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the parable of the good seed and the weeds

The servants want to help the farmer by uprooting the imposters, but they lack the sensitivity of the angelic harvesters. It’s not the job of the servants to make judgments about what is and isn’t actual wheat. Their job is to serve the farmer as He spreads the legitimate seed.

Bearded darnel is a noxious weed that mimics many of the characteristics of wheat—for a while. Before they mature, the two plants are almost identical, but as they grow, the differences become apparent in the fruit. Unfortunately, darnel is poisonous and in big enough doses will kill a person. So it’s not something a farmer wants mixed up in their harvest.

To really grasp this parable, it’s helpful to understand that Jesus is describing the kingdom of God. Jesus is sowing gospel seeds throughout the world and raising up Christians. But at the same time, the enemy is in the world spreading counterfeit seed. In its immature state, it isn’t always simple to discern the differences between those that belong to the kingdom and those who do not.

Horticultural sabotage

"No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 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" (Matthew 13:24-30).

"An enemy did this," he replied.

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?"

He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 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, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

Grace comes with Jesus now; judgment comes with Jesus later. What’s going to happen between now and then?

“Let both grow together.” (Matthew 13:30)

6. The Growth

That work of judgment belongs to Christ. He has not given it to us to do.

Now what happens with the good soil? The good soil will produce and abundant crop. But that is only half of the story. There is more to be said, and so we have this second parable in which our Lord focuses in on the experience of a true believer in this world.

Notice that Jesus says the one who sows the good seed, (the owner of the world) is ‘the Son of Man’ (13:37). Jesus used this name “Son of Man” 84 times in the Gospels and he always used it to refer to himself. [1]

There is a divine meaning and purpose being worked out here. God is guiding history and mankind to an end that will fulfill his purpose. This parable is showing two different works being done in the world. And it provides understanding as to why there’s evil. God plants good seed that becomes his children of his kingdom; Satan, the wicked one, plants those who are his offspring.

In this parable, an enemy snuck into a farmer’s field and sowed weeds — tares — among the good wheat. The roots of wheat and darnel so intertwine that they can not be separated without pulling up both. Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy, suggesting that the scenario presented here is realistic.

Jesus tells a very interesting and rather mysterious story about a wheat farmer who has an enemy — one who stealthily sows weeds in the dead of night. That alone is intriguing, but things get even more interesting when the story concludes with a rather surprising twist in terms of how the farmer reacts to the agricultural mischief of this mysterious enemy.

So, Who’s Who?

At the heart of this story about the weeds and the wheat, Jesus is clearly telling us that there will be a final judgment and a final separation of good people from bad. His clear revelation about the final judgment is meant to motivate us to live godly lives that would please God, stimulating us to be the kind of people God wants us to be. While such “threat of hell” motivation certainly isn’t politically correct, it’s still real.

These twenty verses of Jesus’ parables are broken into two parts: In the first part (vv. 24–35), he tells three parables to a crowd of interested followers, including his many disciples: the Parable of the Weeds (vv. 24–30) and the brief Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (vv. 31–35). The second part of today’s passage covers Jesus’ clear explanation to his disciples of the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds (vv. 36–43). You can find each part in the following two videos.

Because Jesus lived in an agrarian society, it shouldn’t surprise us that his many parables use metaphors related to farming. When he told these stories to people, his audience would have resonated with words about fields, seeds, and crops. He effectively used tangible ideas to describe and illustrate the mysterious and subversive nature of the worldly kingdom. It’s in our kingdom, here in this world, that the enemy — Satan — strives to bring evil into everyone’s lives.

We learn from this parable that patience is a virtue. If the servants of the field owner had rampaged through the fields, tearing up the tares among the good wheat, the harvest would have been significantly compromised. Good growth would have been prevented from coming to maturity and bearing fruit. So it is with working in God’s spiritual field and in his church. It’s very possible to harm, even destroy, the good, when employing efforts to weed out tares.