Jesus uses parables to reveal the truths contained in their imagery, inviting us to reach beyond the images to grasp those truths. One clue that there is something more going on in Jesus' stories is the presence of the odd or the unexpected - like the incredibly bad sower (what farmer sows seed on a road?).
Take the parable of the leaven or yeast (one of three in Sunday's Gospel). The typical recipe for 2 loaves of bread uses one packet of yeast and 5 1/2 cups of flour, so when Jesus talks about adding leaven/yeast to 3 measures of flour, it sounds like a basic recipe for a loaf of bread. So what's odd or unexpected about that?
The stock translation of "3 measures of flour" doesn't tell us what measure, just that there are 3 of them. The original Greek tells us what measure - the σατον ("saton"). Three of those things equals (with apologies to my 4th grade math teacher for not showing my work) just over 165 cups of flour - enough flour to make 60 loaves of bread. Who can make 60 loaves of bread with one packet of yeast?
There's the odd, the unexpected - the clue that this isn't just a comment on how yeast works or a recipe for bread. There's something more going on here. More on Sunday’s parables tomorrow.