A Lot of Flour
60lbs may not seem that much to some people but if we convert it into some more meaningful numbers it may help us understand the scale of this parable.
60lbs = 27.22kg
1kg makes 12 large rolls
27.22 X 12 = 326.64 rolls
Thats a lot of bread for one woman to make in one go.
This parable is another one that needs some context to help open up it’s meaning to us today. Many of us will read the amount of flour this one woman uses and think nothing of it, but it is a key point. The people of Jesus day would have made bread daily but only ever enough to feed them for that day so not to waste it. To make so much bread would raise questions for the original hearers. Why so much bread? Who is it for? How did she knead all that dough?
The amount of flour in this parable is there to grab our attention. It would have certainly done so to the original hearers and we should take note as well. Something important is being shared and it is vital that we hear the message.
The Change Agent
When we think of yeast we probably imagine the dry extract we buy in packets from the supermarkets. In Jesus’ day it was a little different. Yeast, or leaven, was actually old dough left over from the day before that was mixed in with the new dough and started off the process of rising. This process of the yeast being worked through the dough was the most important part as it had to be completely mixed in and worked through so that all the dough would rise and not just part of it.
Yeast or leaven is a change agent. Once it has been introduced it begins to transform that which it has been mixed with. In bread the yeast reacts with carbohydrates and sugars in the bread causing carbon dioxide bubbles to form in the bread which make it rise. Once this process has begun the dough will never be the same, the presence of the yeast has altered it forever.
Jesus tells us the kingdom of God is like this process. Once the change agent has been added there is a transformation that can’t be stopped or reversed. On a personal level this means that once we have experienced God in our life we will never forget it, it opens us up to a larger reality and alters how we see the world. Some will walk away but they will never forget the transformation that took place. If we allow it God’s Spirit will continue to change us transforming us from the inside out.
On a larger scale it means that even if there are only one or two Christians in a community they still have a transformational effect. The presence of a Church or group of Christians in a place changes it and this is exciting news. We have an impact on the places we live and the people we meet because we are change agents.
The Greek word often translated as mixed in this parable is better understood as the word hid.
‘…she hid some yeast in 60 pounds of flour…’
To ‘mix’ the yeast sounds right to our western ear but to ‘hide’ offers us a truth about the way yeast works. If you have ever made bread before you will know that you can’t see the yeast working but you see the effect it has on the dough. When you put baking soda into vinegar it fizzes and bubbles imminently and there is an obvious reaction. When you but yeast into dough the reaction takes time and even if you watched it for an hour you wouldn’t see the yeast working away as it is hidden inside the dough.
The kingdom of God can be the same. When God’s Spirit works in our lives or as we act as change agents in the world it can be difficult to see the transformation taking place. It is only over time that it becomes obvious that something is changing in the person or community.
Although the parable doesn’t give us exact numbers, our experience tells us that we only need a small amount of yeast or leaven to effect a larger amount of dough. With a few grams you can cause a batch over 100 times its size to rise. It is the same with the kingdom of God, it does not take a large number of people who have decided to follow Jesus to change their community. Twelve disciples began to change the world and it takes only a few of us to effect the communities we live in and transform them.