The Parables of the Wheat and the Weeds

To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand the Parables of the Kingdom

In my last post, we learned that the sower was Yeshua and the seed was the Word of God.  In this post, we will continue by looking at another parable dealing with wheat and weeds.

While the kingdom message is being sown, it faces a variety of different receptions (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23).  Some may have thought that the inauguration of the Messiah’s kingdom would be accompanied by cataclysmic events.  That did not seem to be happening with Yeshua.  In the Jewish mind, the coming of the Messiah signaled the coming of the kingdom.  Yeshua stated that the Messiah had arrived with His kingdom, but the fulfillment of the Messianic Kingdom would be delayed until He comes a second time.  What, then, is the Kingdom of Heaven like?  The parables in Matthew 13 answer this question.  They show what the Kingdom is really like as opposed to people’s expectations of it.  The Kingdom of Heaven is not a geographic location but a spiritual realm where God rules and where believers share in His eternal life.  We join that kingdom when we trust in Yeshua as Savior.

The Parable of the Wheat and Weeds

“Yeshua put before them another parable. ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while people were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, then went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads of grain, the weeds also appeared.  The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’  The servants asked him, ‘Then do you want us to go and pull them up?’ But he said, ‘No, because if you pull up the weeds, you might uproot some of the wheat at the same time. Let them both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest-time I will tell the reapers to collect the weeds first and tie them in bundles to be burned, but to gather the wheat into my barn.’” ~ Matthew 13:24-30

Remember that in parables, not every item needs to be interpreted; some details are added to give color.  That the enemy came while people were sleeping does not indicate neglect on anyone’s part; that he went away does not indicate his absence.  Instead, these details merely highlight the stealth and malicious intent of Satan (the enemy, the evil one).  This was a known practice in ancient warfare and feuds – destroy a nation’s (or person’s) agricultural base and his military might would also be destroyed.

The presence of Satan’s minions among God’s people would also serve to weaken them.  Because no one recognized the weeds, both grew at the same time.  The weed Yeshua referred to may have been darnel, a poisonous plant that looks very much like wheat in the early stages of growth, but becomes distinguishable when the heads of the wheat appear.  Yeshua’s hearers would have understood how no one would have noticed the weeds until the wheat sprouted and formed heads of grain.  Only then would the weeds appear.  A heavy infestation of darnel (indicated by it being sown among the wheat) would cause the roots of both plants to become entangled.  To sow darnel in a person’s wheat field was actually punishable by Roman law.

It’s almost similar to our modern problem of having people dump their garbage in local farmer’s fields.  This real-life situation gave Yeshua’s hearers a picture of God’s kingdom growing and thriving alongside evil in this world.  Yeshua’s reference is to the Kingdom of Heaven and is not limited to the Messianic community.  However, the Messianic community is in the world as well as in the Kingdom of Heaven, so this truth also applies.  There are good seeds and bad seeds, children of God and children of Satan, in the Messianic community.  At first glance, the works of each may be difficult to distinguish.  Yeshua appeals to us to be appropriately inclusive.  We should avoid exclusiveness and arrogant separatism.  We should strive for unity with others even when it may present the risk of weeds. The work of judgment is God’s.  However, we must not be naïve.  Satan has a strategy and his children are at work.

Yeshua explained that the kingdom grows quietly and abundantly, yet evil still exists in the world.

After the plants have grown, the owner’s servants report the surprising appearance of the weeds.  Yeshua did not identify the servants in his explanation of this parable.  The servants knew the master had sown good seed.  While the servants would expect a few weeds, this heavy infestation was suspect.  How could there be so many weeds? “Where have the weeds come from?” the servants ask.  Who are these weeds?  Yeshua will explain that “the weeds are the people who belong to the Evil One” (Matthew 13:38).  They may be people in the Messianic community who appear to be Believers but who never truly believe.  The emissaries later battled the problem of false teachers who came from within the ranks of the Believers.  To interpret the meaning more broadly – the Kingdom of God is present and growing in a world full of sin and unbelief.  Unfortunately for us, God will not eliminate all opposition until the end of the age.

The enemy, Satan (see Matthew 13:39), is always working to obstruct the growth of God’s Kingdom.  The enemy caused a problem, but the weeds could not stop the growth of the wheat.  The wheat just grew alongside the weeds.  So the servants dutifully asked if they should go and pull up the weeds.

Tough Question:  The servants in this parable raise one of the toughest questions ever posed:  If God is good and all-powerful, where does evil come from, and why is evil permitted?  The answer provided is a simple one.  It does not address all the logical difficulties of good and evil coexisting, but it tells us what we need to know: “An enemy has done this.”

  • God does not generate evil.  God is good indeed and ought not to be identified with evil at all.
  • Let God be concerned about understanding evil deeply and thoroughly.  When we seek in-depth understanding of evil (through viewing films or reading novels), we risk real damage to the heart, soul, and mind.
  • Spiritual “warfare” is normal, not odd or surprising.  Enemies actively oppose one another.  When sin and unbelief seem so strong, don’t try to figure out where they originated.  We know Satan is our enemy.  Instead, trust God and determine to follow him.

In answer to the servants’ question, the owner replied that no, they should not weed the fields.  Instead, the wheat and weeds should grow together until the harvest.  At the time of harvest, the workers would reap the field – gathering the wheat into the barn and collecting the weeds to be burned.

The harvest was a common metaphor for the final judgment (Jeremiah 51:33; Hosea 6:11; see also Revelation 14:14-16).  Yeshua will explain in verse 39 that “the harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:39).  Again, Yeshua was making the point that while His coming signaled the arrival of the Kingdom, its consummation would be delayed.  The children of God and children of Satan would grow together until the harvest; then, God would judge and separate His children from Satan’s children (“the people who belong to the Evil One” Matthew 13:38).

God Does the Weeding:  The young weeds and the young blades of wheat look the same and can’t be distinguished until they are grown and ready for harvest.  Weeds (unbelievers) and wheat (Believers) must live side by side in this world.  God allows unbelievers to remain for a while, just as a farmer allows weeds to remain in his field so that the surrounding wheat won’t be uprooted with them.  At the harvest, however, the weeds will be uprooted and thrown away.  God’s harvest – judgment – of all people is coming.  Make yourself ready by remaining faithful to Yeshua and obeying him.

In my next post, we will explore the parable of the mustard seed and the leaven.

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