27. Watch the Weeds

Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 27.  Watch the Weeds

Mt 13:24-26   Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

Although we suggested that the Parable of the Sower was unique and the longest when you included the dialogue about why parables were used by Jesus, the next parable, so often called the Parable of the Weeds, is a close second for it also has the main story part (13:24-30) and then later an explanatory part (13:36-43). We might also note that this is the second of three parables about what goes on in the field of the farmer. Perhaps as a prologue type comment, we may observe that often young Christians ask, why does God tolerate false religions, or even people masquerading as good people while being ungodly? Why doesn’t He deal with them straight away? This parable is the answer.

Parable: So, first of all, let’s note the content of the main parable. In this one, the farmer sows ‘good seed’ in his field. (v.24) The initial implication is that he expects good seed to bring a good crop and it does. However, in this parable an enemy came and sowed the seeds of weeds in the field (v.25) so that when the various seeds germinated and sprouted the seed heads of the main crop spouted – but so also did the weeds! (v.26)

If you are a gardener you will know that the battle is always against the weeds. If you grow on a public plot (an allotment) you know the problem is accentuated by other plot owners allowing weeds to grow which go to seed which then spread onto your plot. We recently experienced the practical confusion that can arise when we sowed beetroot seed on our plot, only to find at least two different colour leaves appearing. I immediately thought, “An enemy has sown something else when I was not looking,” but when I took advice from a more mature gardener they said, “No, you’ve simply got mixed seeds, different sorts of beet”, and they were right, it turned out, not merely the usual deep red beet but also striped beet and even yellow beet. I looked at the packet more closely. Mixed seed!!!

The servants of the owner in this parable were equally confused and asked him, Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” (v.27) but the owner was wise and realised exactly what had taken place: “An enemy did this,’ he replied.” (v.28a) Now comes the crux of this particular story: “The servants asked him, `Do you want us to go and pull them up?” (v.28a) That, at first sight, appears the obvious thing to do but the farmer is wiser: “No,’ he answered, `because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” (v.29,30)  i.e. leave everything until it is full grown and it is harvest time and only then pull up the weeds and separate wheat from weeds.

Explanation: Now, with hindsight, we might think that was a pretty straight forward story but the full implications of it don’t strike the disciples straight away and so we find, “Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (v.36). This provokes Jesus to give a simple seven-point explanation; “He answered:

  • “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. (v.37)
  • The field is the world (v.38a)
  • the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom (v.38b)
  • the weeds are the sons of the evil one (v.38c)
  • the enemy who sows them is the devil (v.39a)
  • the harvest is the end of the age (v.39b)
  • the harvesters are angels” (v.39c)

He summarizes it: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (v.40-43)

Key things to be noted?  First, Jesus distinguishes between two types of people: believers in the kingdom of God, unbelievers in the world. Second, the identifies their origins:  believers are born of God, unbelievers are motivated and energized by Satan. Hard talk but that is the Bible’s conclusion. Third, God allows them to co-exist side by side and, fourth, final judgment will only come post our time on this earth. Don’t be put off by bad people apparently ‘getting away with it’, they won’t in the long run. They WILL be held accountable. It is a parable that should have all people asking of themselves, am I wheat or am I weeds? Fifth, we should note that the weeds are people in the world, not the church. This is not about judging people in the kingdom of God; that has already been dealt with by Jesus on the Cross, and we need no longer be worried about our eternal destiny. Sixth, it should thus bring encouragement to believers but a severe warning to those who have not submitted and received God’s salvation through Christ. Seventh, finally, perhaps we should take note of the example of the disciples here, and where we have questions or confusions about Jesus’ teaching, we should seek him until he is able to give us answers. May it be so.

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