Delaying Judgment: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Focus Passage: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (NIrV)

24 Jesus told the crowd another story. “Here is what the kingdom of heaven is like,” he said. “A man planted good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came. The enemy planted weeds among the wheat and then went away. 26 The wheat began to grow and form grain. At the same time, weeds appeared.

27 “The owner’s slaves came to him. They said, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Then where did the weeds come from?’

28 “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The slaves asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?’

29 “ ‘No,’ the owner answered. ‘While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the workers what to do. Here is what I will say to them. First collect the weeds. Tie them in bundles to be burned. Then gather the wheat. Bring it into my storeroom.’ ”

36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him. They said, “Explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who planted the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world. The good seed stands for the people who belong to the kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. 39 The enemy who plants them is the devil. The harvest is judgment day. And the workers are angels.

40 “The weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire. That is how it will be on judgment day. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels. They will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin. They will also get rid of all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace. There people will weep and grind their teeth. 43 Then God’s people will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Whoever has ears should listen.

Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 in context and/or in other translations on!

During His ministry, Jesus shared many parables to help illustrate the broad spiritual truths He wanted the crowds to learn. In one of these parables, which centers on the theme of farming, a phrase Jesus says stands out in my mind as being very fascinating. In this phrase, we learn a little more about God and the gift He has given called “free will”.

In the parable, a farmer has planted a field of wheat, but during the night, an enemy comes and plants weeds among the wheat. This initial setup gives us a picture of Jesus and Satan: Jesus wants to be productive; Satan simply wants to make Jesus’ life difficult. By sowing weeds, Satan is showing himself to be worthless. If Satan had sowed a different type of plant that was of practical use, then while he still would be evil, his actions may have unintended positive results for Jesus’ work.

What is interesting in this parable is that both the planting of the seed and the planting of the weeds are invisible initially. When there are seeds on the ground of both types, and before anything has started growing, there is no way to simply move through the field and collect all the actual weeds. Even after the wheat and the weeds have begun to grow, at the early stages of their growth they may look similar.

It is when things begin to look obvious that there is more than wheat growing in the field that the servants of the farmer come with a question: “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?” (v. 28)

In Jesus’ parable, the farmer responds, “No. While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.” (29-30a)

In this question and response, we see a picture of God that is powerful. While there are weeds growing, He chooses to let them grow alongside the wheat. This accurately reflects the world we are currently living in: There are evil people who are thriving, and it seems like God is not doing anything about it.

While God could simply snap His fingers together and erase all evil in an instant, Jesus tells us why He doesn’t do this: “While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them.” (v. 29)

It is for the sake of having as much wheat as possible that Jesus chooses to let the weeds continue to grow. God knows that if He were to start weeding out what His enemy had done before the right time, then He might lose some of the wheat He planted. There will be a time when the harvest will come, and at that time God will send His angels into the world. His angels will separate those the enemy had planted from those God had planted.

It is not up to us to know when God’s harvest is truly ripe. What matters to us at this instant is that we still have the choice which plant we will become: Will we be a weed who sides with the enemy, or will we be wheat standing for God? While the harvest is still a future event, the choice is still ours to make.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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