AUGUST 14, 2020 / MULYALE MUTISYA
During Passover, God instructed the Israelites to eat ‘bread made without yeast’ (Exodus 11:8). The Feast of Unleavened bread lasted seven days and ‘whoever eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel’ (v19). In the same Chapter and in other subsequent Chapters, the Lord insists that they must eat bread without yeast, unleavened bread, as they observe the month of Abib- the month the Israelites made exodus out of Egypt. The Israelites, not fully knowing why they had to do this, did it anyway. As I also wonder why, the Lord reveals that He did not prohibit the Israelites to eat bread with yeast because of an allergic reaction, but as a symbolic revelation. No wonder the ordinance was to last generations to come. However, when Lord himself came down, all He did was talk of yeast.
In the third Parable Jesus gave according to the Gospel of Matthew, He talks of the mustard seed and the yeast. Jesus likens the Kingdom of heaven like ‘yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough’ (Matthew 13:33). One quality of yeast is that it ought to be given time until it works through the dough. In a yeastly manner, the Kingdom of God works the same way, in its due time. During the Passover which the Lord instructed to ‘Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover’ (Exodus 12:11), shows the Kingdom of God was not yet. God displayed His great miracle saying ‘I will make a distinction between my people and your (Pharaoh’s) people’ (Exodus 8:23). To the Israelites, this signified that the kingdom of Israel would be established, but God had a bigger picture in mind.
So when Jesus came talking about yeast and the Kingdom of God, it took aback the Jews who were avoiding yeast and anticipating their own kingdom. On one occasion when Jesus was teaching about the Kingdom of God, the chief priests and elders asked, ‘And who gave you this authority?’ (Matthew 21:23). Unlike the unleavened bread eaten in a time of miracles and wonders, the Kingdom of God seemed unpalatable for the Jews, because they could not see that the Kingdom of God was among them and that it was starting to work as in yeast through a dough. This was because they were spiritually blind and bound by the tradition of their forefathers in eating bread without yeast physically, and now took it further and did the same spiritually.
After Jesus had fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish, ‘the Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven’ (Mark 8:11). The Pharisees, like their forefathers who ‘were a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God’ (Psalms78:8) and ‘wilfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?’ (v18-19). Even after God miraculously provided for them in the desert, ‘In spite of all this, they kept sinning; in spite of wonders, they did not believe’ (v32). In the same way, the Pharisees after seeing Jesus’s miracles, still did not believe of who He said He was and when they asked for another miracle, ’Jesus sighed deeply and said, ‘why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?’ (Mark 8:12).
Sometimes like the Pharisees, we ask God for a sign in order to believe in Him. In our ignorance we say, if God is real, why is there…why am I…why can’t He… why did He and so we continue to harden our hearts to receive the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. ‘Be careful, Jesus warned them (his disciples). ‘Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod’ (v15). The disciples were clueless of what Jesus was talking about prompting Jesus to ask, ‘Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? (v17-18).
‘And don’t you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’
‘Twelve’, they replied.
‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?’
They answered, ‘Seven’
He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Do you still not understand?’
Some, instead of partaking of the Bread of Life partake that of the Pharisees and wait for world peace or some other miraculous phenomenal before accepting to believe in God. However, the Kingdom of God is based on faith. In fact, to top the Word becoming flesh, the air we breathe and everything around us is a miracle. Paul writes, ‘For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse’ (Romans 1:20).
We receive by faith through believing in Jesus, whom ‘though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with inexpressible and glorious joy’ (1 Peter 1:8). No wonder the Israelites ate bread without yeast because the yeast had not yet been revealed to them and so they lacked faith which can only come through accepting the Bread of Life. Once we receive Jesus, we are saved by faith and the faith works in us the Kingdom of God like yeast works through all the dough. In the same way, like yeast working quietly in a dough, ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). Once we follow Christ, miracles, signs and wonders follow us and not the other way round- for Christ did not accompany miracles but miracles accompanied Christ. (Mark 16:20)