“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “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?’ “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “ ‘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 NIV
There’s a lot of talk going around about the dangers of eating too much bread, and many nutritionists encourage a wheat, or gluten free diet. But for thousands of years, bread has been an essential part of our diet—-especially bread made from wheat. We savor bread—some entire cultures are built around bread. Jesus ate bread. Bread, made with wheat, has special significance on the celebrations of the Jewish and Christian calendars.
And in Scripture wheat is discussed several times. Jesus once said, that “if wheat dies, it will bear much fruit”, i.e. through the death of wheat, it can sprout many other seeds. Later He said that, “the devil can sift you like wheat” The wheat sifting process separates the wheat from the useless bits, such as chaff. Wheat also appears in the Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41:5 to represent a bountiful harvest before a drought. Wheat would have been a very familiar image with these folks because they grew up in a predominantly agrarian society. Wheat was good then. I think wheat is good now.
But before I attempt to explain the parable, let me remind you that I don’t have to. Jesus, Himself did. “Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 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. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 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. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:36-43, NIV)
Ok, so obviously the farmers of this time depended on the quality of their crops. An enemy sowing weeds would have ruined their means of living. The tares in the parable were likely darnel because that weed, until mature, looks just like wheat. Without round-up, what would a farmer do in such a situation ? Instead of tearing out the wheat with the tares, the landowners wisely waited until the harvest. After harvesting the whole field, the tares could be separated and burned. The wheat would be saved in the barn.
So again the explanation of parable, Christ is the sower, the enemy is Satan. In opposition to Jesus Christ, the devil tries to destroy Christ’s work by placing false religions, followers and teachers in the world—and many will be lead many astray. There are a lot of weeds trying to get our attention in the media right now. Many of our political and religious leaders are giving us fake news and fake truth!
And yet, you and I are not to take it upon ourselves to uproot unbelievers in the church or avoid all humanity—frankly the difference between true and false believers isn’t always black and white. Tares, especially in the early stages of growth, tools like wheat. Likewise, a false believer may resemble a true believer.
As an old monk once said during the middle ages, “The three greatest surprises in heaven will be who is not there, who is there, and that you are there.” I would argue that we can be sure that we will be there if we have sincerely repented of our sins, believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, and have made Him the Lord of our lives.. But in Matthew 7:22, Jesus warned that many who profess that they know Him, really do not know Him. Thus, each person should examine his own relationship with Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). Are you wheat—or a weed?
You can see that this is not one of Jesus’ most popular parables. It does not give you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
Christ is reminding us that actors, or hypocrites, can play the part of being a good Christian. They can talk the talk and appear to walk the walk. The servants, who are angels, ask if they can uproot the tares, but Jesus tells them to hold off until the harvest. Because the weeds have spread their roots in the wheat fields, if the servants pluck them up too soon, they risk damaging the wheat beyond repair because of their intertwined roots. So the servants continue to water and care for both plants equally until the time of the harvest comes.
The harvest represents the end of the world, the end times. It can also mean the end of a person’s life. In either case, at the end of one’s life, whether prompted by death or by the rapture, one’s true status of wheat or weed will be made known. Those who belong to the wheat will earn an everlasting place in the barn, in heaven. As for the tares, they receive an everlasting spot in the fire, hell. This should cause all the weeds out there to open their eyes!
No one knows when Jesus will return again, but we can all feel the strain and the groans of the earth as we approach the end times. Whether they occur in our lifetime or the next, we need to study the apocalyptic passages, like this one here, to understand what will happen (and what is already happening) within our culture.
But let me offer some suggestions for those of us who are wheat. First, be careful of idolizing anyone but Jesus Christ. Place your faith in Him, not your pastor, a Christian singer or author, or even in CNN, Fox or the U.S. Government. They will all let you down. Some Christians have questioned their own faith as a great deal of their belief stemmed from the idolization of a fallen pastor. As we approach the last days, we need to place our faith in the Farmer, and not in the plants in the field.
You see, there are imposters in our midst. This doesn’t mean we should assume that if someone messes up at church that they’re clearly an imposter. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But we do have actors in churches and liars on TV. And we need to weigh anything any Christian tells us against truth.
Yes, there are people out there who just wreak havoc in our world, and that happens within the Church as well. But you and I cannot truly judge a man’s heart. Only God knows everyone’s true intentions. This is most likely why Jesus says that servants should not attempt to uproot the weeds before the harvest time. In the same way, we may try to remove anyone who we thing to be a weed in church, but we may make a misjudgment and can cause the wheat in the field a great deal of hurt and spiritual pain. So we wait until the harvest time for God to serve as the ultimate judge of the wheat and the tares.
We’ve got “children of the evil one” around us! The image Jesus uses is striking. And these people living around us and perhaps even with us, make it rather difficult, because as a weed they grow with wheat and entangles its roots with the wheat. They get into our hearts as well, and we’ve got to guard our hearts!
But, at the time of the harvest, it becomes rather simple to tear away the weeds and gather the wheat. The good plant is obviously good and the weed stands out like a sore thumb. That helps us to understand Christ’s analogy. Yesterday I planted some plants in my yard and could easily identify the weeds and pull them. But these weeds that Christ refers to cannot be pulled without destroying the crop. Be careful how you judge another man’s heart….
How can we possibly know if a person is wheat or weed? We cannot. People can appear fine on the surface and have deep darkness in their lives. Other people can be a total mess, yet they are just a prayerful plea of repentance away from accepting Jesus and Jesus changing their lives for all eternity. When does that happen? It is different for everyone. We never know. We can’t know when seeds planted today or years ago may emerge.
We have many people that are wheat that for a time appear to be weeds—but then their hearts are redeemed and they show themselves to be wheat. Do you know what I mean? My point is that if we decide that a person is a weed—-and only a weed, that transformation into a new creature might never happen.
You or I, or the greatest farmer that eve lived can never turn a weed into wheat—but the Creator of both can.
Consider Saint Augustin. He was raised by a Christian mother and a Pagan father. He spurned both of their religions and got all caught up in a weird cult. He lived with his girlfriend for 17 years and never married her even after having a son with her. But after over thirty years of his mother’s selfless prayers, Christ got hold of him. He was St. Augustine became the greatest mind the church has known since the Saint Paul, in my opinion. But he was a weed for half his life.
Or think about C.S. Lewis. He was raised in a Christian household, i.e., he was wheat. But after his beloved mother died when he was just 11, his father, to whom he was never close, sent him away to a boarding school. The school was miserable and cruel. He wondered how God could allow all of that to happen to him. He lost his faith and became an avowed atheist. He served in WWI, and while he wasn’t wounded, losing many of his closest friends in that war deepened his cynicism about the very idea of God. He also had a very sharp mind and became a highly successful and renowned university professor.
He fell in with a group of his peers who persisted for years in explaining the Christian faith to him in a way that eventually touched him. In his mid-30’s, they convinced him of the idea of God. A few days later, while walking home, Christ got hold of him, and he became the the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century. Praise God some zealots of the Christianity did not judge Lewis, Augustine and countless others to be worthless weeds!
Focusing on the weeds causes damage to the crop and to ourselves. It’s frustrating, which leads to anger, which produces all the wrong sorts of fruit in us: resentment, envy, hardness of heart. We see so much going wrong around us all the time that the invitation to those sorts of thoughts and feelings is constant. Focusing on the weeds around us causes weeds to grow in our own hearts. It’s really a matter of trusting God and His judgment.