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Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Matthew 13 records a number of Jesus’ parables. The parable of the weeds and wheat (vv. 24-30), with its seeds and farmer, invites comparison to the “parable of the sower” (vv. 3-8). Both parables (1) point to the fact that not everyone will respond properly to Jesus and his message and (2) offer explanations for that fact. The two explanations seem strikingly different, though interpretation should not overemphasize the differences. In the parable of the weeds and wheat, two sowers sow two types of seed, which yield two different crops, which point to two different kinds of people. The Son of Man, or Jesus, sows good seed that yields a wheat crop, which points to those who respond properly to Jesus. The devil sows bad seed that yields a crop of weeds, which points to those who do not respond properly to Jesus. It seems, then, that the devil is responsible for the fact that some people do not respond properly.

In the “parable of the sower,” by contrast, one sower, Jesus, apparently sows one kind of seed. The yield the seed produces depends upon the ground on which it lands. The “good soil” (v. 8), in which the seed yields an abundant crop, points to those who respond properly to Jesus. The other types of ground, where the seed yields little or nothing, point to those who do not respond properly to Jesus. In this parable, then, it seems that those who do not respond properly to Jesus are responsible for their own failure. The difference between the two parables seems stark.

On the other hand, in verse 19 the “evil one” has a hand in the failure of the seed on the path to yield a good crop. Further, while in verse 19 the seed appears to correspond to “the word of the kingdom,” in verses 20, 22, and 23, the language of Jesus’ interpretation associates the seed with people who hear the word. It seems unwise, then, to draw correspondences too sharply or to emphasize differences too strongly. The whole picture that a parable draws corresponds to the reality or phenomenon on which the parable comments. These two parables together show that many people will not respond properly to Jesus and that those people, along with the devil, are responsible for their failure.

The parable of the weeds and wheat goes further than the parable of the sower by picturing final judgment and a separation between those who respond properly and those who do not. This separation occurs only at “the end of the age” (v. 40) and is the work of the angels, not the work of the people of the kingdom. When the farmer’s servants ask whether they should gather the weeds, the farmer responds, “No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them” (29). The Greek word translated “weeds” here refers to a weed that, in its early stages, is very difficult, perhaps impossible, to distinguish from the young wheat plant. The kingdom of God lives and grows amid the evil of this world. As we, the people of the kingdom, look at the people around us, we cannot tell who will ultimately be part of the kingdom and who will not be. Thus we are not qualified to rid the kingdom of those who are not truly part of it. Certainly, at the final judgment a separation will occur, as Jesus makes clear in verses 39-42. Perhaps when that judgment comes many people of the kingdom will be surprised at who is “in” and who is “out.” As we await the end, we would do well to love God, to love others, to seek the kingdom and all that it is, so that we will be ready to “shine like the sun in the kingdom of [our] Father” (v. 43).


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