Understanding The Kingdom Of God From The Parable Of The Leaven

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

In this article I would like to study some lessons about the kingdom of God from the parable of the leaven. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells us:

Luke 13:20-21-20  And again He said, “To what shall I liken the kingdom of God? 21  It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.”

Now to understand the idea behind the leaven, we need to transport ourselves back to the first century world of Jesus and the Jewish people. William Barclay has provided the following g insights into this parable: 

“THIS is an illustration which Jesus took from his own home. In those days, bread was baked at home. Leaven was a little piece of dough which had been kept over from the last baking and had fermented in the keeping. Leaven is regularly used in Jewish thought for influence, usually for bad influence, because the Jews identified fermentation with putrefaction. Jesus had seen Mary put a little bit of leaven in the dough and had seen the whole character of the dough changed because of it. ‘That’, he said, ‘is how my kingdom comes.’” (William Barclay, Insights: Parables-What The Bible Tells Us About Jesus’ Parables, 473-480 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England: Saint Andrews Press)

From these insights, please consider the following.

The Kingdom Starts Small

Here is the first thing that I would like you to notice about the kingdom and the parable

Of the leaven: it starts small, and grows! One little piece of leaven has the ability to expand and to grow into something large and powerful.

This is how things are with the church.

When the church first started in Jerusalem, it began with twelve Apostles and 120 disciples (Acts 1:15). From there, it spread to fill the whole earth!

Isn’t this what Daniel the Prophet said about the kingdom of God?

Daniel 2:35-Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Sometimes I hear people say, Well the church started with three thousand on Pentecost and that means it had a huge beginning! &nbsp

It is very true that three thousand people is a large number. Yet you know what stands out to me? It wasn’t that many people when you consider how many people were in Jerusalem on Pentecost of Acts chapter 2!

“E.g., Jos. War 1.253; 2.42 (though anger fueled the gatherings in this instance); Ant . 17.254; cf. 3.252–54; 13.252. On pilgrimage for festivals, see Safrai, “Temple,” 898–904 (guessing [898] tens of thousands). Josephus’s numbers are internally consistent (i.e., proportionate), and some allow more than a million (Byatt, “Population Numbers”; cf. also Foakes-Jackson and Lake, “Background of Jewish History,” 1), but 2,700,000 Passover pilgrims (Jos. War 6.425) is clearly exaggerated (Avi-Yonah, “Geography,” 109). 140. Some texts ( t . Pisha 4:15; Lam . Rab . 1:1, §2) claim more than six million Jewish visitors for every Passover.” (Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary Volume One-Introduction And 1:1-2:47, 38470 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

So if we really stop and think about it, the church had a SMALL beginning! Yet notice how the kingdom of God works: it starts small, and has the ability to grow and expand and even fillThe whole earth!

God often works in this way. He starts with something small and then works through it to make something great and incredible.

Proverbs 4:18-But the path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.

2 Corinthians 4:7-But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.

We are just small instruments that are broken and remade by God. We have the treasure of the Gospel within us. This is not because of who WE are, but because of the greatness of Who God is.

The kingdom of God starts small, but it has the ability to fill the whole Earth!

The Kingdom Needs To Grow By The Right Recipe

Here is another thing that stands out to me from this parable of Jesus: the one making the bread is following a recipe!

I know what it’s like to make food and not use the correct recipe. When my wife and I first started dating, we often met at my home for dinner. I often tried to impress her with new dishes (my best dish my 38 cheese, 58 spice lasagna). Well I remember the first time I tried making fried chicken. I thought it turned out s bit “strange,” but Heather did not say anything at first. The next couple of times I tried making the fried chicken, it STILL didn’t taste right. Well one day, Heather and I were trying to figure out what was going wrong in my recipe. She looked over at me and said, “Babe, do you heat up the oil before you start cooking the chicken?”

I looked at her and said:


I had been trying to fry the chicken in water!!

I learned a valuable lesson through that: by changing the recipe, you can really alter the outcome of the dish!

In the same way, we must make sure that we are doing our best to build the kingdom of God according to the right recipe. What is the recipe we must build the kingdom according to?

Matthew 13:19- When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside.

Luke 8:11-Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.

If we are trying to put our own ideas and tradition into the recipe, then we will alter the perfect standard that God has for His church. Scripture tells us time after time that we must build according to the pattern.

When Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Lord told him:

Exodus 25:9-According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

Exodus 25:40-And see to it that you make them according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

Exodus 26:30-And you shall raise up the tabernacle according to its pattern which you were shown on the mountain.

Numbers 8:4-Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shaft to its flowers it was hammered work.
According to the pattern which the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.

Acts 7:44-“Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,

Hebrews 8:5-who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, “SEE THAT YOU MAKE ALL THINGS ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN.”

Please notice all of He passages in which God instructed Moses to take extreme care in how he made the Tabernacle. It was ABSOLUTELY IMPERATIVE that he make it according to the “pattern.”

We have a lot of people in the world today who are telling us that we need to change the church in order to make it more relevant to the world. We are told, “We need to change the worship of the church to attract bigger crowds!” I have heard some tell me, “Mark, we need to bring in the instruments and we need to have more “modern” thinking. Maybe we should start teaching people that the Sinner’s Prayer is a way for people to be saved!”

Friends, when we start moving away from the Word of God, we are moving in a dangerous direction. We need to do our best to abide in the doctrine of Christ and follow where the Word leads us, no matter how many people dislike it (2 John 9-11).

Let’s build He kingdom of God according to the right recipe: the Holy Scriptures.

The Kingdom Grows When We Do Our Part

In order for the leaven to become a full meal, it requires a cook who is willing to work on it. A meal does not just happen. I have learned over the years that there is need to work hard on a meal if you want it to be good.

In the same way, if we want to see the growth of the kingdom of God in our lives, we must be willing to put hard work into it. Many people have the feeling that their Christian lives are empty and unfulfilling. Likely this is true. But why? In many cases, I believe it is because Christians are not putting diligence and effort into their walk with God. Isn’t that what Peter himself said to the Christians?

2 Peter 1:5-7-5  But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6  to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7  to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

Peter goes on to tell us some of the results we will see if we apply such diligence to our lives, including that we will be either barren or unfruitful (2 Peter 1:8). Isn’t that what so many Christians feel and see? They are barren (empty, unfruitful, unhappy) in their walk with God. One reason for this is that many Christians are not putting diligence into their relationship with God and the church.

Romans 12:1-2-1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

In the same way we want to see he Kingdom impact our personal lives, we need to realize that we need to be personally involved in the work of the church if we want to see the kingdom grow.

Judges 5:2-When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!

Psalm 110:3-Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.

How involved are YOU in the work of the kingdom? Are you willing to volunteer your time, your resources, your energy, your wisdom, and your loving devotion to helping the church grow? Do we have the attitude of Isaiah or of Moses?

Isaiah 6:8-Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Exodus 4:13-But he said, “O my Lord, please send by the hand of whomever else You may send.”

Isaiah was ready and willing to go; but sometimes we are more like Moses. We want God to send someone else! But friends, if we are serious about serving God, then we must be willing to put the hard work into the kingdom that He calls for.

1 Corinthians 15:58-Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

Galatians 6:9-And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.


The kingdom of God is so important my friends. In Matthew 16:18-19, we see that the kingdom is the church.

We are told about the fact that when we are saved we are added to the kingdom of God:

Colossians 1:13-He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love,
Jesus came and shed His blood so that the kingdom of God come be established (Mark 9:1; Acts 20:28). His death, burial, and resurrection on the the third day are the Gospel facts that we stand on as the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Will you not today be saved and added to God’s kingdom?

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a child of God who has turned your back on your King, will you repent of that today? He will have you back if you will just repent and pray to Him.

Revelation 3:20-Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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