Matthew 13: Wheat and Weeds

Matthew 13: 24-30 & 30-36: 

 

Introduction

This is a parable that can seem familiar, especially within the Anglican Church where in the Lectionary readings it follows the parable of the Sower.  It is a parable that we do not have to debate the finer details because Christ himself gives us the explanation for all. However, we must come to the Scriptures as if it was the first time we have opened a bible. We must incline our ears and our hearts as if we have never known the beauty of the Gospel and then freedom it brings that God grants. as if even we are hearing it for ourselves standing there in the crowd as they feed off every word that came out of the mouth of Jesus. Like a dog sitting at the feet of its master waiting with joy and expectation for the next treat. Let us be eager and willing.

It is important to set in context this parable with what the crowd would have just heard.  The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) as it helps to understand the imagery we have here in this one, There are four different types of soil and one final lesson around fruitfulness:

  • Firstly, the hardened path. Where the seeds are simply eaten by the ravens of the sky. They represent those who hear the Gospel and will never heed it.  Their hearts are hard to the things of God.
  • Secondly, the rocky soil. The seeds landed well and seemed to be growing. Yet over time they began to wither because of their lack of roots because the soil lacks depth.  These are the people who hear the Gospel and seem to accept it: yet, when suffering or trial comes because of it they throw the towel in because this wasn’t what they were promised.
  • Thirdly, the weedy soil. The soil was good, the seeds where able to take root and even perhaps put down deep roots, yet as time passages the weeds grow up with them. The seeds and the weeds represent those who fall folly to worldly idols and distractions.
  • Fourthly, the good soil. Here the seeds can take root.  These seeds represent those who hear the Gospel and who put their roots down in Christ and his truth.  Those who form their identity and worth on the person of Jesus Christ.

The lesson from the parable of the sower, relates to the yield of the soil.  Some harvest bear 100, others 60 and some 30 times what was sown.  The seed is the message of Salvation and the soil is the heart of humanity, is receiving the seed and allowing it to take root what matters is not our yield against others, it is simple that as time passes and the storms of life come and go that we bear fruit.

“The measure of fruitfulness may be different from person to person…. But there will be fruitfulness none the less.”[1]

The Passage

Almost immediately after his explanation of his previous parable Jesus goes on to tell the same crowd in that same place another early story with a heavenly meaning.  Christ reveals something else of what the Kingdom of God is like. This time however the lesson is not in the different types of soil it is towards the end when the harvest is taken in.

The Enemy Comes Regardless (25-26)

In the first section of the passage we see the enemy’s actions and discover his heart.  Notice that in verse 25 he comes while the workers sleep– in the middle of the night – such is his intention always for harm that he needs the cover of the night to enact his plan. In verse 26 we see after some time has passed the sown plants are now beginning to sprout.  The servants and the farmer are seemingly unaware of what has gone on some night before.  This should remind us that sin and the efforts of the enemy are sometimes not for immediate effect.  He is patient and willing to think long-term.  We see the wheat sprout and start to grown, as the roots go down the leaves come up.  The Gospel is starting to bear fruit in the kingdom of God.  Then with dramatic effect:  “Then the weeds also appeared.”

 

ZIZANION(Greek): A DANGEROUS LOOKING SEED

The weeds as planted by the enemy are probably Darnel, which is a weedy Grass that in the early stages of its growth would look similar to wheat. However, by the time of any harvest their difference would be obvious. Darnel also carried with it a poisonous black seed.  The lesson for the church today is how often people can identify as Christian and even within the church, yet in the long-term they will bring nothing but death and destruction.

The Masters is Wise and his Intentions are Good (27-30)

At the start of the next section of the passage we see that the servant are now aware of something else growing, they return to the master questioning the seeds he has given them. They return because they have noticed already the difference between the Darnel and the Wheat, unsure of what has happened and what to do they seek their master.  We learn that the Master of the Harvest – God – is always good.  See their question and his response:

‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did all these weeds come from? ‘Some blackguard has done this to spite me.’ – JB Philips

 

Next, the servants of the Lord want to know what they should do in response to the malicious acts of the Villain. they suggest going out into the field to uproot the Bad (weeds) from the Good (wheat).  However, the farmer dismisses their claim, because although it would be effective in removing the bad crop, it would be dangerous for that which was good and growing because the roots of both where entangled.   Christ is informing the crowd who are listening and us today that for now both good and evil will be allowed by the will of the farmer (God) to grow side-by-side until the final harvest or Judgment.  In verse 30, we see that God gracefully allows both believers and non-believers to grow together until the final harvest.

Jesus Explains (36-43)

The narrative follows along as Jesus shares two more stories with heavenly implications.  The parable of the Mustard seed and the parable of yeast.  Now though the scene seems to have moved on somewhat.  Jesus has left the crowd behind and the marathon of parables seems to be over, his disciples come to him eager for one thing – explanation.  The parable of the weed has obviously been mulling in their mind as they tried to discern what it meant and thus the implications of it where for them, the crowd and Israel’s.  They where like school children who having just witnessed a science experiment that had blown their mind demeaned their teacher inform them of what was going on.  They wanted to know so Jesus shared with them:

Setting the Scene (36-39)

The person sowing the seed is the Son of Man – Jesus himself. The field is this present world in which they were living then and we will now.  The good seed’s represent the people who have heard the Good News of Christ and have accepted their need of a saviour and chosen to put their roots down deep in Christ and to grow in him.  The Good seeds are kingdom people. The weeds are people of the evil one and the devil is their sower.  The harvesters at the end of the age are the angels who will come along with the ‘Son of Man; to bring about the final Judgment. The Harvest is the end of the age.

On a side note, there is some discussion around the preciseness of those who the weeds would represent:  Some Scholars would argue that they in fact represent those who would consider themselves as Followers of Christ; those who would identify with Jesus in perhaps some cultural or political way.  However, they have never been truly converted. While we can be sure of the preciseness of what is being talked about we can say for sure that at the very least Christ is talking about all in the world who believers live with, yet their hearts are far from God.

The Final Harvest (40-41)

The final scene is quite a strong scene, it is one of judgment where the weeds they have been pulled out and separated from the wheats are set aside as they will be cast into the fire.  Christ declares:, as it has been for the weeds so to will it be all those who do not know Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour. The final few verses are an extension of the scene, as the Angels of the Lord move through the Kingdom of God removing all that causes sin and all who do evil.  It is a scene of pain and yet renewal as God.

A Picture of Opposites (42-43)

Verse 42, can seem quite drastic with the graphic Imagery quite uncomfortable for the modern mind.  With pictures of a blazing fire, weeping and the gnashing of teeth.  It is simple an extension of previous biblical Imagery about what will happen to those who receive Gods right and just judgement.  Consider both Psalms 9:17-18[2] and Daniel 12:2-3[3] Both Verses are contrasts.  There is the picture of those who receive judgment and the despair that is due to them, then there is the picture of righteous which must be seen in contrast to the picture of the judged.  The weeping and gnashing of the teeth is to signify the despair the judged now feel, for not being among the harvest that was good.  See how JP Philips helps us when he translates this part of the passage:

The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret. Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. The man who has ears should use them! Matthew 13:42-43 JB Philips

Conclusion: Are you shinning Like the Sun?

In the Final verse, we have a beautiful picture of what it will be to be in Glory. Those who are truly in the kingdom will shine as bright as the Sun, it is as if until this point that under the burden of sin they have been under a dark cloud, that their true Glory in Christ has never been revealed: Even though they bear the Image of God they where a pale reflection of that which they beheld and now they have become.  Now free form the burden of Sin and those who would lead them to sin the true beauty of who they are in Christ is seen and it is like the shinning Gory of the sun. It is an extension of the Imagery of Daniel 12:3 where the wise are described as shinning like the heavens and the righteous like the stars will live for ever and ever.

As Children of God in some lesser way we will reflect the Glory of God.   The closing question is simply: where are you with the Father?  Are you someone who claims to be Christians yet you know that come the end and the final judgment that you will be on a different pile.  Are you wise and willing to shine like the brightness of the sun, putting your roots down deep into Christ.  The parable of the weeds reminds us that the coming judgment is inevitable.  That one day every human will stand equal before God, regardless of their wealth, bloodline, work or involvement in the things of God.  They will be judgment by one thing – where have their roots been planted? In the things of Christ or the things of this world.  The question for myself and every one of us today is What about every one of us? Are we among the weeds that sit rotting on a separate pile, or are we graced to be among the wheat.

 

[1] Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 169.

[2] The wicked go down to the realm of the dead,

all the nations that forget God.

But God will never forget the needy;

the hope of the afflicted will never perish.

[3] Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Ian says:

    Good stuff Andrew, the parable of the sower is a good indication of the reaction you will get to the preaching of Gods word. Our expectations of sowing the seed should be realistic as indicated by the parable. Nevertheless we are called to be faithful and leave the rest to God. Ian

    Like

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