First Mennonite Church
October 10, 2021
Weed and Wheat Growing Together
Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “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?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”
36 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.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 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, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
We have heard it many times. There are “bad apples” everywhere! There’s the case of a pastor and his wife who embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars in Michigan. The clerk of an NGO in MN who cashed the gift cards their office was supposed to give to volunteers. There is the peace officer who falsifies evidence, uses violence to coerce confession of wrong doing, or abuses his authority. There is a father who kills his two innocent children. There are bad apples and bad seeds everywhere, including in the kingdom of heaven.
The parable for today contains some atypical farming practices that certainly captured the attention of Jesus’ audience. The household master sows the seed, not his workers/slaves as would be the case of a wealthy farmer. The darnel—the weed, was planted, when typically, this weed grew wildly. Pulling out as much weed would have been the typical practice for wheat farmers, but in the story, the master did not allow his slave to do that.
The parable for today is the first one used to describe the nature of the kingdom of heaven. This story is more an allegory than a parable, according to its interpretation found in verses 36-43. There, Jesus gives most parts of the story a one-to-one correspondence. Thus, each element in the story has a meaning, which means, we must give attention to the entire story in order to gain insight about the nature of God’s reign.
Jesus begins by stating, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
In Jesus’ interpretation, the Sower is the Son of Man. That means that with his coming Jesus introduced God’s life-giving potential to humans to be able to know God and to live according to his original purpose in creating mankind. This power was given not only to the Jews, but to the world. Jesus’ words, healing, exorcism, and in the end, his work of salvation, were all signs that the God’s perfect will, God’s eternal desire to reach out to the world, were displayed and enacted among men—humankind at the coming of Jesus.
Jesus says the good seed are the children of the kingdom. From Peter to every believer down the centuries, including us, God has given the potential to give evidence that his rule has arrived here on earth. That means that you and I have the power—through the Spirit of the Lord, to heed the words of Jesus and to follow his example. We have been given the greatest potential to give witness that the reign of God has begun, now and here. Just as it was in Jesus, whose words reflected God’s will and whose deeds reflected the power, love and righteousness of God, our words and deeds should also do. It is clear, however, that even when God’s reign is dimly reflected in us, compared to Jesus, nonetheless, we have been given the power to give witness to God’s reign in the world. In Isaiah’s Messianic vision, he quotes the Lord saying:
Then all your people will be righteous
and they will possess the land forever.
They are the shoot I have planted,
the work of my hands,
for the display of my splendor (Isaiah 60:21).
We are the Lord’s nursery of chosen vines. We are the Lord’s wheat, plants of the good seed, set forth to display the splendor of the Lord. And we have been planted in the world, which means that the sphere of God’s kingdom is not restricted to the community of believers. As Jesus, we are in the world but we are not of this world (John 17:11, 14). In the very same way as i this parable, there are many similarities between us and the unbeliever. We have to work, go to the grocery store, we suffer illnesses as everyone, we suffer loss, and in the end, we die like everyone else. However, the difference is revealed by the kind of fruit we yield and the final destiny we each will have. Our fruit is as the apostle Paul says, are fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God (Philippians 1:11).
At night, Jesus says, when everyone was asleep, the enemy came and planted weed, darnel—zizania. In Jesus’ interpretation he does not say what is meant by “while everyone was asleep.” Did it include the household master? The point centers, I believe, on the weeds being planted alongside the good seed.
Zizania, or darnel, as our Bible translates this Greek word, is a common wheat-like grass that grows in many regions of Asia and the Middle East. It is also known as “false wheat” or “poison darnel,” because of the fungus that is prone to grow over the head of grain. If harvested, it could be used to make fermented drink. Zizania, darnel looked very much like wheat. Only when the grain ripens the difference becomes obvious. Wheat turns golden brown, but the darnel turns black.
The poison darnel and the wheat are allowed to grow together. Separation will only be done at harvest time. The darnel will be gathered in bundles and put to burn. The wheat will be harvested and stored in the barn.
Jesus says that the wheat are the children of the kingdom and the zizania/darnel are “people of the evil one.”
The image we find in this parable is that the kingdom of heaven abides side by side the weed. And although those in charge of the field would want to pull out the weed, Jesus tells them they should not. Good and evil live side by side. Truth and lies spread alongside each other. The atypical attitude of the master in this parable and his atypical way of working in his field doesn’t quite fit the way we would like to deal with something that in our eyes needs to be eradicated or corrected.
Can you envision living in a world where good and evil exist without checks and balances, where there is no way to counter the presence and effects of what is evil? Would you be able to keep silent from expressing your moral principles regarding what is right or wrong? What would you do if you are certain that what your co-working is stealing from the company, yet you are not allowed to tell it to anyone, including your boss? How about the church? Do we have the prerogative about who can or cannot be allowed to become a member? Should we be silent about sin, and I mean when we see the sin of our brother or sister? (Just to refresh our memory, there is tension between what Jesus says in this parable and what he teaches about restoring the church member in chapter 18.)
The wheat and tare should grow side by side. The risk of pulling out the weed is so great that the master did not allow the servants do that. The wheat can also be pulled out inadvertently. Often times, Christians are so zealous about keeping the “good name” of the church that it becomes difficult for them when someone within their members brings ill repute to the church. Often times, Christians feel they have an “obligation” to take action and get rid of those they see as threats to their moral principles. Think of what Christians say and want to do about politicians on either side of the aisle.
The image given in this parable is that the kingdom of heaven encompasses the time since Jesus came, the present, and all the way unto the day of judgment and eternity. The kingdom was ushered by Jesus at his first coming and will be make complete on the day of his coming. As for now, wheat and darnel are growing side by side. We are not given the power to pull out the weed. It is not our task. We are, however, to make sure we yield a great harvest of fruit of righteousness, following the example of Jesus.
May the Lord give us patience and grace towards one another, even toward those we believe do not care about righteousness, justice, and love. May we strive to give concrete expressions of love, show acts of mercy, live holy lives, and bear all kinds of good fruit. Amen!