Bible and Science-Yeast, A Model of Church Growth
Matthew 13:33 “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”(NIV)
To understand this passage we need to look at how yeast grows. Yeasts are eukaryotic and can divide by a process called budding. (Most cells divide into two even-sized cells.) In budding a small uneven sized pouch of cell material forms on the “mother cell.” In this pouch go all of the organelles and other chemicals that are needed for it to live; since it is eukaryotic DNA also goes into the bud. The mother cell has given the bud everything it needs to live on its own including the reproduction information – DNA. The bud may stay attached to the mother cell and actually start its own bud. (Under a microscope I have seen several of these all strung out from the mother cell.)
Churches may grow the same way. The church can send out a few people who are equipped with everything needed to start and grow a new church. (Personal Opinion: I see Hillsong Church growing in this method around the world.)
∞Jesus, let me be like Isaiah and say, “Lord, send me.” Isaiah 6:8
pic from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yeast#mediaviewer/File:S_cerevisiae_under_DIC_microscopy.jpg
What I Learned From Studying Yeast
This study started with Matthew 13:33 and Luke 13:21 and as usual, it spread from there. The fact that it is paired with the Parable of the Mustard Seed in both of these passages is important. Jesus was showing the importance of small things done in and for His kingdom. Many times we overlook the little things we do as not important. Most of the literature I read about yeast in ancient cultures seemed to agree that they did not know about the yeast cell and that they were infusing something living into the bread dough. In our normal thinking that would be right because microscopes were not around but you have to wonder if Jesus knew!
Depending on the translation you will need to look for the words yeast, leavened, and unleavened if you want to study more on this topic. KJV does not have the word yeast but NIV does.
The amount of flour was interesting as the passages stress it was a large amount. In the NIV that amount is referenced three times: Genesis 18: 6, Judges 6:19, and in 1 Samuel 1:24. In Genesis, Abraham tells Sarah to make that much bread for the visitors. In Judges, Gideon uses that much flour to make a meal for the angel and in the Book of Samuel Hannah took that much flour with her as an offering when she dedicated her son to God. The amount roughly translates to twenty quarts or forty cups. If you have ever made bread that is enough for at least eight to ten loaves of bread. The regular offering amount with a sacrifice would have been four quarts. I guess Abraham and Gideon were putting their “best foot forward” to impress their guests or to make sure they had extra to take with them.
In 1 Corinthians 5: 6- 8 Paul clearly says to get rid of the “old yeast” (NIV) because Jesus had gone through the Passover. But he names the yeast as “malice and wickedness,” which is also done in other places in the Gospels and the New Testament (the yeast were named Ex. yeast of the Pharisees and Herod). If you have ever used a sourdough starter you may understand the idea of old/bad yeast. If the starter goes bad you WANT to throw it away and start over, as it really smells bad.
At a small home fellowship, we once attended the pastor had an interesting revelation during communion one Sunday. (We used real wine and sometimes yeast bread. I know but that is what happened. We also used saltines if that is all we had.) Anyway for the wine and the bread to become what they were many grapes and grains of wheat were brought together but it required yeast to convert them into that usable form.
A final thought on wine and yeast. Wine/beer was/is made with the action of yeast. The wine was allowed/required to be presented as part of the offering at a sacrifice (Leviticus 23:13). The yeast in wine makes enough alcohol to kill itself and when the bread is baked that normally kills off the yeast. One was required and the other was forbidden! The Biology teacher in me still will wonder if it has something to do with the living organism? NOTE: From my reading, the Egyptians apparently made their beer from baked bread.