Elijah-Cross-Moses Third Sunday

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

INTRODUCTION

The parable of the weeds growing among the wheat gives a spiritual meaning for the existence of evil among the good in the world. The wheat represent God’s elect who are tormented or influenced by the godless. The ministers of Christ shall not judge or destroy the ungodly and have to be patient and tolerant until the end of the ages when Christ will come to separate the good and the bad. The evil will be destroyed. The good will be rewarded in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21:1) that would be free from every evil. We are called to be the spiritual wheat that provide nourishment to the world. Let us be nonjudgmental and help others to become God’s elect. Unlike weed and wheat, humans can transform from one to another before the end of life.

Bible Text

The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.
(24) He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. (25) While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. (26) When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. (27) The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ (28) He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ (29) He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. (30) Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

The Explanation of the Parable of the Weeds.
(36) Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (37) He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, (38) the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (40) Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. (42) They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. (43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Interpretation

(24) He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

(36) Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” (37) He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, (38) the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.

He proposed another parable
The chapter 13 of St. Matthew gives several parables that Jesus taught about the Kingdom of God while sitting on a boat at the shore of 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 about the disposition of the heart (field) on which the word of God (seed) was sown. After explaining that parable, Jesus proposed the parable of the weeds that gave importance to the patience we should have until the end of the ages tolerating the bad (weed) 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 the gospel was preached in the hearts of the people.

This parable presented only by St. Matthew 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 not be distinguishable at an early stage and from outside appearance. However, the church shall be tolerant and non-judgmental because God allows the good and the bad to grow together until the second coming of Christ when the good and bad will be separated for reward or destruction. An early destruction of weeds can have aftereffects and can cause damage to the wheat as well.

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
Though the parable starts saying 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 that is narrated in the whole parable. “The kingdom of heaven” mentioned here is not the perfect kingdom to be established after the second coming of Christ when there will not be any weed at all. So, the kingdom mentioned here is the church that is in the world that faces challenges from within and from outside.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house
Though Jesus proclaimed the parables in public at the seashore of the sea of Galilee, he interpreted the parable of the weeds to his disciples at their request at a nearby house, probably that of Peter. So, we are fortunate to have a genuine clarification from the author of the parable, Jesus himself.

He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
Jesus gave an allegorical interpretation to this parable though all parables of Jesus are not allegorical. In an allegory, the characters or events are symbols of something moral or religious. In the interpretation of the story of the weeds, 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.

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

The good seed the children 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 New Testament. The good seed that Jesus uses to illustrate is wheat. Wheat is energetic and life-sustaining and has nutrition as well as healing properties. It is used to make bread. The Christians provide spiritual life, energy, nutrition and healing to all people in the world.

The field is the world
The whole world is the field of the sower, Jesus Christ. The church is not limited to Judea or Galilee but it is for all the 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 all through the wheat, and then went off.

(38b) The weeds are the children of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sows them is the devil.

While everyone was asleep his enemy came
Jesus used a typical example of farmers who were at times revenged by their enemies that could have happened during the time of his public ministry. The enemy usually wait for the weak time of his adversary to do the damage in disguise. When we, the Christians, are spiritually dormant, the 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 (Isaiah 14:12) has been active since the creation of Adam and Eve. God established enmity between the children of Eve and of the devil: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” (Genesis 3:15). The devil had tempted Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of his public ministry. The Satan also worked through Peter (Matthew 16:23)  and Judas Iscariot (Luke 22:3). The devil or Satan continues his work of sowing weeds among the Christians, even through the Christians.

The weeds are the children of the evil one
The weeds were not part of the creation of the world. They came into existence only after the fall of the first parents. While judging Adam God said: “Cursed is the ground because of you! In toil you shall eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles it shall bear for you, and you shall eat the grass of the field.” (Genesis 3: 17-18).

In contrast to the wheat that is used for making bread keeping human life alive, the enemy sows weeds, called darnel that produces poisonous seeds. Their roots weaken the wheat or don’t allow some to grow. Consumption of the weed called darnel can cause trembling, vomiting, hindered speech, inability to walk, convulsions, diarrhea, and even death. Small doses of darnel with fungus can cause hallucinations and high doses can damage the central nervous system. Spiritually speaking, only strong Christians can withstand the influence of the evil ones.

Sowed weeds all through the wheat
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 the temptation of Eve followed by Adam tempted by Eve. Later Satan tempted Cain to kill his brother Abel. During the time of Noah, most people were in sin and became like weed-filled world. During their journey to the promised land, the Israelites repeatedly sinned against Moses and God. Even after entering the promised land, they were influenced by the evil. Satan attempted to tempt Jesus. Satan used Peter and Judas against Jesus. Spiritual tares or weeds continue to torment the followers of Christ.

(26) When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The darnel and wheat have great resemblance at the early stage of growth. While they grow together, it is hard to distinguish them. The Christians also face the same challenge in spiritual life. They cannot distinguish the right and wrong teachings and teachers. Heresies had happened in the history of the church. Just like the wheat and weed look similar, the good and bad teachings and teachers might look alike and attractive. Only by the time of their seeds or outcomes, people will realize their difference.

(27) The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ (28) He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

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 our enemy is to retaliate. An example is given by Luke. While Jesus was going to Jerusalem through a Samaritan village, the residents there rejected to welcome him. “When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?’ Jesus turned and rebuked them and they journeyed to another village.” (Luke 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. Instead he allowed them time to repent and become the children of God.

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

(29) He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.

Jesus wanted to allow the weeds to remain along with wheat to avoid uprooting the wheat. Since darnel are visually identical to wheat in the early stage, the servants might uproot the wheat also by mistake. Besides, the roots of the weeds will be tied up with the roots of wheats under the soil. So, by pulling the weeds, the wheat might also get uprooted. Once the blades appear for both, they become distinguishable and can be separated at the time of harvest.

Jesus taught: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil a treasure of his heart brings forth evil.” (Luke 6:43-45). Jesus waits for our fruits of 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 St. Paul and St. Augustine who had changed from weed to wheat. Since there is possibility of a good becoming evil and vice versa, God waits to judge us all until the end of the term of our life in this world.

(30) Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’

(39b) The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

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

At harvest time
Harvest is a biblical symbolism of God’s final judgement (Jeremiah 51:33, Hosea 6:11, Joel 4:13). That is the time when Jesus would present the fruits of his earthly ministry to the heavenly Father. Since only holy people are allowed in heaven, angels of God would separate the good and bad people. Matthew 25:31-46 gives a description of the judgement of the nations at the second coming of Christ. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him” (25:31) he will separate the nations “one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” 25:32).

Gather the wheat into my barn
Barn is the storehouse of the wheat grains. So, also the righteous people will be welcomed into heaven where there will not be any more evil or influence of Satan. They will be in the new heaven and new earth that Christ will establish during his second coming.

(40) Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.

Weeds are of no use. They are to be burned to avoid future harm. So also, the evil will come to an end at the end of the age. Jesus Christ will send his angels to separate the good and evil. So, angels have the power over sinners and the angles will implement the command of Jesus.

All who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
There are two categories of weeds in the field of Christ: the evil doers and those who cause others to sin. The book of Proverbs gives a list of evil doings: “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that run swiftly to evil, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that run swiftly to evil, a false witness who gives false testimony, and one who stirs up discord among brothers.” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Jesus warned those who cause others to sin: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!” (Matthew 18:6-7). Hence, those who did evil in the world and those who caused others to sin are equally punishable.

(42) They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Unlike the weeds that are burnt in fire, the evil doers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace. The image of fiery furnace is given in chapter three of the Book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon 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 the furnace to be heated seven times more than usual. (Daniel 3:19). God saved these three believers. However, the sinners will be cast in such a fiery furnace or into the fire of Gehenna.

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

(43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

God said to Daniel: “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; Some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace. But those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, And those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” (Daniel 12:2-3). At the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain, his three close disciples had a great experience. “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” (Matthew 17:2). That was a foretaste of the glory of heaven. Those who live a righteous life has a glorious life awaiting for them in the kingdom of the Father. 

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

 Message

1. The Christians are the good seed that Jesus the farmer sow in the whole world that stands for the field. Even though we might face challenges from the weeds, the evil ones, we are responsible to spiritually nourish and empower the world.

2. We have to be patient with our opponents. When we try to destroy those who persecute us, we might damage ourselves and the church. All have opportunity until the end of their life term to become good. St. Paul and St. Augustine and many others successfully made us of such opportunities in life.

3. There is 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 be stored in the barns of God after our life in this world.

4. Our natural reaction to enemies would be take revenge on them. Jesus taught through his public ministry, how to respond to our adversaries. We can point out their mistakes, but we are not entitled to judge them. Judgement is reserved by God at the end of this age. At present we cannot tell which ones are wheat and which ones are 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 have to be “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” (Matthew 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 try to make them also wheat for Jesus.