Rising Above Average: 40 Days of Weeds

wheat40 Days of Weeds

Matthew 13:24—30

A lot of people notice the similarity between the first two parables of Matthew 13; the parables of the sower and the weeds among the wheat.  Though they are similar, there are some very striking differences which will become apparent as we make our way through the parable of the weeds.

This particular parable is found only in Matthew and it continues a line of teaching concerning the present state of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus began by teaching people that the Kingdom of Heaven is moving and growing as He sows the seeds of salvation, but the growth of Kingdom today is occurring among different kinds of hearts.  Some people hear the Gospel and respond in the right way and become totally dedicated and consecrated to the Kingdom.  The vast majority, however, hears the Gospel and responds to it in a limited fashion; these of people are what we call “mediocre Christians,” the kind of believer who, though making a confession of Christ (since they make up the Kingdom of Heaven) are shaky in their relationship with Him.  Mediocre Christians let things “get to them” and let circumstances of life dictate the kind of faith they have; when life is good for them, they are on top spiritually, but when life gets hard they struggle in their faith.  The danger for believers like this is that the Devil will take advantage of their mediocrity to “steal” what little faith they have.

The question that naturally flows from this teaching concerns what the 25% minority who have responded properly to the Word do with the 75% majority who are just “going with the flow?”  Do those who serve the Lord with dedication and consecration need to take some kind of action today to ensure the purity of the Kingdom of Heaven?   The answer, as taught by Jesus in this next parable is a loud “NO!”  The job of separating the dedicated Christians from the mediocre believers is not the job of members of the Kingdom of Heaven.

1.  The kingdom of heaven is like…what?  Verse 24

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”

The first thing we need to understand is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, “The kingdom of heaven is like…”  The Kingdom, as taught by Jesus is not like the man doing the sowing of the seed, but rather the situation in the man’s field that arises after sowing the sowing of the seed.

You will recall that in the first parable, the sower sows seeds and the emphasis is on the four kinds of soil that seed falls on and how the Devil can easily snatch away the plants that have shallow roots.  Of course, if the seed of the Word takes root, then the Devil cannot steal it away.  Now, in this parable, the situation is similar, but different.  Here the emphasis is really three-fold:  (1)  on the action of the sower, who faithfully sows seeds in his field, (2) on the action of the sower’s enemy; and (3) on what happens at the harvest.  So, even though this parable is considerably shorter than the preceding one, there is a lot we need to understand, and the very first thing Jesus wants us to understand is that in the present dispensation of grace, He, as the great Sower, is actively working to extend His Kingdom.

This is important because so many people see Jesus only as the Mediator in Heaven, or only as the Baby in the manger or the Man on cross.  Well-meaning Christians fail to appreciate what is happening today in the unseen spirit world.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.  (Matthew 11:12)

What Jesus is saying in this verse is actually fairly easy  to understand, although there is certainly no consensus among Bible scholars about it.  The very common sense interpretation is this:

Since John the Baptist began clearing the way for Jesus Christ to begin His earthly ministry, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully growing, but it has been growing among great opposition.

Jesus Christ, then, is seen “forcefully advancing” His Kingdom; He is active, not passive.  He is pictured as pushing back the darkness as His Kingdom grows in the world sin.  That He is “forceful” is necessary because others are equally as “forceful” in their opposition to it.  Jesus Christ, the great Sower, working diligently and tirelessly in the construction of His Kingdom.  Though we are His partners in this great task, He is actively involved in it.

Also important is the audience intended for this parable.  Jesus had just finished speaking to the disciples, explaining why He was using parables, and now He returns to the crowd of people and returns to His purpose:  teaching the crowd, made up of many kinds of people, the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven.

2.  Something that doesn’t belong, verses 25—26

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.

Apparently in the parable, the sower is like a wealthy farmer who employs several “hands” to work his farm.  This is a wonderful picture of our relationship with Jesus Christ, the Sower.  We are like His farm hands, and we are supposed to be engaged in the same kind of work He is engaged in.  Unfortunately, many of us are barely part-time employees who are more concerned with our own things than with our employer’s fields.

At any rate, even though the farm hands are described as “sleeping,” Jesus is not implying that is a bad thing.  In fact, after a hard days work, sleeping would be the normal thing to do.  Jesus is focusing on the sower’s insidious enemy, who sneaks on to the property in the dark of night, while everybody is fast asleep.   What we see the enemy doing is evil, malicious, dastardly, and sneaky:  He is seen sowing a highly destructive seed that, while resembling wheat, is highly destructive.  What he sowed was a seed known as zizania (translated “weeds” in the NIV).  Bible scholars are certain Jesus has in mind the “bearded darnel” (lolium temulentum), a seed as insidious as the one who was sowing it.  It is a grain that looks very much like wheat while it is growing but when it matures it’s roots entangle the good wheat and when it throws its grain, it effectively poisons the field it is growing in.  It could take several growing seasons to purge the field of this terrible weed, and by the time this weed can be distinguished from the wheat, it’s already too late.

Verse 27 is a pretty simple verse and really serves to move the parable along, but at the same time we learn something about just how far the weeds had encroached into the field of wheat—

“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?’

The ratio of weeds to wheat must have been considerable since the servants seemed so surprised they felt the need to run and talk to their employer about them.  Normally, a weed-free field would be strange thing indeed, so some weeds mixed in among the wheat would have been a normal thing which the farm hands would deal with as a routine part of their duties.  But what these men saw in the field horrified them so much it was unbelievable to them and they felt compelled to double check with their employer to make sure he had actually sown good seed in the field.

The astonishment with which the workers approached the owner of the farm is like the astonishment some Christians experience when they first learn about the 25% rule and the state of the Kingdom of Heaven today.  It seems almost inconceivable to them that God would allow seeds of destruction to be sown in HIS Kingdom by HIS enemy!  But remember, Jesus is trying to teach us some secret about His Kingdom by using parables.  Based on what we learned in the first parable, and what we will learn in the remaining parables, here is what Jesus is teaching:  At this present time, during this present dispensation, not only is Jesus Christ sowing the good seeds of the Word of God, but the Devil is also sowing seeds; seeds of destructive heresies and false teaching within the same field.  Even in the fruitful field—the good ground—Satan sows his weeds which grow with the good grain until the harvest.

What we see in the Kingdom of Heaven today, exemplified in the church, which is the visible side of the Kingdom on Earth, is a body of saints that faithfully serve God and proclaim His righteous doctrines and mingled in with them, false teachers and false believers that are almost indistinguishable the genuine ones.  While Jesus does not mention His 25% rule, it seems that, according to this parable, the false teachers and their followers (the weeds) outnumber the true believers (the wheat) in this present dispensation.

3.  What to do with those who don’t belong, verses 28—29

” ‘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 root up the wheat with them.

The owner of the field knew exactly what was happening and he knew precisely who was to blame:  an enemy, which translated literally is “one who is an enemy.”  There was no doubt in his mind who was to blame.  The weeds were deliberately put in the field by the enemy; it was not an accidental contamination.

The reaction of the farm hands was commendable:  in support of their employer they were willing to go into the fields and pull out the weeds in an effort to save as much of the good wheat as they could.  But the owner of the field was a wise man; not willing to risk harming (killing) any of the good wheat, he told his servants to let the weeds grow until harvest time, then the wheat and the weeds would be sorted out.

Here is the answer to those who are numbered among the 25% minority:  we are not allowed to be judgmental or condemnatory in regards to the 75% majority.  During this present dispensation of grace, the presence of false teachers, false believers and mediocre believers is to be expected and tolerated because God is the only One qualified to pass judgment on them.

Of course, it is true that within the Body of Christ we have a responsibility to deal with false teachers, we must be very careful in dealing with those “weaker brothers” who find themselves mixed up in false teaching.  As a pastor, many times I have had to walk a very fine line between pointing out that a faithful member of my congregation believes in error while not breaking their hearts.  This is where the ministry of the Holy Spirit is indispensable.

Just as in the previous parable, we have a vivid word picture of the state of the Kingdom of Heaven on earth during the present dispensation:  it is populated by both true believers and false believers, both flourishing alongside each other.  And beyond faithfully preaching and teaching the whole Gospel and living out our faith in obedience to the revealed Word of God, there is not much we can do about this strange situation.

4.  The parable explained, verses 36—43

With this group of verses, Jesus explains the meaning of the parable.  While the present state of the Kingdom of Heaven seems odd today, we must be patient because God has a plan that He working out.

The good seed, the wheat, stands for the genuine believers.  The weeds are false believers who look like genuine believers.  Among genuine believers Satan has his followers in order to spoil the Lord’s work.  G. Campbell Morgan makes a very astute observation:

Thus it is evident that these…parables do not give the picture of an age where there is to be a greater increase of goodness until the final perfection is attained; but rather one characterized by conflict, and one in which it appears as though evil triumphed rather than good.

But why is this allowed to happen?  Remember, this present time is the Dispensation of Grace in the Kingdom of Heaven.  God’s grace is manifested in the Body of Christ, the visible Church.  Each dispensation is a time of testing for man and God will allow man to be tested so that he will be without excuse when he is judged.  It is important to note that the very first problem the early church experienced was the problem of false teaching and that problem continued to dog the Church during the Apostlic age down to this very day.  Fasle teachers and false teaching are everwhere; the Devil is chucking his seeds of evil into the midst of every congregation.   We who are striving to serve  God with all our hearts often get frustrated and angry with the state of Church of Jesus Christ today.  But we would do well to remember the words of Peter–

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  (2 Peter 3:8-10)

And while we are at it, Paul’s advice to the Galatians is pretty important, too–

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.  (Galatians 6:8-10)

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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