Like the Sun or Like the Son: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43


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Tucked at the heart of Matthew’s gospel is a chapter filled with parables. Included in this set of parables is one that seemed to bother the disciples a little more than the others, and we can be thankful for this, because the disciples wanted clarification and asked Jesus to explain this parable to them. We can also thank Matthew for including both the parable and Jesus’ explanation in his gospel.

Before beginning our discussion on this parable, and on Jesus’ explanation, let’s read the parable for ourselves and refresh our minds about the details that Jesus shares. This parable is found in Matthew’s gospel, in chapter 13, and we will be reading from the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 24:

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.’

There are a number of key details that we should pay attention to in this parable. The owner of this field planted only good seed, and while we might simply blame nature for helping weeds get mixed into the gardens that we plant, the description Jesus gives of this field is that there were too many weeds to have occurred naturally. The owner attributes the weeds to one of his enemies. We’ll come back to this point in a moment.

When it has been discovered what happened, the workers ask if they are to go pull the weeds early to let the grain grow better and have better access to the soil nutrients and sunlight. But the owner responds that he is worried that they might pull or damage some of the grain in the process. This is a key point to remember as well.

Lastly, when the harvest time is ready, the workers will first pull the weeds and bundle them before harvesting the grain and bringing it into the owner’s storeroom. This is a third key point for us to remember.

Let’s now read Jesus’ explanation of this parable a few verses later. Jumping back in at verse 36, Matthew continues by saying:

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.

Jesus doesn’t sugarcoat His description. Each detail of the original parable represents something. The enemy who planted the weeds is the devil, and specifically the field is the world. When reading this parable, we may be tempted to see the field as the Church, but this would be inaccurate – except to say that the more like the world the church becomes, the ratio between wheat and weeds in the church will more closely reflect ratio in the world.

The weeds are simply described as those who belong to the evil one, and this is a nice contrast with those who belong to the kingdom. Closer to the end of the parable, another description is given of the weeds. The last statement in verse 41, which describes God sending out His angels, describes their actions as weeding outeverything that causes sin” and getting “rid of all who do evil”. The actions of the weeds are evil actions. Nothing is said about the weeds intentions.

We could assume that an evil action will always have an evil intention behind it, but this is not always the case. The devil is a master of lies and it is possible that there are weeds that believe their intentions to be good while doing evil things.

However, one point in the parable that Jesus skips over explaining is the response the owner gives to the workers when they want to go clean up the field of weeds before the harvest. The response the owner gives is profound. Verse 29 and the first part of verse 30 tell us that the owner responds by saying, “No. While you are pulling up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.

Perhaps the weeds that were planted would look similar to wheat while both were young or maybe the owner doesn’t trust that his servants would be careful, diligent, or observant enough to protect every stalk of wheat. The clear message, which is a very profound idea when we look closely at it, is that God does not want to risk harming any of His chosen people from an eternity-wide perspective. This might mean that His people will be injured or irritated by “weeds” in their own lives, but in the biggest picture that matters, we are able to see that even though we don’t have life easy now, God is more concerned with saving us for eternity. This parable tells us that the alternate, which isn’t an option, is risking losing some of His people with weeds that are pulled up early.

Applying this to the world today, those who are paying attention can see a growing divide between people who are growing, developing, and displaying a Christ-like character, and those who are developing and displaying characters that are not like Christ. The biggest distinction between these two groups is where the role of self is placed. While this wasn’t as obvious in the past as it is now, when we look for this distinction today, it is becoming easier and easier to see, and it will get more obvious as we move towards the final judgment. Our role as wheat in God’s field is simple: reflect Jesus.

The last point for us to pay attention to is that while the weeds are described as those who do evil, the wheat are not contrasted by doing good. Instead, verse 43 describes God’s people as shining “like the sun in their Father’s kingdom”. While the spelling of sun in this passage is s-u-n, in God the Father’s kingdom, no s-u-n will shine as brightly as the S-o-n Son. God’s people are destined to let their lives reflect and display Jesus. This is the contrasting description, and it is a lot more significant than simply doing something good or avoiding doing evil.

As we conclude another podcast episode, here are the challenges that I want to leave you with:

Don’t limit yourself by simply doing good while avoiding doing evil. Instead, focus your life on the destiny of God’s people, and don’t wait until eternity to begin reflecting Jesus. Begin reflecting Jesus today, regardless of what the weeds in your life might think.

The best way to learn how to reflect Jesus is by growing closer to Him and by learning what He is like. This is best done through prayer and studying the Bible for yourself. If you let all your Bible information filter to you through me or someone else, you are limiting yourself based on what others have learned. While learning from each other is nowhere near bad, choosing to depend on others for your spiritual life is one of the worst things you could do. Reflect Jesus by learning about Him directly from God’s Word.

And, as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Season 3 – Episode 15: Cam discusses the parable of the wheat and the weeds, and he draws our attention to some key ideas included in the parable and explanation, including a description of God’s chosen people.

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