The Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat

The Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat

Thoughts on the parable of the Weeds and the Wheat – Please read Matthew 13:24-30, and 36-43.

THE CONTEXT. a. This parable is in the middle of a series of parables told by Jesus while sitting in a boat just off shore, with the audience standing along the shore line. Teaching with parables was a time-honored method among the Jews, but Jesus loved to tell stories, and he took it to another level. It seems that every time he taught he used a parable. (In chapter 13 alone there are seven parables). Jesus flatly stated that he fulfilled the scriptures by speaking in parables, quoting Psalm 78, using stories to reveal truths that have been “hidden since the foundation of the world.

b. The word parable literally means “to throw down in the midst of.” So a parable is a story that is a verbal object thrown into a particular setting, or a conversation, or a teaching. Parables are intended to be provocative and stimulating, to wake up the hearers and to stimulate their thinking. These verbal objects that Jesus loved to throw into a crowd could be either smoke bombs or firecrackers: smoke bombs with the main point clouded over and somewhat confusing, forcing the hearers to wave away the smoke and try to figure it out and discover the truth; or firecrackers to wake people up, to stir things up, pointedly aimed at people who need to take the story personally and apply a truth to their lives.

JESUS. Most of the time Jesus didn’t unpack his parables. But this particular story of the weeds and the wheat stumped the disciples. So Jesus explained it later, after he had left the boat and entered a nearby house. Jesus said that in the story the farmer sowing the good seed, the wheat, is himself, the Son of man. The field is the whole wide world, the good seed is the children of his kingdom, the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed the bad seed is the devil. The harvest is the End of the Age, Judgment Day, and the reapers are God’s angels. With Jesus explaining the story so clearly, the disciples seemed to understand. There were no follow-up questions.

THE WEEDS. The weeds were darnel, which is known as wild wheat, or tares, or creeping wheat, because the roots creep underground and become intertwined with the good wheat’s roots. These weeds were a poisonous rye-grass found all over the Middle East, very common, and looks just like wheat until the grain finally appears on the wheat. there is  no point to uprooting the good wheat with the bad until the time of harvest, when the reaper can distinguish clearly between the two.

THE FARMER. He sowed good seed, which will grow and be fruitful. The responsible sower is careful to plant only that seed which will result in life-giving grain and fruitfulness. At harvest, the full grown grain, the children of Faith, will be gathered into the Father’s kingdom.

THE ENEMY. a. Notice that the evil sower only plants his bad seed after the good seed has been planted. He wants to produce a counterfeit to wreak havoc during the growing season, and bring confusion to what is good and what is evil. “Falsehood comes in after truth; after the prophets came false prophets; after Christ will come the Anti-Christ. The devil fashions falsehood and heresy to resemble the true Faith.” (Orthodox Study Bible).

b. Also note that the enemy sows bad seed after the farmer is asleep, when his guard is down. Interesting. The world is such that the evil is allowed to be planted with the good. Good and evil are allowed to grow side-by-side until the Final Harvest. One has to be careful not to allow the roots of the weeds to be intertwined with the wheat, beneath the surface, at the deep level that no one sees.

THE WHEAT. As stated often in scripture, you can tell the difference between good and evil by the fruit, in this case by the grain on the stalk. And what is the fruit? Love. When good and evil look similar, choose love, and you won’t be wrong. Distinguishing between good and evil is an important duty of every child of the kingdom. There is no need to be “vague, timid or indifferent.” (Thielicke). Discern between the spirits, choose not to be a person “by whom others are drawn into error, and all who do iniquity and act wickedly,” as Jesus said in verse 41. Instead, live into “the grace that teaches us how to live each day as we turn our backs on ungodliness and indulgent lifestyles, as it equips us to live self-controlled, upright, godly lives in this present age.” (Titus 2:12). Show yourself to be good wheat… by your fruit of love and faithfulness.

JUDGMENT. a. Be careful as you distinguish between good and evil, as you notice the bad seed in amongst the good seed, the weeds amongst the wheat. We can’t judge a person’s eternal identity or destination. We don’t know someone’s heart, where they are in their pilgrimage. We don’t know where someone is in the process of perhaps going from bad seed to good seed, from bad grain to good grain. Only God knows, and will make the final sorting come harvest time. In the meantime, “live in the grace of the long view.” (Thielicke). Judge not, and offer a blessing of love instead of personal judgment. Judge behavior, not people. Judge the fruit, not the destiny.

b. “Why does Jesus want to stifle the Holy Zeal of his people and say to them ‘Hands off! Let both grow together until the harvest. This is not your affair. God will take this thing in hand in his good time. God is patient, and long is the season of grace.’” (Thielicke).

c. We can not eradicate evil in this world. The problem is within each heart, including ours. Each of us has weeds among the wheat. You will remain a wheat among the weeds if you remain a child of the kingdom.

d. No amount of social activism will do away with all the evil in the world. Until the end, there will always be weeds. Work for justice, yes, and work for peace too. But we will continue to see the dark hand of the enemy sowing weeds in our strong moral efforts. We can be, through Jesus, light in the darkness, but that assumes there will always be some darkness on this side of the Harvest. Sheer will power will not erase evil, because there will always be a weed in our wills, a tare in our heart. Let the Holy Spirit be the One who brings us safely to Harvest. And let God’s sun shine on the just and the unjust, let his rain fall on the good and the evil.

e. Trust God to be in charge of the Harvest, to be the perfectly righteous and discerning Judge. Sometimes we simply can’t discern between the weeds and the wheat. Trust God to develop your discernment between good and evil behavior, but let God judge between the saved and unsaved, between the ultimately good and bad people, at the last Harvest.

GOING FURTHER

  1. The rejected parts of the harvest is utterly destroyed, burned in the fire. Will there be complete annihilation of souls at Judgment for the “children of the devil,” or will they have to experience eternal hell? Which is more merciful? More just?
  2. This parable has angels at the harvest deciding who is lost and who is found, who is kept and who is destroyed. What exactly does God delegate at the Final Judgment?
  3. If we are to be patient and let God judge between the saved and unsaved, why do we continue to judge others’ salvation based on minor point of doctrine? On major points of doctrine?
  4. Think of all the fierce religious wars in the history of Christianity that could have been avoided if this parable was taken to heart. Why are we so quick to judge, declaring others lost and us found?

Resources: Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; Helmut Thielicke, The Waiting Father; Herbert Lockyer, All the Parables of the Bible; Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus.

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