“[Jesus] told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…’” —Matthew 13:31
What is the kingdom of heaven like? Jesus tells us, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32). Immediately after, He also says, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough” (Matthew 13:33). These two parables are called “twin parables” because they are teaching identical principles.
While the mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds, Jesus was not making a definitive statement for all time. He was simply providing an analogy that every New Testament farmer would understand. “Like a mustard seed” was a proverbial way of saying something extremely small. In fact, a mustard seed is only a millimetre in diameter, but when it grows it can be as tall as 20 feet. Jesus was emphasizing the unimpressive size of the kingdom, but something relatively small will eventually become a very large all-earth-encompassing thing.
In the second parable, Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like yeast. Bread was a staple in New Testament time and yeast was a common household item. As we study Scripture, yeast is often associated with the presence of sin or evil. Just as Satan is referred to as “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8), Jesus Himself is also referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” (Revelation 5:5). The same animal is used in the analogies but they give drastically different meanings. This is the case with yeast: Jesus is using it to emphasize the spreading of the kingdom. Like yeast spreading through the dough, what is relatively small and hidden will be used to transform the world.
Through these two parables, Jesus did something unheard of in His day. He provided an analogy for both men and women to understand by noting a woman in his second parable. Jesus’s inclusion of women in His discipleship was one of the features in Matthew’s Gospel. By providing a dual analogy, Jesus was able to let the women listeners know that they will be a part of the kingdom of heaven spreading and growing throughout the earth. Although the kingdom of heaven may start small, its influence through individual men and women of faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit in them, is able to transform the world.
Dear Jesus, thank You that Your Spirit is at work in me, allowing me to share Your good news to the world. May the truth of Your gospel transform the world.