The extra-ordinary powers of Yeast
There’s nothing quite like having your own bread maker. We were given one a few years ago, and I soon discovered I was not the only person who enjoyed waking up to the smell of lovely fresh bread, newly baked and ready for breakfast. I also discovered how vital the presence (or absence) of yeast was to the whole process.
My only experience with yeast up until that point had been limited to the trials and frustrations of brewing my own beer, and it was only through the baking of bread that I began to fully appreciate its extra-ordinary powers. It only takes just a little yeast (and a lot of kneading) to enable the bread to rise. But woe to you if it is forgotten! There is nothing more disappointing than wandering barefoot down to the kitchen first thing in the morning, and opening the lid of your bread maker, only to discover a loaf that has not risen.
Awareness of the extraordinary powers of yeast has been around for a long time. Two thousand years ago Jesus was aware that yeast was something everyone could relate to, and he used it as a powerful illustration to help him get some of his points across. On one occasion (in Matthew 13) it was to emphasise something else that was remarkable:
“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.”
The Kingdom he is talking about here is his Kingdom – it is what becomes possible when and wherever people are willing to put their faith in him. Faith is like yeast, it is possible for a small quantity if faith in Jesus to spread throughout a whole community, setting us free from our burdens and fears, and giving us the strength to face the future knowing we are loved by an ever-present God.
Another occasion when Jesus mentions yeast (in Matthew 16.6) is to illustrate the very opposite. He had just fed the 5000, AND walked on water, AND healed lots of people, AND then fed another 4,000, when the religious leaders of the day came up to him and conceded that they might be willing to believe in him if he would only do something miraculous for them. Shortly afterwards (in Matthew 16.6) he said to his disciples…
“Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Faith is like yeast – a little bit of faith can quickly spread throughout a large number of people, but so, according to Jesus, can the lack of faith. We know this from our own experience. Just as it can take only one enthusiastic individual to fire up a whole bunch of people, so it takes only one gloom-monger to deflate everyone.
To have faith is to walk around with your eyes wide open to all the amazing and wonderful things that God is doing in our lives. To lack faith, is to walk around with your eyes firmly shut to all possibilities. God is looking for faith-spreaders, not faith-inhibiters. So, here’s something to ponder, the next time you bite into a good slice of bread: which one are you?