Matthew

13:24-30, 36-43

7. The gospel, 13:1-53

iii] The parable of the weeds

Synopsis

Matthew provides us with the setting of a crowd gathered by lake Galilee and Jesus speaking to them in parables. For this occasion Matthew selects three parables, the parable of the Weeds, the Mustard Seed and the Leaven. Matthew notes that at this point in his preaching ministry Jesus tends to speak in parables. Jesus then leaves the crowd and returns home with the disciples. It is then that the disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable of the Weeds, which he does with them privately.

 
Teaching

The parable of the Weeds serves as a model gospel sermon. The message, presented in the form of an enigmatic story, communicates the fact that the eternal reign of God is at hand. A time of blessing, a time of cursing, is upon us.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 13:1-9.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, The parable of the Weeds, presents as follows:

The parable, v24-30:

Title, v24:

"the kingdom of heaven may be compared to the situation where ..."

Situation, v25-26;

Discussion, v27-30.

The explanation, v36-43:

The disciples question, v36;

"explain to us the parable ..."

Keys, v37-39:

sower = Son of Man;

field = world;

seed = people;

enemy = devil;

harvest = end of the age;

harvesters = angels.

Little apocalypse, v40-43.

 

iii] Interpretation:

The mission of the church is to display the sign of Jonah, to communicate the important news concerning the realization of God's eternal reign. In his arrangement of the gospel tradition in chapter 13, Matthew has so far revealed how the gospel prompts different responses, and why Jesus tended to present the gospel as an enigma / riddle (an act of judgment on an "evil and adulterous generation"). Matthew now records a classic gospel presentation from Jesus which can serve as a model for the preaching of the church. The story / parable, along with the explanation of the individual elements, summarizes the gospel: A new era faces the people of this age, an age made up of seekers and ignorers. For the ignorers, there is nothing but loss. For the seekers, there is blessing - they "will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father." So, choose where you stand! (repent and believe).

This focus on eschatological expectation is particularly evident in C.H. Dodd's approach to kingdom parables. Jesus' kingdom parables proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God; "Jesus is asserting that the time has come when the blessings of the reign of God are available to all men." The kingdom has burst in upon us and its affects are here and now. Dodd's realized eschatology has a powerful ring of truth to it, although the kingdom is also inaugurated - both now and not yet. The kingdom is indeed now, although its authentic presence is diluted by powers of darkness which seek to confuse. Confuse they may, but the coming day of judgement will sort all things out. So, with an eschatological expectation approach to the parable we interpret it in terms of John 4:35:36; "the fields are white for harvest. Already the reaper is taking his pay and gathering a crop for eternal life." The harvest is upon us; the day when there will be winners and losers "is at hand". So, it is obviously time to "repent and believe." Therefore, the parable of the weeds and the wheat, like all kingdom parables, confronts us with the nowness of the kingdom.

This parable is often interpreted in terms of pseudo Christians infiltrating the church. The kingdom of God, as we experience it in the world today, is made of up of "wheat and weeds", true believers and frauds. The frauds should not be removed, as God will deal with them in the day of judgment. This scenario is possibly true, but it is not the point of the parable. The parable does not address the church situation at all, rather, it proclaims the present reign of Christ over a coexistent lawless and righteous humanity that is facing imminent judgement. As Carson puts it, this parable concerns "eschatological expectation, not ecclesiological deterioration."

 

The Form of the parable of the Weed. This parable presents as a kingdom parable, but is allegorical in style. Given that kingdom parables are gospel presentations in disguise, the disciples would get the gist of most of them (which is probably why their interpretation is not preserved), but this complex allegorical parable obviously left them totally confused, which of course is partly its intention. The disciples, as seekers after truth, were able to rectify their confusion with a question, v36. Scholars generally accept "a pre-Matthean form for the parable, but not necessarily for the explanation", Nolland. Yet, there is no reason why Jesus wouldn't explain the parable to his disciples. In fact, it seems more likely that the explanation would be lost during transmission, than added, particularly for short pithy kingdom parables. Given the complexity of this parable, there is every reason to preserve its explanation.

 

Kingdom parables: Thiselton says that the kingdom parables are "designed to capture the listener and make him a participant, overturning his world-view and leading him to call in question his most basic values." Yet, it is likely that the opposite is the case. The kingdom parables (usually beginning with the phrase "the kingdom can be likened to the situation where .....") are quite different to teaching parables which are illustrative stories used to teach a truth. Kingdom parables confuse rather than instruct. They usually come in the form of extended similes or metaphors, although the parable of the weeds in the field is more like an allegory. There was once a tendency to allegorize each element of these parables, but now we look for the central idea. Dodd says of them that they are gospel statements proclaiming the "presentness" of the kingdom. They take the form of a mysterious, obscure, but profound proverb - an extended riddle (a Hebrew masal). Unrepentant Israel hears the riddle, the hidden things, and goes home entertained - "though hearing, they do not hear and understand." So primarily the kingdom parable functions as an instrument of divine judgment upon a "sinful and adulterous generation." The seeker after God's mercy is not put off by these divine riddles; rightly they will demand that the mystery be revealed - "blessed are your eyes because they see." See Matthew 13:10-17 for the purpose of kingdom parables and 13:31-35 for a history of their interpretation.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 13:24

The parable of the weeds in the field. i] The parable proper, v24-30. a) Title, v24. Speaking to the crowd, Jesus proclaims that the coming of the kingdom of heaven can be compared to the situation where a farmer has completed his planting and is about to harvest the produce.

autoiV dat. pro. "[Jesus told] them" - he set before [them]. Dative of direct object after the para prefix verb, "put to, place before."

legwn (legw) pres. part. "-" - saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

twn ouranwn (oV) gen. "[the kingdom] of heaven" - [the kingdom] of the heavens. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "kingdom"; the kingdom in mind is the heavenly one, that kingdom over which God reigns and which is now impacting the present age in Christ. Of course, Matthew is possibly showing deference to God by not mentioning his name. When Mark and Luke use "kingdom of God", we may classify the genitive as possessive, the kingdom belongs to God, although where the rule of God is in mind, the genitive would be viewed as verbal, subjective. The phrase refers to God's long-promised divine rule even now being realized on earth, a rule within which the promises made to Abraham and his seed are fulfilled.

wJmoiwqh (oJmoiow) aor. pas. "is like" - is made like / may be likened. "May be compared to the situation where ...., "maybe compared", Weymouth.

speiranti (speirw) dat. aor. part. "[a man] who sowed" - [to a man] sowing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "man". Dative in agreement with anqrwpw/, "man", dative of direct object after the verb "may be likened"; "may be likened to a man sowing."

kalon adj. "good [seed]" - good, beautiful. Here, carefully selected seed.

 
v25

b) Situation, v25-26. Without the farmer's knowledge an enemy has planted bearded darnel in his field - Darnel is botanically close to wheat. As heads of wheat appear, his servants notice that a mass of weeds are intertwined with the wheat.

de "but" - Here taking adversative force, "but".

en ... tw/ kaqeudein (kaqeudw) pres. inf. "while [everyone] was sleeping" - in [the men] to sleep. This preposition with the dative articular infinitive forms a temporal clause. "Everyone" = "the men", takes the accusative case as subject of the infinitive, an accusative infinitive construction.

epespeiren (epispeirw) aor. "sowed" - sowed again, sowed more.

zizania (on) "weeds" - Bearded Darnel [Illoium, or Cephalaria syriaca]. A poisonous weed which, in the early stages of growth, looks like wheat.

ana + acc. "among" - in [middle]. Spacial, "in the midst"; "his enemy came and sowed darnel among the corn", Barclay.

 
v26

o{te "when" - This temporal conjunction serves to form a temporal clause, as NIV.

oJ cortoV (oV) "wheat" - grass, fodder. Actually meaning "enclosed place for feeding", but in the NT takes the sense, "fodder". "When the plants grew", TEV.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb; "the weeds likewise appeared", Cassirer.

 
v27

c) Discussion, v27-30. The farmer tells his workers to leave both weeds and wheat together. At the harvest they can separate the two, burning the weeds.

tou oikodespotou (hV ou) gen. "the owner's [servants]" - [the slaves] of the owner, master of the house, householder. The genitive is adjectival, possessive.

proselqonteV (prosercomai) aor. part. "came" - having come, approached. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; "came and said."

autw/ dat. pro. "-" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

kurie voc. "Sir" - Lord. Vocative.

ouci .... espeiraV "didn't you sow ... ?" - did you not sow ... ? Forming a question expecting an affirmative answer.

en + dat. "in [your field]" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

poqen "where" - from where. Source / origin.

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion.

 
v28

ecqroV anqrwpoV "an enemy [did this]" - a hostile man [did this]. "Some [scoundrel] has done this", Phillips.

autoiV dat. pro. "[he replied]" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

apelqonteV (apercomai) aor. part. "[do you want] us to go" - [do you will] we having gone. The participle forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what the master may want the servants to do, namely, "to go and gather them."

sullexwmen (sullegw) aor. subj. "pull them up" - gather them up, collect them. Deliberative subjunctive, "shall we go and gather them?"

 
v29

mhpote + subj. "because" - lest, perhaps, in case. Here possibly conveying a negated purpose; "in order that you may not ...."

sullegonteV (sullegw) pres. part. "while you are pulling [the weeds]" - gathering, collecting [the darnel]. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

ekrizwshte (ekrizw) aor. subj. "may root up" - may pull up by the roots. "The danger is that you may tear up the corn by the roots at the same time", Barclay.

a{ma + dat. "with [them]" - together with. Expressing association.

 
v30

afete (afihmi) aor. imp. "let" - allow, permit. "What you must do is let both grow up side by side", Cassirer.

sunauxanesqai (sunaxanw) pres. pas. inf. "grow together" - to grow together. The infinitive forms an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing the content of the command.

e{wV + gen. "until" - until, up to, to the point of / dawn. Temporal preposition.

en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [the time]. Temporal use of the preposition.

tou qerismou (oV) gen. "-" - of the harvest. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "time"; "and at the harvest time", Moffatt.

toiV qeristaiV (hV ou) dat. "[I will tell] the harvesters" - [I will say] to the harvesters. Dative of indirect object after the verb "to say".

dhsate (dew) "tie" - bind together.

proV to katakausai (katakaiw) aor. inf. "to be burned" - This preposition with the articular infinitive usually forms a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to be burned."

de "then [gather the wheat]" - but, and [gather the wheat]. Contrastive; "but gather the wheat ...."

sunagagete (sunagw) aor. imp. "gather" - gather together. "Gather the corn to store in my granary", Barclay.

 
v36

ii] The explanation, v36-43. a) The disciples ask Jesus to explain the parable to them, v36. Unlike the parable of the sower/soils, which serves as a normal teaching illustration, the parable of the weeds in the field is a kingdom parable, so Jesus explains it to his disciples privately away from the crowds. Faithless Israel, a generation possessed of a "calloused" heart, is left with nothing more than riddles; only the humble, the repentant, those broken before God, are privy to the secrets of the kingdom.

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb.

afeiV (afihmi) aor. part. "he left [the crowd]" - having left, abandoned [the crowd]. The participle is adverbial, possibly temporal; "then he left the crowds and went indoors", Moffatt.

autw/ dat. pro. "[came] to him" - Dative of direct object after the proV prefix verb "came to."

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "and said" - [came] saying. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "came", as NIV.

diasafhson (diasafew) aor. imp. "explain" - to make clear through an explanation. Jesus draws aside from the crowd and explains the mystery to his disciples - the seekers.

hJmin dat. pro. "to us" - Dative of indirect object.

twn zizaniwn (on) gen. "of the weeds" - The genitive is usually classified as verbal, objective; "the parable about / concerning the weeds of the field."

tou agrou (oV) gen. "in the field" - of the field. The genitive is adjectival, attributed; "the weed-infested field". One would expect something like en agrw/ "in a field", rather than tou agrou, "of a field." The construction is peculiar to Matthew and exposes his Semitic background.

 
v37

b) Jesus identifies the actors in the story, v37-39. From the Early Church Fathers, through Augustine, and up to the Reformers, the "field" was seen as the church. Yet, Jesus is quite clear, the kingdom is made up of the "sons of the kingdom" in a "world" dissipated by the "sons of the evil one." The visible organization of the church is not the kingdom, although it is an imperfect expression of it, or at least we might say, the kingdom resides somewhere in it (sometimes!). Note that in the parable of the Sower the seed is the word of God (the gospel, the kingdom parable). In the parable of the weeds and wheat, the good seeds are the "sons of the kingdom". Context always dictates meaning.

de "-" but, and. Here, and in the following verses, used to establish a list of items which Jesus now explains. "And ..... and ......"

apokriqeiV eipen "he answered" - he answered and said. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said"; a typical Semitic formula common to the gospels. "So he replied", Moffatt.

oJ speirwn (speirw) part. "the one who sowed" - The participle serves as a substantive, as NIV. The present tense may indicate ongoing sowing.

kalon adj. "good [seed]" - "Good" in the sense of viable and fruitful.

tou anqrwpou (oV) gen. "[the Son] of Man" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. The title, "Son of Man", is Jesus' favorite self-designation, being an uncommon messianic title drawn from the revelation of Daniel - the mysterious "coming" Son of Man who exercises a sovereign reign at the right had of the Ancient of Days, cf. Dan.7:13-14.

 
v38

estin (eimi) pres. "[the field] is" - In the sense of "represents the world."

oJ kosmoV "the world" - Those who want to argue that this parable is about genuine and non genuine believers in the church must face Jesus' direct explanation that the "field" is the inhabited earth, not some particular organization. "Whole world", Phillips.

thV basileiaV (a) gen. "[the sons] of the kingdom" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, limiting "sons"; "kingdom members." In Jesus' parables seed often represents the word / gospel, but certainly not here. The adjective "good / fine / beautiful / blessed [seed]" designates the particular use here. Faithful / remnant Israel are the sons of the kingdom, but now the Gentiles who bear fruit are also sons of the kingdom, cf. 21:43.

tou ponhrou adj. "[the sons] of the evil one" - the sons of the wicked / evil. The adjective serves as a substantive, the genitive being relational, as for "of the kingdom." "The followers of the wicked one", Williams; "those who belong to the evil one", CEV.

 
v39

oJ speiraV (speirw) aor. part. "who sows" - the one having sown. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "enemy".

oJ diaboloV "the devil" - The principal supernatural evil being, the Devil, Satan*, the deceiver, the liar. "To depict Satan as a spiteful enemy trying to spoil the good work of the landowner and ruin his harvest expresses graphically his status in biblical literature: he is a spoiler, not a constructive authority in his own right", France.

sunteleia aiwnoV "end of the age" - The consummation / completion of the present scheme of things, obviously the final day of judgment. "The end of the world as we know it", Barclay; "the end time", REB. Note that both nouns in v40 take an article, so serving as an example of the Canon of Apollonius where two nouns that depend on each other either both have an article, or both lack an article.

aggeloi (oV) "angels" - God's messengers. The angels are often associated with the judgment in the last day (Rev.14:15-19), as are we, which may mean that "messengers" here refers to believers (eg. ref. where "messenger" may = "believer", Matt.16:27, 24:31, 25:31), although in this parable it is unlikely.

 
v40

c) The little apocalypse - Jesus identifies the action and explains its meaning, v40-43. The parable focuses on the day of judgment, the day when Jesus, the eschatological judge, both condemns and blesses. Using Zephaniah 1:3, Jesus identifies those who face judgement as the ones who cause offence, the "stumbling-blocks", the lawless ones without Christ. In the world they have much in common with the wheat, but they are children of darkness. In the present epoch of Christ's reign they coexist with believers, but the day is already upon us when they will be weeded out and cast into the fiery furnace, a place of tears and bitter regret, Jer:29:22, Dan.3:6, Rev.20:15. As for those who are blessed, they are the ones who have found righteousness in Christ, who shine in the kingdom displaying the glory of Christ.

The allegorical nature of this kingdom parable has left the disciples confused, but its message is the same as any kingdom parable: "the kingdom of God is at hand", the day of God's eternal gracious reign in Christ is upon us. This day is a day of judgment, of cursing the unrighteous, of blessing the righteous. So, repent and believe. It is best not to takes these verses as a second narrative, but rather as an explanation of the parable's meaning. As already noted, its meaning is disputed, but as D&A observes, that whereas v37-39 align with v24-30, these verses pass over the planting and growing and focus entirely on the harvest, thus underlining the message of the parable. "The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act", Peterson.

oun "-" - therefore. Possibly inferential, drawing a logical conclusion, but probably just resumptive / transitional and so not translated, as NIV.

wJsper ..... ouJtwV "as ...... so [it will be]" - as, just as ...... thus, so, in this way. A comparative construction: the protasis "as the weeds were pulled up and burned at the end of the harvest"; the apodosis "so it will be for the followers of darkness at the end time."

puri (pur oV) dat. "[burned] in the fire" - [be consumed] in/by fire. The dative is possibly local, as NIV, or better, instrumental, "by fire."

en + dat. "at" - Temporal use of the preposition, as NIV.

tou aiwnoV (wn wnoV) gen. "[the end] of the age" - [the consummation] of the age. The genitive is adjectival, partitive. Again identifying the message of the parable, cf. v39. The phrase, "end of the age", is common to Jewish apocalyptic writings and refers to the judgment at the end of time. In the NT the immediacy of this event is emphasized. This immediacy has prompted the notion of realized eschatology, but it is best understood as a now / not yet reality, a kingdom inaugurated, rather than fully realized. A translation like "when the end of the world comes", Cassirer, puts too much emphasis on the not yet given that we are in the consummation of the age at this very moment. Humanity has sown to the wind and even now the threatening clouds of the whirlwind are upon us. So, the phrase "the end of the age" is expressing the imminent consummation of all things.

 
v41

apostelei (apostellw) fut. "[The Son of Man] will send" - Expressing Jesus' authority over the angels and his administration of the day of judgment.

touV aggelouV (oV) "angels" - the angels, messengers. More likely an allusion to Jewish apocalyptic where the angels are viewed as God's agents of judgment. Certainly, in the NT, believers take on this task.

ek + gen. "out of [his kingdom]" - from [the kingdom]. Expressing source / origin. The field was the world, but now the weeds are collected out of his kingdom. It is this verse which has prompted the view that Jesus is speaking about true and false believers residing side by side in the church. This seems unlikely. Dodd simply dismisses verses 36-43 as a later ecclesiastical interpretation of the parable. D&A note two possible solutions, namely: i] "the kingdom of the Son of man encompasses the entire world, to the extent it is proclaimed everywhere", Schweizer; ii] "when the Son of Man has come, then the kingdom also will have come. Hence at that future date the tares can be said to be gathered out of His Kingdom", Allen. Both suggestions are less than convincing. Hagner proposes a more sensible solution. Since the kingdom is now in the world, the righteous are alongside the lawless, but only for a short time.

ta skandala (on) "[everything] that causes sin" - [all] the things that cause offense, a trap, trip, fall. The noun is neuter, so "[all] the things that cause offence", but figuratively taken to refer to those who cause to sin, cf. Zeph.1:3. So probably referring to persons rather than things; those who lead believers away from the free grace of God. "All who draw others to apostasy", NAB.

touV poiountaV (poiew) pres. part. "all who do [evil]" - the ones working, doing [lawlessness, wickedness]. The participle serves as a substantive, forming the substantival phrase "the ones doing lawlessness" = "law-breakers", ESV. The "all", panta, is taken to apply here as well as "the things causing sin." In an Old Testament sense the phrase refers to those who defy God's law. The one law that applies in the New Testament is "repent and believe", so "all who reject Christ", cf., Matt.7:23.

 
v42

balousin "they will throw" - Describing a vigorous action; "pitch them in the trash and be done with them", Peterson.

tou puroV (ur uroV) gen. "[the] fiery [furnace]" - [furnace] of fire. The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "furnace", as NIV; "the blazing furnace", cf. Dan.3:6. This picture language, describing the horror of judgment, is not depicting a literal burning alive of the unrepentant. The language serves to describe the devastating loss facing the unrepentant, namely, the loss of eternal salvation.

ekei adv. "there" - Local adverb.

odontwn (douV) gen. "[weeping and gnashing] of teeth" - [grinding, or clenching] of teeth. The genitive is usually treated as verbal, objective, but it can just as easily be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "gnashing / grinding / clenching" - a teeth type of grinding. A physical expression of anger or frustration serving to illustrate the terrible end of those without Christ. Matthew seems to like the phrase. Such a phrase raises the issue of the ongoing state of the lost. Do they face annihilation, or ongoing torment? Again, it is not wise to treat such picture language literally, but either way, the loss is horrific. "There will be tears and bitter regret", Phillips.

 
v43

Jesus concludes with his usual prompt to right hearing, a hearing with faith. "Are you listening to what I have just said; really listening!"

tote adv. "then" - Temporal adverb serving to introduce a temporal clause.

oiJ dikaioi adj. "the righteous" - the righteous, just. The adjective serves as a substantive. As with "those who work lawlessness", so "the righteous" are defined by their alignment to Christ. The righteous repent and believe and so are counted righteous in Christ.

eklamysousin (eklampw) fut. "shine" - shine out, come out and shine. Hapax legomenon, possibly influenced by Dan.12:3. Describing the radiance, and thus glory, of the age to come, ie. Jesus' disciples will share his glory.

wJV "as [the sun]" - Comparative.

en + dat. "in [the kingdom]" - Local, expressing space / sphere.

tou patroV (hr roV) "of the Father" - The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Matthew here moves slightly from "kingdom of heaven" toward Mark and Luke's "kingdom of God", cf., Mark 14:25.

oJ exwn (ecw) pres. part. "he who has [ears]" - the one having [ears]. The participle serves as a substantive. This call to right hearing appears a number of times; 11:15, 13:9,.... It serves as a challenge, even a warning, to open the mind to the new insights found in Jesus' teaching. Jesus' words "need careful thought and assimilation", France. "Are you listening to this, really listening", Peterson.

 

Matthew Introduction

Exposition

 

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