«“Wheat and Weeds” Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Baxter T. Exum (#1045) Four Lakes Church of Christ Madison, Wisconsin December 6, 2009 Introduction: ...»
“Wheat and Weeds”
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Baxter T. Exum (#1045)
Four Lakes Church of Christ
December 6, 2009
Over the past few weeks, we have been looking together at several parables—short
stories or word pictures. PPT We started about a month ago by looking at a
warning from the Lord in Matthew 7, as He warned us about the danger of wolves in
sheep’s clothing. He warned that false prophets would come in disguised with righteousness, but inwardly, they are ravenous wolves who do not really care about the flock.
PPT We then looked at the parable of the Ten Minas from Luke 19, and we discovered that ten slaves were each given the equivalent of about $10,000 as the nobleman left to receive his kingdom. The citizens rejected his rule altogether, but even among his slaves, some invested the money wisely, but at least one slave kept it all nice and shiny and did nothing. Those responses illustrate what we do with the gospel today. Are we working with it as we should, or are we hiding it away somewhere.
PPT Two weeks ago, we looked at a parable on prayer—the story of a man who had a friend show up at midnight, passing through on a long journey. The man goes next door and asks his neighbor for bread. Reluctantly, but under social pressure, the neighbor gives in and provides bread for his friend. The lesson was not that God is a neighbor who needs to be pestered into answering our prayers, but the lesson was that God is so much more than that. And if our selfish, imperfect neighbor will get up in the middle of the night to help us out, then so much more would that be true of God, our perfect Father in heaven. And the lesson was that we are to pray with confidence, knowing that God is eager to answer our prayers.
PPT And then, not even knowing that we were in the middle of this series, I found it interesting that my dad presented two lessons last week—one in Bible class and one during the worship service—and both lessons were based on parables! In class, we studied the parable of the soils from Matthew 13. And when it comes to the work that he is doing with French Bible Missions, we discovered that the seed is landing in some very unusual places. Sometimes, there is terrific interest at first, but challenges come, and the students are never heard from again. Sometimes, the seed is planted, but it takes a long time for them to consider and weigh the cost of accepting the gospel message. We certainly pray for those who live in Islamic nations who are studying the courses over the Internet. But then sometimes, praise God, the seed sprouts and grows in the good soil, and students obey the Lord by Page 2 of 7 turning away from sin, and by allowing themselves to be immersed in water for the forgiveness of their sins.
Then, in the worship hour last week, we looked at the parable of the seed in Mark 4.
When it comes to seed, there are many things we do not understand—even the farmer does not completely understand the process, but he faithfully plants, he waits patiently, and it is God who ultimately causes the growth.
This morning, I would like for us to continue thinking in terms of seeds and planting as we consider another parable—and, like the parable of the soils, this one is also found in Matthew 13. In our pew Bibles, the passage is found starting on page
1523. But in contrast to the parable of the soils, the emphasis in this parable is on the presence of weeds. PPT As I started doing the research for this morning’s lesson, I went to the dictionary and discovered that a weed is defined as, “A valueless plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing profusely where it is not wanted; especially one that grows on cultivated ground to the exclusion or injury of the desired crop.” Basically, then, a weed is any plant that grows where it is not wanted. We think about clover, for example. Some people will resort to all kinds of chemicals when they find clover in their beautiful lawns, and yet when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, clover is practically worshiped—so it all depends on whether we want it or not.
It seems like we had a hard time with weeds at our house this year. Last year, we made the mistake of feeding the birds with that thistle seed. Not good! Not good at all! The birds took that seed and spread it everywhere. We had thistles all over the place, and as you know, thistles are rather difficult to pull. And really, we know that pulling any kind of weeds can be some very tedious work—we’re dealing with the heat, we are all stooped over, there are bugs out there, the work is monotonous, and sometimes we make mistakes. PPT A year or so ago, I sent my mom a cartoon that reminded me of mom and dad. The husband comes in and says, “Is this a weed?” And the wife replies, “No. And I will tell you, that expensive plant you just pulled up will not die alone.” And so it is hard sometimes to tell the difference between the weeds and the valuable plants. In the parable for this morning, though, we discover that the weeds were not there by accident. In fact, the Lord is about to tell us a story about some weeds that were actually planted by an enemy, and the story helps us understand why the Lord allows evil in this world—a simple story from everyday life, a story of something that all of us have done— planting and weeding, and yet it has a deep spiritual message. PPT If you will, please look with me at the parable itself—Matthew 13:24-30… Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 "But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 "The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, Page 3 of 7 did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 "And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' The slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' 29 "But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 'Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.""' That’s the parable. Jesus goes on to make some other comments, Matthew has some comments (comments that were included in our Scripture reading for this morning) but then we pick up with verses 36-43. If you will, please look with me at the explanation of the parable of the wheat and the weeds—Matthew 13:36-43… Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." 37 And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 "So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 "The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 "Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
As we think back over these verses, I would like for us to move through the story in chronological order as we sift out the spiritual lessons from the physical story.
I. And the first thing we notice in the parable is that VARIOUS SEEDS WERE PLANTED IN THE FIELD—in other words, there was a SOWING that took place. PPT And we need to clarify right away that the seeds were being sown in the world. In verse 38, Jesus said, “The field is the world.” And so in the field (in the world), we find, first of all, that the Son of Man (or Jesus) has planted the good seed, He has placed the “sons of the kingdom” in the world. We are talking here about those who have responded to the word of God. As Christians, as sons of the kingdom, we have been placed in the world for a reason.
However, in this parable we also have a villain, we have an enemy. The enemy has come in under the cover of darkness, the enemy has planted weeds among the wheat, and we discover (in verse 39) that the enemy is identified as the “devil.” Page 4 of 7 We are talking here, then, about Satan. This whole world is like a field, God has placed good people here, but Satan has come in and has planted seeds of rebellion— men and women who oppose the truth, adversaries who try to make life miserable for those who are good—in a word: WEEDS.
PPT Jesus uses a word that most likely refers to a weed known to as “DARNEL,” or “false wheat.” From what I understand, darnel looks almost exactly like wheat as it sprouts and grows. It receives the same sunshine, the same water, the same wind, the same humidity, but it never produces any fruit. The tiny seeds are basically good for nothing. And so we find that an enemy had very quietly snuck in and planted these seeds right there along with the wheat. What a dirty trick!
Satan loves trying to make evil look good and good look evil. Satan loves trying to keep us just a little bit confused. He loves doing things in secret. He loves messing up God’s plan. By planting the weeds in with the wheat, he was able to diminish the wheat harvest. He was able to make the harvest a much more difficult process. And for those in the middle of it, it hardly seems fair! The sons of the kingdom had done nothing wrong. They had done nothing to deserve this. And yet that is how Satan operates. He is our adversary.
We think back to the Garden of Eden. God had planted a perfect garden—literally and in every way. Two people were placed in that garden and were given complete freedom of choice. They were given one rule—one thing they were not to do. God said they could eat anything, but they were not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But into that beautiful, perfect setting, Satan went to work. And instead of choosing to follow God’s law, Satan planted seeds of doubt and of jealousy, and the Bible tells us that Eve was deceived, and she ate. Adam followed her lead, not the way it should work in a marriage, and the Bible says that at that point death entered the world—spiritual death, as Adam and Eve were separated from God. That seed of rebellion was planted by an enemy, God’s enemy, our enemy.
Satan is actively opposing the sons of the kingdom. Satan is out there sowing weeds.
Satan is not content with letting Christians grow in peace and quiet—he can’t have that, and so he steps in and starts planting weeds. I have read that planting darnel could actually be punished under Roman law. And so there was a law against it. It was something that people actually did—and it was bad—it was an act of revenge.
PPT As we think about the sowing, then, we find at least a couple of lessons. First of all, it should be of some comfort to those of us as Christians to know that God has planted us in the world for a reason. In the parable, the farmer had a reason for putting the good seed in the field. We remember what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” But secondly, we also learn that Satan is actively working against us. As sons of the kingdom, we are the target. Satan’s plan is to keep us from fulfilling our purpose.
There is a battle going on, and that is probably one of the most important lessons we can learn from the sowing that’s going on.
Page 5 of 7 II. As we look back into the parable, there is a progression as we find that there is a time of GROWING—THERE IS A TIME WHEN THE WHEAT AND
THE WEEDS ARE ALLOWED TO GROW UP SIDE BY SIDE. PPTThe slaves noticed the weeds, the landowner came to the conclusion that an enemy had done it, and so the slaves ask the landowner if he would like them to go and pull up the weeds. And at this point, the landowner gives an interesting answer. He says, “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.” His main concern, then, was that none of the wheat be damaged or lost. As we look at the world around us, we see a lot of evil, a lot of confusion, and like the slaves, we may challenge God—we may ask God, “How can you let this bad stuff happen?” And yet ultimately God lets it happen for the benefit of the wheat!
As I see it, if God were to bring judgment before the appropriate time, it is possible that some people would end up being lost who should have been saved. Or, to put it in another way: God is patient. As Peter said in 2 Peter 3:7-9, “But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” And so it is not as if God cannot see what’s going on down here, but it is a case of God being patient. God is waiting. We are living in a time of grace—a time of testing, a time of growth.
And unlike actual wheat and weeds, people have a way of changing over time. Those who are “sons of the evil one” are not locked in—they don’t need to stay that way.