Then Jesus said, What is the Kingdom of God like? To what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed which someone picked up and planted in his own garden. It grew and became a large tree, and the birds of the air found shelter in its branches. Again he said, To what shall I compare the Kingdom of God? It is like yeast, which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.
Jesus was on his way through cities and villages, teaching and traveling onward to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are those who are saved [only] a few?” Jesus replied, Do your utmost to enter in by the narrow gate! For I tell you that many will try to enter, but they will not be able. Once the master of the house has risen up and shut the door, you will stand outside and knock on the door, saying: ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But then, he will answer, ‘I do not know you or where you come from!’ Then you will start saying, ‘We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets!’ But the master will reply, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from! Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity.’ In that place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and yourselves being thrown outside. People will come from the east, west, north, and south, and they will have a place in the Kingdom of God.
Eastern Orthodox Bible New Testament
He compares the kingdom of God to a grain of mustard seed. The kingdom of God is the Word and the preaching, for it is by means of the preaching of the Gospel that Christ rules over the souls of men. And just as the mustard seed appears insignificant even though it has great power, so too the Word of the Gospel is disdained by many because it appears foolish to them. Yet when a man takes the seed of the Gospel and casts it into his garden, that is, into his own soul, it makes a great tree with branches in which lodge the winged creatures of heaven, that is, those men who wish to soar upwards to the heavens. For those who surpass earthly things find rest in the branches of the preaching, that is, in the far-reaching thoughts of the Gospel. If I may give an example, Paul took the mustard seed, which was the small amount of instruction which Ananias gave him [Acts 9:10-19], and Paul planted this seed in the rich soil of his garden. And the seed produced branches, many in number, which are his good teachings and his Epistles, in which lodged not only the men of his times who were lofty and keen in mind and wisdom, such as the Corinthians, and Dionysius, Hierotheus, and many others, but also men of succeeding generations. The grain of mustard seed may also be understood to signify the Lord Himself, Who appeared to be lowly, the impoverished son of a carpenter. But when He fell into the heart of the earth at His death, and was buried in the garden, He put forth beautiful branches, the apostles. And these branches gave shelter and a place of rest to all those who before had been buffeted about by every spirit of deception. For example, the pagan intellectuals are not at all different from such birds, in that their reasonings flit about in every direction, [not being grounded in Truth,] and hence they are easily deceived. Do you see how all those who are deceived are like the birds of the air? Again He likens the divine Word to leaven which a woman, signifying human nature, took and hid in three measures of flour, that is, in the body, in the soul, and in the spirit, in order to sanctify them completely, as the blessed Paul says [1 Thessalonians 5:23], so that all parts of a man might become a unified whole, leavened throughout by the Holy Spirit. You may also understand the woman to be the soul, and the three measures the three parts of the soul, namely, the abilities to reason, to be stirred to action, and to desire. Therefore if a man should hide the Word of God in these three parts, he will make the whole thing spiritual, so that the reasoning part of the soul does not err in doctrines, and so that irrationality does not sway those parts of the soul which desire and stir to action. Then the soul is leavened and made like the Word of God. Jesus went through the cities and villages, teaching. Unlike those who wish to deceive the simple and the unlearned, He did not go only to the small places, such as the villages, and avoid the cities; and unlike the vainglorious He did not go to the cities only and avoid the villages. But as the Master of all, and indeed like a father who cares for all his children, He went to every place. And surely He did not go only to those cities outside Jerusalem in which there were no learned students of the law, and avoided Jerusalem itself, out of fear of being rebuked by its lawyers or because He suspected death at their hands? Such a view cannot be maintained, since, on the contrary, the Evangelist says that the Lord journeyed towards Jerusalem as well; for the physician is compelled to go where there are the greatest number of sick
Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid (11th c.), The Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Luke (tr. from the Greek, St. John Chrysostom Press, 1997)
Few are saved because there is not enough room for many to pass through the narrow gate. The Master of the house is the Lord Who calls together all mankind to the feast and to the enjoyment of His unending good things. All who are zealous strive until the very hour of the dinner to enter in, but those who are slothful arrive after the hour of the dinner and are shut out. What is the hour of the dinner, if not this present life? Indeed it is while we are still in this life that we must make spiritual preparation for the feast, before the Master of the house is risen up, that is, risen up and come forth to judge, and hath shut the door, which means, closed the pathway of virtue. For further progress on that path cannot be made after we leave this life. It is only while we are in this life that we can walk the way of virtue. After their death, those who lived negligently in this life at last begin to knock at the door, only now, because of their useless repentance, seeking to find the path of virtue, calling out for it with mere words like so much pounding and banging, but devoid of any deeds. Justly has the Master of the house already closed the door and He pretends not to know them. Rightly so, for these belong to the devil, while the Lord knows only those who belong to Him. The words, We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets, refer, in the first place, to the Israelites, for Christ came in the flesh from out of their midst and ate and drank with them. But these words may also be understood in a more spiritual sense to refer to those who performed the worship prescribed by the law and offered to God blood sacrifices, and partook and were gladdened, and who listened to the reading of the divine books in the synagogues. Indeed it was the Lord Who was teaching them through the prophets. The prophets did not set forth their own words, but pronounced the words of God, which is why they said, Thus saith the Lord. But the worship through blood sacrifice was not sufficient to the Jews for righteousness, because they did not accept that faith which makes even the impious righteous. And do these words not also apply to us Christians who live a careless life? For we also eat the divine Body and drink the Blood of Christ in His presence each time we approach the Mystical Table. And does the Lord not teach us in the streets, that is, have we not, while we were among the crowd, heard Him teach publicly? But it is of no benefit to us if we only hear the divine law and not do it. Indeed, unless we keep God’s law, the fact that we heard it is grounds for even greater torments for us, just as our partaking of the Divine Mysteries unworthily is to our condemnation. Observe that it is those whom the Lord taught in the streets, that is, who only received the Lord’s teachings in public, who are rejected. But if we receive His teaching, not just in public, but also within the closeness of our contrite and compunctionate heart, then we will not be rejected. The words, There shall be weeping … when ye shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, refer both to the Israelites to whom He spoke these things, and also to the unbelievers of every age. For the Jews were vexed above all else by hearing that others from among the Gentiles would find rest with Abraham and the fathers while they themselves would be thrust out. But these words also apply to us who do not do those things which follow from our faith. We too boast in the law of Christ, but reject it by transgressing against it. We think we are first because from infancy we have put on Christ and have been taught the Word, but we shall become last when perhaps greater honor is given to those Gentiles who have believed towards the close of their life and have lived even for a short time in a manner pleasing to God [Luke 13:30].
Blessed Theophylact of Ochrid