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Jesus declared that God’s kingdom was at hand, when he began his ministry. He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4.17). We have frequently defined the kingdom of God with Dallas Willard’s definition as the effective reach of God’s power.
I don’t think it is too bold to ask Jesus, “If the effective reach of God’s power is at hand, why don’t we see more of it? Why do evil people and oppressive systems have such influence over our world and God’s power seems to so lacking?”
The “Parable of the Weeds” may be able to help us gain some clarity to a difficult question. The parable is found in Matthew 13.24-30 and Jesus’ explanation of the parable is found in Matthew 13.36-43.
The Parable of the Weeds
Below is the Parable of the Weeds with a few explanations to help us understand the setting in which it was written.
“He put another parable before 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 weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.”
— The particular weed was called a darnel. It looked like wheat until both were mature. The grain from a darnel weed is poisonous. If both were milled together the mixture would be very unhealthy.
— Roman law had provisions to punish people who sowed darnel weeds among the crops of another. Apparently, this was a method of revenge in that day.
“And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’
“He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’
“So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
“But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘” (Matthew 13.23-30)
— The only way to separate the darnel weeds from the wheat was at the time of harvest. Farmers would have to individually separate darnel from wheat, which was a very labor intensive and painstaking job.
— The darnel would be bundled and burned, while the wheat would be stored in a barn.
Explanation of the Parable
Sometime later, Jesus explained the parable to his followers. Once again, we will consider his words and I will provide some comments as we read through Jesus explanation.
Jesus said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.“
— Jesus used the title “Son of Man” to describe himself. The Book of Daniel is particularly important to understand the concept of the Son of Man. Notice how the image of God’s kingdom and the Son of Man are related in these verses.
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7.13-14)
— Living in the same field are both the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one. The effective reach of God’s power is present in the lives of people who follow God’s kingdom. People who are influenced by the evil one oppose the people of the kingdom.
— The devil has sown into our world evil people and evil happenings.
“Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” (Matthew 13.36-43).
— There will come a time when the two, who have lived side-by-side, will be separated. All causes of sin will be removed. Heaven can only be heaven if people are free from the influences of sin. Law-breakers will suffer judgment.
— The righteous, people who are living a Jesus-kind-of-life, will shine like the sun in the full expression of the effective reach of God’s power.
The question is, “Why is the world like it is? Why does evil, oppression, injustice, pain and suffering dwell in a world where God’s kingdom has come?” I have three thoughts from this passage for us to consider.
(1) Faith and patience are needed. God is at work in the world, even though we may not notice it. The two parables that we will consider tomorrow will make that point.
Patience is also called for. Religious conflicts throughout history are tragic examples of trying to root out evil with our methods rather than God’s. Our assigned task is to work toward healing and deliverance and the proclamation of the good news.
We are called to patiently labor in the midst of a corrupt and broken world, while we wait for the “harvest” time.
(2) We can’t sit above it all and assume that we are not part of the problem, too. I know the battle between the weeds and the wheat within my own self-life.
Paul describes me – and possibly you, too – when he writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7.18-19).
Paul doesn’t leave us hopeless, but provides a solution for the internal conflict we face. He says, “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Romans 6.11-12).
(3) Finally, we trust that there is a God who is going to make a new world and we get to be a part of that. As followers of Jesus we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (verse 43).
Dear Jesus, thank you for helping us live in a very difficult world. Please help us to be patient and to not give up working with you. We desire to be used by you to bring healing, deliverance and the message of the good news of your love to the world. May we not be discouraged by the weeds that are part of this existence.
As I pray this prayer today, the tears come. I am discouraged. This is a difficult world. My Jesus dries the tears. He gives me courage and resolve to head out into the world today. No more self-pity. You have a plan, Jesus.
I must patiently wait. This life isn’t about me, Lord. More of You, less of me. Time will tell the wheat from the darnel.