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Worship Message - "The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds"

The Parable of
The Wheat and the Weeds

We are currently in a series of messages based on some of the teachings of Jesus. Teachings that came in the form of parables. Stories told by Jesus, each one designed to make a spiritual point, each one designed to teach a spiritual lesson.

As has been stated in earlier messages in this series, not everyone who originally heard the parables understood the points - the lessons - taught by Jesus. For some, they were just nice stories.

But what Jesus wanted to teach could be understood.. Such understanding often came for Jesus’ disciples. It came when they asked Him to explain what He wanted them to know.

What Jesus explained can also help us understand the points of His lessons. But as also stated in earlier messages, understanding what Jesus taught - understanding His truths - brings with it a responsibility. When we understand - when we know what Jesus taught - it is our spiritual responsibility to obey it and apply it.

That is a very serious responsibility we have, so we need to pay close attention to all of what Jesus taught. Including in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, which is recorded in Matthew 13, beginning with verse 24. The parable is verses 24 through 30. Jesus’ explanation is verses 36 through 43.

To set the stage, Jesus spoke this parable as He taught at the sea. A crowd of people was on the shore. Jesus, needing to get a distance away to be able to address everyone in the crowd, had stepped into a boat and gone a bit off shore. It was from the boat Jesus spoke the parable, which was the second parable He told that day.

The first one centered on someone sowing seeds. That one referred to the word of God being sown by Jesus. According to that parable, some people do not want to receive the word of God, others do receive it but do not last long in the faith because of problems or troubles or sometimes the delights of the world . However, some do receive the word, let it grow, and become spiritually fruitful.

In this second parable of the day, agriculture is again the setting.

Let’s begin with the parable. I will interrupt myself from time to time to make a few comments. We will then consider the spiritual points in the parable.

Matthew 13, beginning with verse 24. “Another parable Jesus put before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.’”

What is identified as weeds - some translations have the word tares - was a particular kind of weed called bearded darnel.

The effects of bearded darnel - the grain it produces - include dizziness and sickness. It does not taste good. I has a bitter flavor. But it has kind of a narcotic effect.

All that means no one wants bearded darnel in his field. But the problem is that bearded darnel and wheat - wheat being the result of the good seed in the parable - look almost the same until the heads come out. The problem then is that the root systems of the weeds and the good grain are intertwined. If the darnel is pulled up, the wheat is ruined as well.

The enemy of a field owner came and sowed weeds among the wheat the owner had his servants sow. That seems a pretty cruel thing to do, but apparently, according to what I read, that was at least a somewhat common thing for enemies to do. In fact, it was prevalent enough that Roman law had a statute against it.

Jesus said, “The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while men were sleeping [that part of the parable has a specific warning in it, which we will get to later], the man’s enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.”

The enemy went away, but before long, the result of his attack began. When the wheat plants came up, the weeds did, too.

When the heads formed is when the servants of the owner noticed the bearded darnel intermingled with the wheat. With that discovery, the servants were alarmed. They went to the owner and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Did you not look at the bag of seeds you bought and gave us to sow? Were you not careful to get pure wheat seed? Did you make a mistake? How is that your wheat field also has so many weeds in it?”

The owner said to his servants, “An enemy has done this.” He knew that was the only explanation. Whereupon the servants said, “Do you want us to go and gather the weeds?”

“No,” said the owner. “For in gathering the weeds, you will root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the reapers to gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, and then to gather the wheat into the barn.”

That is the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. As with the other parables of Jesus, it is a nice story. But again, the point is not to have a nice story. The point is to teach a spiritual lesson, which Jesus later explained to His disciples.

That takes us to verse 36, where some very interesting wording is found. It is recorded that after Jesus told this parable - and one before it and one after it - He left the crowds.

That is true. He did leave the crowds that had gathered to hear Him that day. But consider the fact that when He left, most of those in the crowd did the same. As in they did not follow Him, hoping to better understand all He had just taught. It was as if they simply enjoyed the story, taking it only as a story.

How sad they apparently did not want to get the meaning behind the parables.

The disciples, however, were different. They went with Jesus from the shore of the sea into a house. There they asked Him to explain what is today’s parable.

Which brings up this thought. I am always amazed, each Big Red football Saturday, how much time is spent on the radio before and after the game discussing what is going to happen and then what did happen.

Does that - can that - happen with Sunday services? Of course, it is OK with me if the talk is not critical, which sometimes happens with football games. But discussing can help - beforehand to get us ready to worship and afterward to help us grow in understanding - discussing can help us to remember and be affected by all that goes on from music to prayer to the sermon.

Our discussions may not last four or five hours, like they do after football games, but let’s be like the disciples, who wanted to keep learning, this time about the spiritual lesson Jesus intended in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

Here is the explanation.

Jesus said, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man.” That is how Jesus identified Himself. He is the sower of the good seed, which represents the word of God. Words about truth, righteousness, grace, love, salvation.

“The field is the world.” In the world, the good seed sprouts and grows into what the wheat represents - people who cling to the truth, people who enjoy and share love, those who accept salvation from their sins, all of that seen by their fruit. The fruit of attracting others to Jesus. The fruit of living righteously.

The weeds? The bearded darnel? They are “the sons of the evil one,” that one being Satan, who is identified as the enemy. The one so opposed to Jesus and what is good that he sows bad seed among the good.

The result? Remember what was said about bearded darnel. It causes sickness. That is an apt description of sin. It has a bitter flavor. That is an apt description of sin. But it has kind of a narcotic effect. That, too, is an apt description of sin. Sin can lull a person into thinking doing wrong is fine. It can lull a person into forgetting the teachings of Jesus.

What are some examples of the acts of the growth from bad spiritual seeds? How about hurting others? How about tempting good people to do wrong. How about persecuting those who are good?

Let me interject this. Do we understand from this parable why bad things happen? It seems so easy to blame God when things go wrong. Do we not often hear the question, “Why did God do some thing that causes suffering, physically or emotionally?” But it is not God who is to blame. He sows good seed. it is the evil one - it is Satan - who is to blame. He is the one who spreads bad seed in the field. In the world.

Do not blame God for your problems. Blame Satan.

But isn’t it interesting that both the good and the bad are in the world together? That both, in the parable, benefitted from the soil and the rain and the sun?

This is not the first time Jesus made that point. It appeared earlier as part of His first recorded sermon - the Sermon on the Mount. There He said, “God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” That statement was part of His teaching that we are to love all people. Including those against us. Including those who persecute us.

Both good people and evil people are in the world. Both are growing. That is part of what Jesus taught in today’s parable.

That may be disturbing to us. Remember the workers in the parable talked with the field owner about the problem. “Did you not read the label on the seed package?” they wondered. “What are we supposed to do now with so many weeds in amongst the wheat?”

But Jesus’ answer to us is the same as it was by the field owner. “Leave them all alone.” Let both grow. Let the bad continue. That is just the way it will be. That is because of the enemy of Jesus. Again, that is Satan. That is just the way it will be until the harvest, which refers, spiritually, to the end of the age. That will be when Jesus will judge the good and the evil.

Spiritually, according to the explanation, it will be angels who will do the separating of the good and the evil ones.

The evil ones? They will be gathered first. Listen. They will be “bundled together.” How uncomfortable that will be. They will be bundled together “and thrown into the furnace of fire.” They will be sent to Hell, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Why? I did a bit of reading about the last part of that phrase. Weeping is of course crying. Sometimes the word used is wailing, which represents great sorrow. Gnashing of teeth refers to grinding teeth together as a response to pain or great anguish.

Why will there be weeping and gnashing of teeth in Hell?

One possibility is that being in a furnace of fire will be extremely uncomfortable. A discomfort that will last forever, with no chance of relief.

Another possibility is that in Hell, the evil ones will know they blew it. They will know their punishment is their own fault for following Satan rather than God. They will be anguished about that.

And I read this. At least some in Hell are angry with God. That makes no sense, but in anger they cry and grind their teeth, doing so against God.

The evil ones will be gathered, bundled together, and sent to eternal punishment.

But then the good ones - the followers of Jesus and the word of God He taught - will then be gathered and placed in the owner’s barn, which represents Heaven. A place that is secure. A place out of the wind and the weather. Out of the storms of life. Away from sin and sorrow. A place, not of weeping and gnashing of teeth, but a place where “the righteous will shine like the sun.” Their light a reflection of God’s light, in whose Kingdom they will always be.

What a reward. As horrible as Hell is, the wonder and the glory of Heaven is spectacular.

Each of the parables we have looked at and will look at have some words - some themes - to consider in the hope they will be easier to remember and apply. For the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, there are three words. They are enemy, watch, and until.

Enemy. The parable points out there will always be a hostile power in the world, seeking and waiting to destroy the good seed spread by Jesus. As already mentioned, what is bad around us is a result of the enemy’s work. So let’s blame Satan rather than God when we suffer.

But did we catch it? The enemy came when the workers were sleeping. The message of that part of the parable is that we not sleep. Which of course is not a physical teaching. Obviously we need to get our physical rest. But let us not sleep spiritually. Let’s watch. Let’s be on our guard to make sure the evil one does not slip into our lives - into our church - and spread bad seed.

How can we watch? Well, we can pray. We can read and study the Bible. We can worship. We can fellowship with good people - with fellow Christians.

And how can we tell who is good rather than bearded darnel? According to the parable, it can be difficult to tell the difference, at least at first, but how can we tell who is good and who is not? We can look at the fruit a person produces. Is the person displaying love, joy, and peace? Patience, kindness, and goodness? Faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? Is he or she doing that, not just in word, but also by deed? If so, the person is good.

Enemy. There is an enemy in the world. His intent is to sow bad seed, thereby doing all he can to disrupt and hurt the results of the good seed sown by Jesus.

Watch. That is what we must do to make sure we are not turned from good to bad. That any weeds around us do not choke out our faith.

We must stay watchful until… Until the end of the world, or until the end of our time in the world.

And think of this. The workers in the field in the parable wanted to tear out the weeds. We may want to do that in our world. How much easier it would be if we could just get rid of all the bad people.

However, the owner of the field said, “No.” Jesus says, “No.”

First of all, the work of Satan will continue until Jesus returns. Again, that is one of the teachings of today’s parable.

Second of all, I wonder if there is another part to the teaching, which is this. I the field in the parable, the weeds were going to remain weeds. There is no way for a physical plant to change. But spiritually, weeds can change. Those who do evil can change their minds and their ways. They can stop following Satan and choose to follow God. They can choose to accept Jesus, thereby avoiding the furnace of fire, instead being gathered into Heaven.

As Jesus taught earlier, we are to love those against us and pray even for those who persecute us. We need to love and pray for the weeds in the world to change to wheat.

Do we recognize there is an enemy at work in the world? That the weeds he sows will cause problems for those of us who are the results of the good seed sown by Jesus?

Will we keep watch, constantly guarding ourselves and this congregation from the problems caused by the enemy?

Will we keep working to help weeds change to wheat? Will we keep working until the final harvest?

We need to do all those things because, knowing the lessons in the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, it is our spiritual responsibility to obey and apply what Jesus taught.

Today’s closing song is A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. As we consider the words, let’s remember that though the power of the enemy is strong, and while we do need to watch so we are not taken away by the enemy, the final victory will belong to God - to Jesus. Let’s be determined to work for the spiritual good of others, including the weeds in the world, doing that until the harvest.

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe -
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate, on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing,
Were not the right man on our side, The man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He -
The Lord of Hosts His name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with evil filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him -
His rage we can endure.
God’s truth abideth still: God’s kingdom is forever.

Lord, there is an enemy in the world. Your enemy and the enemy of Your people.

We need to watch to make sure the enemy makes no inroads in us. We need to watch to protect ourselves from those who follow the enemy.

But those who follow the enemy can change. With Your power, help us to do what we can to help them change.

Keep us strong as we look forward to one day shining like the sun in Heaven. What a reward that will be.

Thank You. Amen.

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