Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

SET 1: Seasons of Elijah-Cross-Moses

Third Sunday of Elijah: Matthew 13:24-30; 13:36-43
THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE WEEDS

INTRODUCTION

The parable of the weeds growing among the wheat gives justification for the coexistence of good and evil in the world. Wheat stands for God’s elect and the weed for the godless. The ungodly torment the godly. The ministers of Christ shall not destroy the ungodly. Whereas they must be patient and tolerant until the end of age, when Christ will come to separate the good and the bad. He will destroy the evil and reward the good in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21:1). Jesus has selected us to be the spiritual wheat that supplies nourishment to the world. Let us be non-judgemental and help others to become God’s elect. Unlike weed and wheat, human beings can transform from one to another at any stage before the end of life.

BIBLE TEXT

The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat

(Luke 13:24) Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. (25) While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and left. (26) When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. (27) Then the servants of the owner came to him and said: ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ (28) He answered them: ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him: ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’ (29) He told them: ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. (30) Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn.’”

The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds

(Luke 13:36) Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (37) Jesus answered them, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world; the good seed is the people of the kingdom; the weeds are those who belong to the evil one. (39) The enemy who sows them is the devil; the harvest is the end of time and the workers are the angels. (40) Just as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, that is how it will be at the end of time. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. (42) And these will be thrown in the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear.

INTERPRETATION

(Lk 13:24) Jesus told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field”
(Lk 13:36) Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (37) Jesus answered them, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world; the good seed is the people of the kingdom

He proposed another parable

Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel gives several parables about the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught while sitting on a boat in the Sea of Galilee. First, he taught the parable of the sower where the seeds fell on four types of soil and gave varying results. The emphasis of that parable was on the disposition of heart (field) on which Jesus (farmer) sowed the Word of God (seed). After explaining that parable, Jesus introduced the parable of the weeds that gave importance to the patience we should have until the end of the ages, tolerating the bad (weed) to grow along with the good (wheat) for the safety of the good.

The earlier parable of the sower was on the early stage of the church when Jesus’s disciples preached the gospel in the hearts of the people. This parable that only Saint Matthew presents deals with the second stage of the church. The church shall face challenges like weeds in the field. Such weeds can be from within the church like false prophets and false teachings. They might be indistinguishable at an early stage from their appearance. However, the church shall be tolerant and non-judgemental because God allows the good and the bad to grow together until the second coming of Christ when he will separate them for reward or destruction. Early uprooting of the weeds can cause unintended damage to the wheat.

The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field

Though the parable says the Kingdom of God is like a man who sowed the good seed, the Kingdom of God is more than a person. It is like the situation in the whole parable. “The kingdom of heaven” mentioned here is the church before the second coming of Christ. After his next coming, there will not be any weed. At present, the church faces challenges from within and without.

Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house

Though Jesus proclaimed the parables in public at the Sea of Galilee’s shore, he explained the parable of the weeds to his disciples at their request at a nearby house. That must be Peter’s house in Capernaum. We are fortunate to have a genuine interpretation from the author of the parable, Jesus himself.

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the people of the kingdom
Jesus gave an allegorical interpretation to this parable, though all his parables are not allegorical. In an allegory, the characters and events correspond to a moral, religious, or historical character or situation. In the weeds’ story interpretation, Jesus gave a spiritual storyline parallel to the parable. Hence, Jesus the Son of Man (the sower) sows children of the kingdom (good seed) in the world (field). The allegorical representation was different in the previous parable of the sower. There, the seed was the word of God and the field was the heart of the listener. So, this parable of the weed has a different focus and message.

The Son of Man

The Hebrew phrase “the Son of Man” means a human being (Ezek 2:1). However, when Prophet Daniel used the same phrase in his vision (Dan 7:13), it gained divine qualities because the son of man came with the clouds of heaven. Ordinary humans cannot travel in the clouds. Jesus chose this phrase for himself out of his humility, while others used “Son of God” that emphasizes the divine origin of Jesus. So, it signifies the human and divine nature of Jesus.

The good seed is the people of the kingdom

According to this parable, Jesus the Son of Man sows the good seed that stands for the children of the kingdom. Since the Kingdom of God at the present stage is the church, its children are Christians. They are the reconstituted Israel of the Old Testament. The good seed that Jesus uses to illustrate is wheat. Wheat is energetic, life-sustaining, nutritious, and healing. So, bakers use it to make bread. Likewise, Christians provide spiritual life, energy, nutrition, and healing to all in the world. The wheat has to allow the baker to grind it into flour, add ingredients, and bake to make the bread. So also Christians must sacrifice with Christ the baker to nurture the Kingdom of God.

The field is the world

The entire world is the field for the sower, Jesus Christ. The church is beyond the Holy Land and is for the entire world. Jesus sows the good seed, the Christians, all over the world for its spiritual nourishment.

(25) While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and left
(38b) The weeds are those who belong to the evil one. (39) The enemy who sows them is the devil

While everyone was asleep his enemy came

Jesus used an example from the experience of farmers whose enemies sabotaged them. The enemy waited for the opportune time to mount his attack in disguise. When we, the Christians, are spiritually dormant, Satan would work through his agents for our spiritual destruction.

The enemy who sows them is the devil

The enemy of the Son of Man is the devil, also known as Satan. Devil, the fallen angel (Isa 14:12) has been active since the first parents’ creation. God established enmity between Eve and Satan and their offspring: “I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike at his heel” (Gen 3:15). The devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness when he started his public ministry. Satan also worked through Peter (Mt 16:23) and Judas Iscariot (Lk 22:3). He continues his work of sowing weeds among the Christians.

The weeds are the children of the evil one

The weeds were not part of God’s six-day creation of the universe. They came into existence only after the fall of the first parents. While judging Adam, God said: “Because you have listened to your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I forbade you to eat, cursed be the ground because of you! In toil you will provide food for yourself from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorn and thistle for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (Gen 3:17-18).

In contrast to the wheat beneficial for making bread and thus keeping human life alive, the enemy sowed weeds, called darnel, which produce poisonous grains. Their roots weaken the wheat or do not allow some to grow. Consumption of the weed called darnel can cause trembling, vomiting, hindered speech, inability to walk, convulsions, diarrhoea, and even death. Small doses of darnel with fungus can cause hallucinations, and high doses can damage the central nervous system. Only spiritually strong Christians can withstand the influence of the evil ones.

Sowed weeds among the wheat and left

The devil has been sowing weeds or evil among God’s people all over the world and throughout the history of the world. It started with Satan tempting Eve, and she tempted Adam. Later Satan tempted Cain to kill his brother Abel. During the time of Noah, most people were in sin and became like a weed-filled world. During their journey to the Promised Land, the Israelites repeatedly sinned against Moses and God. Even after entering the Promised Land, the evil kept influencing them.

(26) When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared

The darnel and wheat resemble at the early stage of growth. So, when they grow together, it is hard to distinguish them. Only by the time of germination, will people realize the difference. Christians also face the same challenge in their spiritual life. They cannot distinguish the right and wrong teachings and teachers. Heresies have happened in the church’s history.

(27) Then the servants of the owner came to him and said: ‘Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ (28) He answered them: ‘This is the work of an enemy.’ They asked him: ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’

The slaves or servants of the householder stand for ministers of the church. They are enthusiastic to uproot the weeds to protect the wheat. The natural human reaction to an enemy is to retaliate. Luke gives an example. While Jesus was going to Jerusalem through a Samaritan village, the residents there did not welcome him. “Seeing this, James and John, his disciples said, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to reduce them to ashes?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went on to another village” (Lk 9:54-56). So, we notice this teaching of Jesus in action in his public ministry. He did not want to destroy the Samaritan village like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the past Instead, he allowed them time to repent and become members of the new Kingdom. Otherwise, the early church would have lost many future Christians from Samaria.

The enemy in this parable is the devil who had been sowing seeds of evil throughout history. Satan keeps sowing weeds among Jesus’ wheat by converting many good believers into false teachers or rebels. They misguide many faithful and lead them away from Jesus and his church.

(29) He told them: ‘No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them’

Jesus wanted to allow the weeds to remain alongside the wheat to avoid uprooting the wheat. Since darnel is visually identical to wheat in the early stages, the servants might uproot the wheat also by mistake. Besides, the roots of the weeds will be tied up with the roots of wheat under the soil. So, by pulling up the weeds, the wheat might also get uprooted. Once the blades appear for both, they become distinguishable and differ in height. Then at harvest time, the workers can segregate them easily from the wheat.

Jesus taught: “No good tree bears bad fruit, no bad tree bears good fruit. And each tree is known by the fruit it bears. You do not gather figs from thorns, or grapes from brambles. Similarly, a good person draws good things from the store of goodness in his heart, and an evil person draws evil things from the evil in his heart” (Lk 6:43-45). Jesus waits for the fruits of our Christian living to appear.

Unlike wheat and weed, humans can change in the course of their life because all are seeds from God and carry His image and likeness. There are many saints in Christianity like Saint Paul and Saint Augustine who had changed from weed to wheat. Since there is the possibility of a good person becoming evil and vice versa, God waits to judge us all until the end of our life term in this world.

(30) Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn
(39b) The harvest is the end of time and the workers are the angels

Once ripe, the grains of wheat and darnel are distinguishable by their size and colour. The wheat grains are large and golden, and darnel grains are small and grey. So, the harvesters can separate them.

At harvest time

The harvest is a Biblical symbol of the last judgement (Jer 51:33; Hos 6:11; Joel 4:13) when Jesus would present the fruits of his earthly ministry to the heavenly Father. Since God allows only holy people in heaven, the angels of God would separate the good people from the bad. Matthew 25:31-46 describes the judgement of the nations at the second coming of Christ “When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all his angels, he will sit on the throne of glory” (25:31) He will separate the nations “as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats” (25:32).

Gather the wheat into my barn

The barn is the storehouse of the wheat grains. Like the harvesters who gather the wheat into the barn, Jesus will gather the righteous in heaven where there will be no more evil and influence of Satan. They will be in a new heaven and new earth that Christ will open up during his second coming.

(40) Just as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, that is how it will be at the end of time. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil

At the harvest time, the farmer will burn the weeds that are useless and harmful. Likewise, Jesus will send his angels to separate the good and evil. The activity of the evil will end at the end of the age and the angels will throw the bad into the unquenchable fire.

All that is scandalous and all who do evil

There are two categories of weeds in Christ’s field: the evildoers and those who cause others to sin. The book of Proverbs gives a list of evil doings: “There are six things the LORD hates, seven his inner being detests: the proud look, the lying tongue, hands which spill innocent blood, the depraved heart, feet which speed towards evil, a false and lying witness and the man who sows discord among people” (Prov 6:16-19). Jesus warned those who cause others to sin: “If anyone should cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble and fall into sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the depths of the sea with a large millstone around his neck. Woe to the world because of so many things that cause people to fall! Such stumbling blocks are bound to come, but woe to the one who causes others to fall!” (Mt 18:6- 7). Hence, those who do evil in the world and those who cause others to sin are equally punishable.

(42) And these will be thrown in the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth

Like the weeds burned in the fire, the Lord’s angels will throw the evildoers and those who cause others to sin into the fiery furnace. Daniel chapter three gives the image of a fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king threw three Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in a fiery furnace when they refused to bow down to the king’s golden statue. He ordered to heat the furnace seven times more than usual (Dan 3:19). God saved these three believers. However, the angels will cast the sinners in such a fiery furnace in Gehenna.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth

The expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” expresses the severe anguish that the sinners would experience in the fiery furnace. It shows the physical, mental, and spiritual agony of the inmates there.

(43) Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear

God said to Daniel: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to everlasting life but others to eternal horror and shame. Those who acquired wisdom will shine brightly like the splendour of the firmament; those who taught people to be just will shine like the stars for all eternity” (Dan 12:2-3). At the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, his three close disciples had a magnificent experience. “Jesus’ appearance was changed before them: his face shone like the sun and his clothes became bright as light” (Mt 17:2). That was a foretaste of the glory of heaven. Those who live a righteous life have a glorious life waiting for them in the kingdom of the Father.

Whoever has ears ought to hear

Jesus had used this phrase at the close of his serious teachings. It means that God has formed us with ears to hear and the ability to understand the commandments of the Lord by the working of the Holy Spirit. We must respond to that by obeying them. This hearing is not just an external hearing, but listening with a good heart to produce its fruit. Jesus used this phrase when the teaching was important, difficult to understand and to stir up the immediate attention of the listeners for action.

MESSAGE

1. The Christians are the good seed that Jesus the farmer sows in the entire world that stands for the field. Even though we might face challenges from the weeds who are the evil ones, we have to withstand it.

2. We must be patient with our opponents. When we destroy those who persecute us, we might damage ourselves and the church. The door to conversion remains open for each one right till the end of his/her life. Saint Paul and Saint Augustine and many others successfully made use of such opportunities in life.

3. At the end of time, there is to be a final separation along with reward or punishment for each depending upon our performance in this world. So, let us be productive as Christians so that we may find ourselves in the barn rather than in the fire at the final reckoning.

4. Our natural reaction to enemies would be to take revenge on them. Jesus taught through his public ministry, how to respond to our adversaries. We can point out their mistakes, but God does not entitle us to judge and punish them. God reserves judgement at the end of this age. At present, we cannot separate the wheat and the weeds.

5. The enemies within the church can be more dangerous than those from outside. The weeds are crushing the wheat within the field, and they look alike before the blades appear. So also, it might be difficult to distinguish the good and bad within the church. So, we must be “Beware of false prophets: they come to you disguised as sheep, but inside they are wild wolves” (Mt 7:15).

6. God is patient with the world that has followers of Jesus and his opponents intermingled. When His appointed time arrives, He will send his angels to reap the wheat and separate it from the weeds. While keeping ourselves productive as wheat, we should be tolerant of the weeds and make them also wheat for Jesus.

7. The good seed in this parable stands for wheat. When the baker makes bread out of it, it becomes energetic, life- sustaining, nutritious, and healing for those who use them. So also Christians must sacrifice with Christ the baker to nurture the Kingdom of God.


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