Pigweeds. Thorn bushes. Blackberries. Dandelions. Clover. Sharp grass. Microscopic one day, two inches tall the next. There is no lack of weeds around our house. And they always find a way to come up. So after much work to till them under, hoe them up, and get the little guys with a trowel, the last thing we would do is plant some in the middle of our crop!
Jesus goes on with His agricultural parables to one about growing wheat (Matthew 13). After a field was planted, the enemy sowed weeds in the midst of them. “What do we do?’ the workers asked. “Well, if you try to get them out now, you’ll uproot the good plants. Wait until it is harvest time, and we will separate them all out,” the master said.
Jesus explains this parable as an examination of the kingdom of heaven. He sows good seed which is the true Christians who live for His kingdom. But Satan has planted false people in the middle of these communities. They have time to repent. And in the end, God sends His angels to gather the wheat into the barn, and throw the weeds into the fire. And then the sons of the kingdom of God – those who really belong to Him – shine like the sun. This is an interesting metaphor – it will be like cleaning the smoke off of the windows of a lantern. Suddenly it can shine without any clouds or things to dim the light.
In between the parable and the explanation are a couple of other short parables. One is about a mustard seed. The smallest seed grows into a large plant that is able to be a shade, and home for birds. It is interesting to see where this is placed in Mark 4 and Luke 13 – slightly different places in the story line. So what is Matthew saying by where he has it? The gospels were not written to be chronological textbooks. They were written to frame the character of Jesus, a classic literary method of examining a hero’s life and especially his death. A good resource to explore this genre more is Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays.
The other short parable that Matthew includes is of a woman putting a little leaven in the middle of flour, and how it works through all of the dough to leaven it. Both of these stories look at how a small start can lead to a big end, and how time works to the advantage.
But the final piece to this puzzle is another little paragraph that explains Jesus’ method:
“34 All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet:
‘I will open my mouth in parables;
I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.’”
Jesus is speaking about the patterns that God has planted in the earth, the truths that have been hidden. And He is not explaining them blatantly, but giving people the chance to understand more.
The sower…the weeds…the mustard seed…the leaven…the trend I am seeing is that there are many opportunities for God to work in your heart if you will let Him. There are some people who will look like they have the Christian life down, but they wither or be revealed as a weed in the end. But God can work in a heart slowly, and the word can spread through a large area in ways that are hard to track and understand. So how will you respond to Jesus’ offer to come to His kingdom?
God, thank You for the beauty of parables, stories that weave together truths about Your gracious offer to come join Your kingdom. Please help me to examine my heart and see what You would have me learn. And guide us to praising You for how You work in hidden ways – it is amazing to watch! To You the glory, Amen.