Scripture: He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 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?’ 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?’ But he said, No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 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.”‘” Matthew 13:24-30 ESV
[Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Following a similar agrarian genre to The Parable of the Sower, Jesus expands on the reality of evil forces seeking to disrupt the growth of his kingdom by planting zizania (also known as “darnel” or “tares”) among good seeds. Zizania is a type of rye whose seed is poisonous. In its early stage of growth, it looks like wheat but is easily distinguished as it matures. Thus, when the servants recognize the weeds for what they are, they question their master about how zizania appeared among the wheat he had sown. Learning that an enemy did this, they further inquire whether their master would like them to pull the weeds to encourage the wheat’s growth. But their master tells them to hold off until harvest. Otherwise, they might uproot the good stalks with the tares. He further informs them that the reapers will gather and burn the weeds, bundle the healthy grain, and take it to his barn.
After leaving the crowds and entering a house, Jesus’ disciples ask him the meaning of this parable (13:36-43). He explains:
- The Son of Man is the sower (v.37).
- The field is the world (v.38).
- The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom (v.38).
- The weeds are the sons of the evil one (v38.)
- The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil (v.39)
- The harvest is the final judgment at the end of the age (v.39)
- The reapers are Christ’s angels (v.39)
Jesus further adds that his angels will throw “all causes of sin and all lawbreakers” (v.41) into the fiery furnace (hell), where there will be eternal suffering (v.42). Then, ending on a high note, Christ assures them that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v.43).
Takeaway: Jesus wants to prepare his disciples for the collateral suffering they will encounter once the Holy Spirit births the church at Pentecost and leads them into the fray of spiritual warfare to fulfill his commission (to go makes disciples of all nations, Matthew 28:18-19). For this reason, Christ will spend his last hours before his arrest warning them of persecution while promising them his Holy Spirit, who will guide, protect, and care for them (John 14-16). And when Satan realizes the outcome of his failed last temptation at Calvary, he and his fellow minions will recruit “sons of evil” (wittingly and unwittingly) to wreak havoc on Christ’s kingdom laborers. Indeed, Jesus earlier warned his disciples, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (10:16 ESV).
Two millennia later, not much has changed. Weedy sorts weasel their way into our company in and outside the church community. And some seek to corrupt our spiritual well-being and cause us physical harm. So do we passively subject ourselves to this onslaught? Of course not, but how should we engage in these battles for our souls? Here are a few suggestions:
- Read and reflect on the full breadth of Scripture, including the disturbing passages that warn of persecution and those verses that assure us of our perseverance and protection. It helps to see the big picture of the past, present, and future and what awaits us in eternity.
- Prayerfully put on the whole armor of God each day (Ephesians 6:10-20, click here to read the entire chapter).
- Stay connected to the body of Christ for support, encouragement, and accountability.
- Worship the Father and Son amid persecution and suffering. It will change our focus from our fears and anxiety to the One who suffered for us for the joy set before him—that would be us (Hebrews 12:2).
- Anticipate redemption in our suffering, whether in this life or for eternity. Moreover, there is beauty in our suffering because we fellowship with Christ and will come to know his resurrection power (Philippians 3:10-11) that overcomes the world.
So when we see evil seemingly flourishing around us, we need to remind ourselves of its end-of-story and our bright future: “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who won the war at Calvary and has graciously prepared a place for us in his heavenly kingdom (John 14:2). We confess, though, when persecution and suffering come our way, that we quickly lose sight of the big picture and succumb to worry and self-pity. So would you please help us to see the redemption that awaits us and avail Scripture, prayer, fellowship, and worship to keep our spiritual sight fixed on your Son and his kingdom of glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling