Matthew 13:24–30 (24) He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, (25) but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. (26) So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. (27) And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ (28) He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ (29) But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. (30) Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” (ESV)
Studying this “parable of the weeds” was fairly convicting to me, and not just because I am a sinner who needs a savior. It was convicting to me because the parable made me think of weeds, which made me think of my yard, which made me think about how overgrown it sometimes gets, which made me think about dilapidated buildings, which made me think about all the abandoned farmhouses I see on my travels, which made me think of how they died, which made me think about not caring for things, which made me think about how I don’t care for things as I should.
About how things I care about need tending, and many times, tending I neglect.
Sorta like how my spirit needs tending.
Which got me thinking about how awesome it is to have a Savior, Jesus, who cares.
And while this parable is certainly about a Savior who cares, it’s not only about a Savior who cares – it is also about people, two types of people, wheat people and weed people. And in this parable, wheat and weeds are not adjectives used to describe attributes as in “Honey, today I’m feeling sort of weedy.” or “Wow, that guy sure liked it when you helped him out, that was a pretty wheaty thing to do!”
No, this parable is not about things a person does, or even where a person lives. Rather, it is about what a person is – wheat or weed. It tells us things about the wheat and weeds, that they grow together and that it’s hard to tell them apart sometimes. Given the history around this parable, it’s very likely that Jesus was talking about a weed called a darnel that looks a lot like wheat, especially when the plants are young, so much so in fact that you can’t tell the difference without looking closely until the plants are approaching harvest.
So, the farmer tells the reapers to wait so they don’t uproot the wheat in their attempt to kill the weeds.
Which helped me realize a few things:
- sometimes it is hard to tell wheat from weeds
- sometimes it is hard to root out weeds without damaging wheat
- the hope in this passage isn’t what I thought it was
If it’s that hard to tell the difference between wheat and weeds that are growing, imagine how hard it is to tell the difference between wheat and weeds that are planted but are still seeds? And imagine how hard it is to tell them apart as they are growing together in the field, but not yet ready for harvest?
But we have this propensity to look at a person and judge them by what they do because that’s easy. “Is she acting like wheat?” “Is he acting like a weed?” And we say “This person is acting like a weed, therefore, this person is a weed” when that person is really a seed whose kind we cannot tell, or a plant whose kind we cannot tell, not really. I’ve come to learn that acting like a weed doesn’t make you a weed any more than acting like wheat makes you wheat. I act like a weed far more often than I’d like, and yet I’m wheat. I know people who hate Christ but are friendly people – sort of wheaty, and yet they may very well be weeds.
Getting uncomfortable yet? How about turning it up just a bit…
What do you suppose is the hope in this passage?
Jesus turning weeds into wheat would make a great message, wouldn’t it? Let’s go back just a few verses prior to when Jesus gives the reason He speaks in parables:
Matthew 13:10–13 (ESV) (10) Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” (11) And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. (12) For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (13) This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.
Jesus speaks in parables to hide truth from those who don’t have ears to hear. Who is the “you” to whom has it been given to know the secrets of the kingdom, weeds or wheat? Who has ears to hear, weeds or wheat? Who has the abundance, wheat or weeds? Who does not see, hear or understand, wheat or weeds?
Jesus certainly gives people ears to hear and eyes to see but He doesn’t change a person from weeds to wheat. He certainly makes His enemies His friends, but remember, just because you are wheat doesn’t mean you always look or act like wheat – sometimes, perhaps for a long time, you looked like, or you may still look like, a weed. And for a while, you may rebel against Jesus because the weeds around you are strong and tempting, and you have bugs, and some of your leaves are broken and dead, and you are growing far too slowly while all the plants around you are thriving.
But were you (or are you) wheat or a weed?
At one time, I thought the hope in this parable was that Jesus turns weeds into wheat because I thought that we were all weeds at one point.
But Jesus plants wheat, and His reapers gather the wheat into the barn as a harvest. It’s the enemy who plants weeds, and the reapers gather those weeds to be burned. Jesus does make us new creations, but it’s not because we used to be weeds.
It’s because we used to be dead.
Dead seeds that needed to be tended. And then, maybe for a long time, or maybe still, we were (or are) plants with broken stems, dead leaves, roots that can’t find water, being eaten by bugs or suffocated by the weeds.
I have always been wheat. I know that now.
But for a long time, I was suffocated, broken, malnourished wheat.
And nowhere in this parable do we see Jesus changing weeds into wheat.
So, what is the great hope? What is my hope? What is your hope?
If it’s not that Jesus turns weeds into wheat, it must be something else. Rather than hoping that Jesus will turn weeds into wheat (like He changed water into wine), the hope here is knowing that Jesus tends His garden and breathes life into the dead wheat, which then becomes a bountiful harvest!
Years ago, I looked a lot like a weed. I didn’t know Jesus, I went to church only because my parents expected it, and so when I went off to college, I took in what the world had to offer. But now I can see that I was wheat in a garden overgrown with weeds. Jesus didn’t turn me from a weed into wheat, on the contrary, he planted me as wheat in a broken, sinful world, and my desire in that world was to be like the weeds. And my desire to be a weed, my sin, didn’t make me a weed, it made me a dead stalk of wheat.
But He tended me even when I was yet a seed. He watered me, fed me, and trained me, even as I was surrounded by weeds. Though I looked a lot like a weed, He planted me as wheat. Even though the world fed me as a weed and my stunted growth proved that in spades, He was playing the long game of nurturing me as wheat. Even though I was not producing fruit like wheat should, He had plans to make me into a bountiful harvest and fertilized me to that end.
And I had no clue what He was doing.
No clue until a cold day in February of 1999 when, instead of sending His reapers to gather and burn me, He, by His Holy Spirit, caused my dead leaves to spring to life and unfurl, my broken stalk to mend, and my fruitless head to bring forth the wheat I was planted to produce!
There are so many implications of this parable that touch on so many different truths – God’s providence, His foreknowledge, His sovereignty, His love, His wrath, etc. Far too many for one article.
And given all of that, you can rest assured in this fact: if He planted you, you are wheat, and you are His no matter what stage of development you are in, seed, seedling, mature plant – it doesn’t matter, you are wheat, period. You may be broken, you may be malnourished, you may even be dying and in desperate need of that “fertilizer”, but if He planted you, you are wheat.
So, wheat, are you broken? Are you malnourished? Are you struggling to find light in the shade of the weeds?
Remember, the hope of this parable is not “start acting like wheat and the sower won’t burn you”, that is hopeless, not hopeful! We cannot do enough or say enough to earn salvation from the fire!
But more than that, there isn’t just one thing in this parable in which we can find hope…there are at least three!
The first hope is that wonderful, but sometimes hard to swallow truth that we are not given eyes to see which of us are weeds. We are not the Sower. We don’t know what seeds are wheat and what seeds are weeds. Sure, we can inspect fruit, but remember that at one time, even the wheat among you looked an awful lot like a weed.
1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (9) Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (11) And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (ESV)
So, how in the world is that hopeful? For one, it gives us no excuse to keep the good news of the gospel of Christ to ourselves. It gives us confidence that we can be bold in that proclamation, knowing that it is only God who restores the dead to life. It gives us the strength to be the wheat He planted us to be. It also means that those among us who think we are weeds may be dead seeds of wheat or wheat plants that are suffocating and stagnate.
The second hope is that you are still here and have not been gathered (for harvest or to for the fire), you are still in the field – wheat and weeds together.
It means that if you know that you are wheat, the Sower still has a plan for you in the field. It means that you are still growing and maturing, not just for you, but for others.
It also means that if you think yourself a weed, the truth is that so did much of the wheat, actually all the wheat. The voice of the Sower is crystal clear – at one time all of us, even those of us planted as wheat, were dead seeds that needed life. But remember the hope for those of you who think yourself weeds is this, you are still here among the wheat. One way that the Sower has chosen to tend His field is through the rustling of the wind of His Spirit through the leaves and fruit of the very wheat that He has given life to, the wheat that lives with you in this field. The rustling of the wheat is calling to you. The Sower by His Spirit is calling to you. Can you hear their voices in the wind?
John 3:1–8 (1) Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. (2) This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (3) Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (4) Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ (8) The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (ESV)
But in reality, everyone from weed to wheat, regardless if you know yourself to be wheat or think yourself a weed, no matter who you are, you need to hear. Will you listen to this rustling voice? Will you desire the harvest over the fire?
The third hope in this parable is given, not to those weeds who are sown by the enemy, but to the wheat that is sown by God, the good Sower – to you who are His, you whom He planted – you are wheat no matter how you currently look, He will give you life, He will tend you, He will water you, He will grow you, and He will make you a bountiful harvest. He will bring you to Himself and you will realize who and what you are in Him.
Ephesians 1:3–6 (3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)
And not only that, He will tend His field and reap and burn the deadly plants that would choke you out and take over the garden.
If you are His, Jesus, the Sower, will tend you and mend you and protect you and reap you for a wonderful harvest!
Because He promised!
And He is faithful.
So how will you live in this field? Will you seek the light of the Sower or will you seek the shade of the weeds? Will you hear the rustling voice of the Spirit as a shelter to you or will you be drawn in by the captivating chirping of the locusts as they lure you into the dirt?
Do you fear the reapers?
Or are you joyful for the harvest?
Flee to the Sower and find rest in the basket of the harvest!