What started this for me was a fascination with the fourth of Jesus’ seven parables found in Matthew 13. As I often do when faced with a long drive from a meeting back home, I picked a scripture that intrigued me in order to consider it from every angle.
This may be the most neglected parable from all those taught by Jesus, methinks.
The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened. (Matthew 13:33)
I had been working on a message on how Christians hide themselves inside their church buildings when the Lord wants us permeating the community with the gospel. This parable seemed a natural.
I had been interpreting it with an emphasis on “a woman took and hid” the leaven in the dough. She had some leaven and wondered where to hide it. “I know,” she thought. “I’ll hide it in this dough.” But a few hours later or the next morning, the world knew where she had stashed it. The power of the leaven to affect everything around it changed the dough and thus gave the presence of the leaven away.
That speaks to Christians wanting to remain secret disciples of Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: Secret discipleship is a contradiction in terms. Either the secrecy will kill the discipleship or the discipleship will kill the secrecy.
Then, I called a friend on the phone. Mike knows his Greek. I wanted to know what the Greek New Testament could contribute to my understanding of that fourth parable.
“The word in the Greek is ‘hid,’ all right,” said Pastor Mike. “But the commentary I checked said we should not make too much of the fact that she hid the leaven. She just put it inside the dough. The emphasis is not on her hiding it but on the way the leaven influences everything it touches.”
Well, all right, I thought, reluctantly. I had thought I was on to something with the emphasis on the “hid” word.
Then, next morning, with my office next door to the church library, I started pulling out commentaries.
Not a good thing.