Those who read last week’s gospel, would have heard about wheat being sown in different soil conditions. This time Jesus looks at the seed, not the ground, and lays more challenges for us.
Matthew 13:24‑30, 36‑43
24Jesus put before the crowd another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26When the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well, 27so the slaves of the farmer came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” 28He answered, “An enemy has done this.” The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” 29but he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’
36Then He left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.’ 37He answered, ‘The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seeds are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evil-doers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Text © The New Revised Standard Version (English version), alt, used with permission.
If you started reading this passage and thought it was the parable of the sower sowing seed in good soil, rocky soil, and elsewhere, then you would not be alone, but in this part of the parable Jesus looks not at the soil into which the seeds are planted, but at the very seeds themselves. I truly wonder, at times, whether any of His audience understood what He was saying.
Jesus had a bad habit of telling stories that revealed much for those with some inside knowledge, but even the disciples had to keep asking Him for explanations. Wearing my teaching hat I would say, based on stories like this one, that Jesus failed miserably to communicate with His students. However, He kept getting large crowds, and people coming to Him for healing, so He must have been better at getting across His message than seems from parables such as these.
The farmer has spent time and money getting his good seed into what he hopes is fertile ground so that he can get a decent crop, feed his family and slaves, and make a living out of the rest. Along comes the trouble maker and plants weeds in amongst the real crop to reduce the value of it. Something else which has the same effect is the absence of vital rain. I think of all those farmers in the Central West and Great Southern who took advantage of really good summer and early autumn rain this year to plant seed for what looked like it would be a bumper harvest, only for the normal winter rain to miss them completely.
This story, though, is not about a lack of rain, but the actions of someone with evil intent trying to contaminate the crop (the Good News) so that those supplied with the fruit of the crop (the readers and listeners) get an unpleasant taste (the wrong message). If we repeatedly get an unpleasant taste when eating something we will be turned off, and, in the case of the Good News, losing interest in even listening. That’s Bad News. Are those occasions when I have opted to worship in another church examples of me avoiding the unpleasant taste caused by someone contaminating the Word? Should I stick with the group I know, and let God do the sifting? What would Jesus do? He certainly didn’t back off when the temple authorities were contaminating the Word. All we need to do is remember the story of the money changers, or the widow who put her last coins into the treasury.
What we can do is be on guard in case the thief should come when we are least expecting it, or come bearing what look to be attractive gifts to entice us away from the real message. If we are alert then we will check to see if those unpleasant tastes are genuine, or the result of contamination, and we will avoid listening to those who persist in the contamination. The wheat can grow up next to the weed but we know that the farmer will have the weeds removed first when it comes time to gather the crops. If we have been listening to the Good News we will be part of the harvest, and we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.
Have we listened, or have we just heard, the message from this parable? Are we like the wheat that has been sown, being abundant as fruit of the Good News, and therefore bringing others to God, or are we like the weeds, trying to distract people from listening to that message, and taking them away from God? I pray that the strength of the good seed will endure over the weakness of the weeds.