In chapter 13 Matthew brings together a number of kingdom parables. In this particular parable, unique to Matthew's gospel, we are given an explanation of its meaning. As with all kingdom parables, we are confronted with the truth that "the kingdom of God is at hand", that God's gracious reign through our Lord Jesus Christ is bursting in upon us at this very moment. This then is the message of the parable of the weeds - the kingdom is "at hand"; judgment is just around the corner.
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.
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.
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.
v36. Jesus leaves this riddle with the crowd and withdraws. The disciples, of course, are not willing to let the riddle so easily pass them by and so they ask Jesus for its meaning.
v37-39. Jesus first identifies the actors in the allegory. There is the farmer who sows seed in a field; he is like the Son of Man, who, taking to himself divine attributes, raises a people unto himself in the world. Then there is the enemy who sows weeds in the farmer's field; he is like Satan, the spoiler, who nurtures a people in order to despoil and deceive. And finally there is the harvest when the weeds are separated from the wheat; this is like the end of the age when the angels separate the children of Satan from the children of Christ.
v40-43a. Jesus, having identified the actors, now describes the action and explains its meaning. 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.
v43b. Jesus concludes with his usual prompt to right hearing, a hearing with faith. "Are you listening to what I have just said; really listening!"
Would you believe me if I told you that on many occasions Jesus preached the gospel with the intention of purposely confusing his audience? Given that we bend over backwards to make sure that people understand the gospel, the idea that Jesus might have done the opposite seems ludicrous. But the truth is, Jesus did indeed sometimes preach the gospel in riddles. He did it in an act of judgment on those who have rejected his straightforward message of divine grace.
The passage we are looking at is one such example. Only the disciples got to understand its message because they were on the inside with Jesus. Thankfully, they remembered the explanation and so we can read it here today.
So what's the message? Life is like a game of Monopoly that someone has stuffed up - the crooked banker problem. We've all been there, haven't we? We move around the board buying and selling houses, hotels, and even churches these days. But have you noticed lately that the board is moving slightly, it has even developed a tilt. It's as if someone is about to pick it up and pour all the pieces into the box, close the board and announce, "Game's over boys!"
Now here's the rub; if you have ignored your gospel Chance card all you will get from God is the gospel of success - the good news of health, wealth and happiness that is yours in Jesus. That's if you're lucky, of course. If you're unlucky you will end up with an endless series of meaningless, unintelligible thirty minute sermons. This means, of course, that the next time you are saddled with a minister who can't shape an intelligent sentence, beware, the problem could be yours!!!
The parable of the weeds in the field reminds us that "the fields are white for harvest. Already the reaper is taking his pay and gathering a crop for eternal life", John 4:35-36. The harvest is upon us; the day when there will be winners and losers "is at hand". So know this, it is time to "repent and believe."
1. How do the weeds affect the world today?
2. What is Jesus' main point in this parable?
3. Discuss the blessing and cursing at the harvest.