18 June 2013

Luke 13:20-21

“And again he said, ‘To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’” (vv. 20-21)


Jesus told lots of stories to try and help people understand what he meant by the kingdom of God. He wanted them to know that God was present and at work now in their lives. This image of a woman baking the essential bread for her family belongs with a number of other images about amazing growth from tiny beginnings, or about the hidden and unexpected ways in which God works (eg Luke 13:18-19). And, of course, it is about bread made the traditional way, mixed by hand and left to prove, and kneaded again and again.

Jesus wanted people to move away from the idea that God's reign would mean that God's faithful people would be in absolute charge, and that everything would be ok for them and it would not matter if others suffered as they themselves did in the past. In other words, that they would now be the conquerors with everybody else defeated.

The kingdom stories here are linked with a story of healing (Luke 13:10-17), where Jesus speaks of a woman being "free" from her illness (v. 12). He is criticised (verse 14) for healing on the Sabbath - the day set aside to be free of work. He reminds his critic that if the law allows essential work, how much more should it allow a woman, to whom he gives status as a "daughter of Abraham" to be set free.

So he tells these stories and we are brought back to the hidden action suggested in these verses. Bread-makers will recognise that very small amounts of yeast have a massive effect in the right circumstances, even though kneading may be hard work. It is also interesting to be offered a female image of God at work.

To Ponder

  • How do you feel about this image of God at work in people's lives?
  • What work do you think God might be inviting you to share?
  • Are their parts of your life where you can sense God's hidden activity? What might be they be?

Bible notes author

Revd Alison Tomlin

Alison Tomlin is a supernumerary Methodist minister, who was president of the Methodist Conference in 2010/2011. She has been involved for the last 25 years in leading retreats and offering prayer, accompanying both groups and individuals.