own resentment and bitterness which keeps us (and therefore them and everyone else) trapped. Sometimes the issue is something that can take us unawares, out of the blue – a hook that we had no idea was there. In the moment, we have a choice in amongst so many wild emotions to take responsibility for our issues and deal with ourselves so that the world around us does not bear the brunt of the mess that could so easily be made by an explosion of human emotion. No matter how justified it may feel or seem. I have had to do that, recently. I have also had to clean up the mess I left behind, because I did not manage it so well in the moment. Thank God, His Grace is Sufficient.

Also sometimes the issue we are trying to deal with is not what is at the root of the problem. If you’ve been trying to deal with something and it keeps coming back at you again and again, chances are, there’s a different seed of yeast underneath it growing it right back into your face. It can take wisdom and discernment to identify what’s really going on, and all our humanity is not going to accomplish it.

This is why we need the Holy Spirit so much. He can guide the way and identify the source quickly, and then, with the full force of the God Head behind, beside us and within us, woosh! It can be gone!

Get intimate with Holy Spirit, He’s very amazing and wonderful. I’m in Love.

God Bless You Very Much.


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