Parables of God’s Just Kingdom
Read: Matthew 13.24-43
Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.
Matthew 13.30 (NRSV)
Like all of his parables, this story of “The Wheat and the Weeds” would have been quickly recognized by Jesus’ listeners. In first century Palestine, a person seeking revenge on his adversary might deliberately, but secretly, spread bad seed on a newly sowed field. One typical weed was a plant called darnel. It’s grains were smaller than wheat. If they were milled with wheat, the flour would have a bitter taste. When eaten by humans or animals, darnel caused dizziness. Fortunately, when darnel matured, its flower was easily distinguished from wheat. But, sowing this weed would still provide a perverse pleasure. If undetected, it ruined the crop. And even when the weeds were discovered, the farmer then needed to expend additional hours and effort to separate the good from the bad.
Given these harsh agricultural realities, what is the good news in Jesus’ parable? Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was like the sower (Matthew 13.24); let us focus on his words and actions. The servants seemed distressed. “Where did these weeds come from?” They know their master did not plant them. The master knows it was the work of an enemy. But what the servants see as a problem, in need of an immediate solution, the master understands as the normal situation: good and bad are always mixed together. Often their entanglement is deep and ancient. But not only are there good people and bad people, there is some good in bad people and some bad in good people. If we are honest and caring, we can and do recognize it, in others and ourselves. We have to call it by name. The weed is bad because it was planted where it would do harm. The fight is with the enemy, not the weed. The other thing the master knows is that at the harvest, every plant will be dealt with. There is accountability and it is in the Master’s hands. The farmer might wish to retaliate but only God can rightly judge.
This parable is not just about the church. Mathew 13.34 says Jesus put these saying before the crowd. The wheat and the weeds are everywhere. And so is God’s just kingdom. His way will prevail. And, harvests are not just eventual, they are seasonal.
Reverend Steven B. Lawrence