Listen to this song: ‘So the Lord plants justice, justice and praise / To rise before the nations till the end of days’ (The Sower’s Song by Andrew Peterson © 2015 Centricity Music).
The parable of the weeds explained
36 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.’
37 He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people 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 ‘As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Jesus reveals the spiritual reality that when God is at work, there is also a malicious enemy who wants to bring down or contaminate what is being built up (v 39; see also v 28). However, the parable of the weeds – as with the parable of the sower – shows that the kingdom will still produce a plentiful harvest, despite opposition. The disciples receive this further teaching and explanation from Jesus (v 26) but their reaction is not written about this time. What reaction do you have to the idea of opposition?
This parable helps us visualise what it means for the kingdom to have started with Jesus’ arrival as the anticipated Messiah (the seeds being sown), and yet still to be waited for in all its fullness (v 41; see also v 30). Evil activity growing alongside God’s kingdom will be brought to an end. The contrast is stark between punishment (v 42) and being in the kingdom with the Father (v 43). Have you thought much about Jesus as judge? How does reading this passage affect your relationship with God and those around you?
Meditate on these verses: ‘As the rain and the snow come down from heaven … watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth…’ (Isaiah 55:10,11).
Deeper Bible study
As I reflect on these challenging words of Jesus, may I know afresh the assurance of being a child of God.
Once again, the disciples ask Jesus for a map to help them through a maze. We’re left to wonder if they’d understood the other parables; nonetheless, Matthew notes that they sought an explanation from Jesus regarding the wheat and weeds. In response, Jesus presents a systematic explanation. Each of the characters is clearly identified, along with the eschatological perspective of the scene presented. Often when considering the parables that Jesus told, the fitting response is to ask ourselves what we would do. However, here Jesus is presenting the natural growth of discipleship within a milieu of conflicting beliefs as being the norm. It’s as if he is saying: amid competing pressures, ‘simply let yourself grow’. As DA Carson notes, ‘This parable explains how it is possible for the kingdom to be present in the world while not wiping out all opposition.’1
As with me, your natural inclination may be to implore God to root out the weeds now, as the presence of weeds appears so destructive to the unhindered growth of the wheat. However, we must proceed cautiously, as in the early stages of growth the weeds and wheat are almost impossible to distinguish. Indeed, as Jesus presented in the parable, the pulling of the weeds by the servants would also uproot good wheat (v 29). ‘“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.’2
Furthermore, may we remember with Augustine (quoted by JC Ryle): ‘Those who are tares today, may be wheat tomorrow.’3 May we be granted the wisdom to avoid using God’s patience as an excuse for doing nothing and to warn others of a judgement to come. However, may we also rest satisfied that God will judge fairly in his sovereign timing.4
Perhaps we need to be reminded by the psalmist: ‘Be still, and know that I am God’.5
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Isaiah 41,42; Hebrews 5
Pray for Scripture Union
Local Mission Partner CLiKS engages with 17 Primary Schools in Keighley, West Yorkshire. In 2019 over 1,500 children visited a church for an SU programme. Pray that with a new worker hopefully in place soon they will be able to restore relationships after school closures.