SynopsisIn this passage Jesus tells a parable in which he compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed—the smallest of all seeds, yet the plant it produces is larger than the other garden plants—and another parable in which he compares it to leaven, which is able to work through “three measures of flour” (which, according to the ESV Study Bible notes, would produce enough bread to feed a hundred people).
ThoughtsBoth of these parables are giving very similar lessons (which is probably why the ESV editors put them under the same heading): The kingdom of heaven might be starting out small, but it won’t fail to grow. The ESV Study Bible notes point out that these metaphors probably would have shocked Jesus’ initial Jewish listeners, who would not be expecting an insignificant beginning to the kingdom of heaven.
They also push the analogy a little further, noting that you can’t really see the leaven at work within the dough, which is similar to the Word of God, which we can’t always see at work in the world. The kingdom of heaven begins in the hearts of its believers, not in political action (which is what Jesus’ initial listeners would have been looking for), so it’s not as obvious as, say, a political movement would be.