Matthew 13:24 – 30
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 ” ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 ” ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ “
I am not much of a gardener, but it never ceases to amaze me how well the weeds grow in my garden.
I can sow seeds or put in plants, but no matter how careful I am the weeds thrive and the plants don’t.
No matter what I plant, the weeds invite themselves to my flower beds.
Earlier in Matthew 13 Jesus had told the “parable of the Sower” where he likens what happens to the seeds to people’s response to the Gospel. Some gets eaten by birds, some falls in a rocky place, others are in soil that is too shallow to grow in and yet more get chocked by rival plants. However the rest falls in good soil, sprouts and produces a harvest.
Here in our passage we have the “parable of the weeds”, which really is a sequel to the parable of the sower. A “what happened next”.
Now we read about a farmer who sows good seed in his field. But unseen an enemy sows weeds amongst the wheat. The farmer decides to leave the weeds in the field until the harvest when the harvesters will pull up the weeds and burn them and then return to harvest the wheat.
It is thought that the weeds referred to in our reading are “darnel”. Darnel, a type of rye grass, is considered a weed and as it grows, it is very similar to wheat. In some places it is referred to as “false wheat” Hence the farmers decision to leave it to grow alongside the wheat as in the early stages of growth you may pull up the wheat instead of the darnel. The farmer’s servant must have been very observant to spot the difference between wheat and darnel before they are ripe.
It is only when the ears appear ie it is ripe, that you can really tell it from wheat. Ripe darnel is black in colour whereas wheat is brown.
I am not sure how western farmers with combine harvesters would be able to separate the wheat from the darnel unless of of course they use herbicides to stop the darnel ever growing in the first place.
The real danger with darnel is that it is poisonous. Clearly something you would not to have mixed with the wheat.
Its Latin name “ebriacus” means intoxicated, because of the effect caused by eating the plant which is drunken nausea . It can be fatal.
Hence why the darnel must be collected first and destroyed before the wheat is harvested. Otherwise if the darnel seeds get mixed with the wheat the effect could be disastrous.
This must have been a real situation that the Jews would have been aware of, as Roman law at the time prohibited the sowing of darnel in an enemy’s field.
Later in Matthew 13 the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable. The good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom ie believers and the bad seed are the sons of the evil one.
Its not always easy to tell wheat from darnel just as its not easy to tell believers from deceivers.
We can have someone in a church who seems to be the real deal, but does not actually believe in Jesus. This something that Sue talked about in her recent series of talks on 1 John.
Some years ago I was at a church where we had a man who could be rather difficult. However the minister described him to me as a “holy man”. I said that I didn’t agree with that description, and was told “but he knows the Bible”. Well, so does the devil, as we know from the way he used scripture to tempt Jesus in the wilderness.
Often people are deluded into thinking they are Christians simply because they attend church and do lots of things around the church. Others are taken in, but God knows the truth of the matter.
“He must be a Christian because he does so much in the church.”
In a way that is confirming Dr Billy Graham’s statement from years ago “you can sit in a garage as long as you like but you’ll never turn into an automobile.”
I came across a man who did so much in the church some years ago. He seems to collect jobs and positions, like other people collect stamps or model cars. Some of the jobs were offered to him and others he just took. But he never attended a bible study or a home group or a prayer meeting. Indeed as he was involved with the music ministry you would have thought he would welcome joining other musicians, singers and those leading the service in prayer before the service, but he inevitably tried to avoid it. He would be out of there faster than the hare at Romford dog track. With the benefit of hindsight you could see that he did what he could to slow down or indeed stop church growth. Then there were the toxic letters he would frequently write to the church leadership. Some of the letters were so nasty it’s a wonder his typewriter didn’t explode as he used it.
Some people have interpreted this passage as saying we must be tolerant of heretics and allow them to continue doing what they do. After all, they would argue, all roads lead to God. So what if someone is going by a different route to us?
Jesus makes it perfectly clear that there is no other way to God except though him. John 14: 6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Also we are saved by our faith in Jesus not by doing things. Ephesians 2: 8 & 9: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.”
You can’t earn your way into heaven through good deeds.
The great reformer Martin Luther preached a sermon on the parable in which he affirmed that only God can separate false from true believers and noted that killing heretics or unbelievers ends any opportunity they may have for salvation.
We know that God wishes all mankind to be saved, which is different from all mankind will be saved. So we must do our part to bring people to faith, to bring them to a place where God can heal them of whatever hurts that prevent them from truly believing in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes people are so blinded or deluded by the enemy that they cannot see the necessity for salvation. As it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 “ The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The last verse of our reading talks about judgement. I know that this is not a subject people want to hear about. But it needs to be said.
Jesus frequently talks about judgement and the reality of hell.
We can’t just dismiss it as just a threat to get us to behave.
Neither is God like the mother in the supermarket who threatens her children with punishment for their bad behaviour which she never delivers, but rather she just gives in and buys them more sweets.
I’ve had people say to me that a loving God would not judge and condemn people to hell. The Bible must clearly be wrong.
However how can a pure and holy God tolerate sin? He can’t. But through the death of Jesus on the cross the price for our sin has been paid and we know we are forgiven. Romans 8:1” there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
So we read in v30 “Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”
Judgement is final. Some people think that hell is not forever. But look at the weeds. They are not put in the naughty corner until they turn into wheat. No they are burnt. Once they are burnt they can’t be unburnt.
The wheat on the other hand is brought into the barn ie heaven.
Jesus expands on this at the end of the chapter as he explains the parable to his disciples. We read in Matthew 13: 39a – 45 “ 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 fiery 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.”
We can gather from our reading that we are always going to have to cope with heretics, those who misunderstand the gospel or misinterpret it or just deny it.
For his own purposes God has decided to leave them in the midst of believers.
So we must make every effort to bring them to faith as well as minimising the damage they can cause. We certainly should be careful about such people in positions of leadership or influence in a church.
And finally a question for us all: Do we know if we are wheat or are we darnel?
You may have been coming to church meetings for years but have you ever taken that step and come to faith in Jesus?
If you are not sure, then speak to me our one the deacons and we will help you in your walk of faith.