Is Jesus Leavened or Unleavened?


or Judaism is a Testimony to the End of the World

There is a patisserie in the Blue Mountains that bakes traditional German sourdoughs. Originally the mother culture for their sourdoughs was brought to Australia in a phial by the owner’s father from a bakery near Stutgart. The culture is 500 years old and has been given the name, “Corey”. This is a fantastic picture of what leaven symbolises in the Bible. It is not a symbol of sin. It is a symbol of historic continuity.

Passover’s unleavened bread and bitter herbs were a picture of the death of the old history of slavery. Judaism celebrates the end of the old creation every year, getting rid of any trace of leaven, any link with the history of the previous year. There is to be no crossover from the past, and the smallest trace remaining can take over the new world. Jesus warned the disciples to watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees, not because leaven was bad, but because this particular leaven would be eradicated from the kingdom of God forever. (Paul uses the same illustration concerning the cutting off of Corinthian culture in 1 Corinthians 5.)

To the Jews, Jesus was unleavened bread. He brought an end to the old history, an end to slavery, an end to fallen Adam. But to those who believed, He was also the introduction of a new leaven, one from heaven. Immediately after Pharaoh’s army “went down to the Abyss” (the death of the uncircumcised again!), a new history began with manna, the bread from heaven. It was not bitter, but sweet.

So when we break bread each week (and it should be weekly!), we liturgically end the old world, the old history, personally and corporately. But the broken bread is the broken veil, “that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:20). It is a doorway into a new history, not of death but of resurrection. This new history has been spreading across the world for two millennia. And, like Corey, He has a name.

Gary North writes:

“The kingdom of God is like leaven. Christianity is the yeast, and it has a leavening effect on pagan, satanic cultures around it. It permeates the whole of culture, causing it to rise. The bread which is produced by this leaven is the preferred bread. In ancient times – indeed, right up until the advent of late-nineteenth century industrialism and modern agricultural methods – leavened bread was considered the staff of life, the symbol of God’s sustaining hand. ‘Give us this day our daily bread,’ Christians have prayed for centuries, and they have eaten leavened bread at their tables. So did the ancient Hebrews. The kingdom of God is the force that produces the fine quality bread which all men seek. The symbolism should be obvious: Christianity makes life a joy for godly men. It provides men with the very best.

Leaven takes time to produce its product. It takes time for the leaven-laden dough to rise. Leaven is a symbol of historical continuity, just as unleavened bread was Israel’s symbol of historical discontinuity. Men can wait for the yeast to do its work. God gives man time for the working of His spiritual leaven. Men may not understand exactly how the leaven works – how the spiritual power of God’s kingdom spreads throughout their culture and makes it rise – but they can see and taste its effects. If we really push the analogy (pound it, even), we can point to the fact that dough is pounded down several times by the baker before the final baking, almost as God, through the agents of Satan in the world, pounds His kingdom in history.

Nevertheless, the yeast does its marvellous work, just so long as the fires of the oven are not lit prematurely. If the full heat of the oven is applied to the dough before the yeast has done its work, both the yeast and the dough perish in the flames… What a marvellous description of God’s kingdom! Christians work inside the cultural material available in any given culture, seeking to refine it, permeate it, and make it into something fine. They know they will be successful, just as yeast is eventually successful in the dough, if it is given sufficient time to do its work. This is what God implicitly promises us in the analogy of the leaven: enough time to accomplish our individual and collective assignments. He tells us that His kingdom will produce the desirable bread of life. It will take time. It may take several poundings, as God, through the hostility of the world, kneads the yeast-filled dough of men’s cultures. But the end result is guaranteed. God does not intend to burn His bread to a useless crisp by prematurely placing it in the oven. He is a better baker than that.” [1]

So, the history of the Jews is like a scratched CD, stuck on and perpetually repeating the last second of the last track. Every year they celebrate the death of Adam, and remain stagnant, a sacrifice on an Altar with no fire of Ascension.

But the history of the church is one of miraculous growth. Every week we celebrate the New Adam. No matter how much is taken away, He continues to spread and bring the best to the world, with more leftovers than we can cope with. Jesus’ vision of the kingdom is distinctly postmillennial.

The church must not measure its history in a fictional Catholic “apostolic succession”. This ended at the first resurrection in AD70, with the induction of a human government into heaven.[2] And the supposed “Trail of Blood”, which pits Baptists/Anabaptists against Rome/Protestants as the true church is just as guilty of this.[3]  Neither of these is what gives the church its historical continuity. The connection is the Spirit of Life, the Mortar of God as the unifying relationship between the living stones.

The true yeast always transcends human institutions and traditions. It spills out all over the place, despite the embarrassment this causes to our careful confessions and denominational delineations and political pretensions. Currently, the once Christian west is eating dry crackers and bitter herbs, while China, Mongolia and the global south are just beginning to rise. [4]

“Behold, I make all things new.”


[1] Gary North, Moses and Pharaoh: Dominion Religion Versus Power Religion, p. 169f. 
[2] See Jesus’ New Broom
[3] Both these “true church” traditions are guilty of messing with the communion elements. The Catholic church commands unleavened bread for communion (wherever possible). So much for historical continuity! And the modern baptists refuse to use wine. So much for a trail of blood!
[4] See Blood and Soil and The Coming of Global Christianity (PDF). It amazes me how many conservative Christians think modern postmillennialism is an attempt to build a political City of God on earth. This is certainly an error we are prone to, but the kingdom will always break out of our man-made structures as it did with Holy Rome. It spreads not by politics but by worshipping in spirit and truth.



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