The Parable of the Weeds

Pastor Jon Brohn

Worship Series: Summer School - Lessons from Jesus
Worship Theme: The Parable of the Weeds

Lesson: Joel 3:12-16 (EHV)
Gospel & Sermon Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (NIV)
Music: CW 194 Oh, that I Had a Thousand Voices, CW 613 Come, You Thankful People, Come, CW 250 From All that Dwell Below the Skies (in worship folder)
Message Notes & Growth Group Questions

Message: The Parable of the Weeds

Can we imagine a world without weeds? When God created the world weeds didn’t exist. God only introduced weeds once Adam and Eve had disobeyed him and fell into sin. The LORD told Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17-18 NIV). Ever since that day, weeds have plagued farmers and homeowners. They choke out good plants and steal nutrition from the ground. They can even be poisonous. We pull them, we spray them, we get rid of them, and they still attack our gardens and lawns.

Have you ever planted a garden? Planting takes planning. We calculate how much garden area is available for planting. We purchase individual packets of seeds to plant cucumbers, beans, peas, and herbs. Once the planning and purchasing is done, it’s time to plant. We dig shallow furrows in the moist earth. We carefully shake out a few seeds at a time and gently cover them with a blanket of dirt. Wheat farmers in Jesus’ day tilled their fields, often using oxen. If they didn’t have oxen, they would use a sharp tool or even a stick to loosen the soil. Once the soil had been prepared, they would walk up and down, casting handfuls of wheat kernels to the ground.

Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a farmer who chooses only good seed to plant in his field. The farmer went out and scattered the good seed. One night, an enemy came. He brought a sack full of weed seeds. While everyone slept, the enemy sowed his seed the same way, scattering it evenly over the newly planted ground.

Jesus doesn’t always explain his parables, but here in Matthew’s gospel, he tells us exactly what each character in the story represented. “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:37–39 NIV).

Jesus has planted all kinds of believers here in this world. At the same time, in this field along with all the good seed the enemy, Satan, sows weeds. Jesus tells us that the weeds are “the people of the evil one.” He isn’t just saying that there will be hypocrites within the family of believers here at church. He’s also teaching us the reality that as long as we live here in this sinful world, we will be surrounded by unbelievers.

The field is planted—good seed mixed with bad. The sun comes and warms the earth. Rain soaks the soil. The seeds begin to grow. “When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared” (Matthew 13:26 NIV). It is almost impossible to tell the difference between good seed and bad. Once the plants sprout and grow, the farmer can tell which are which. The weeds planted by the enemy were a particularly harsh plant. They looked the same as the wheat, but once they began to form heads, they produced kernels that were black and noxious. The weeds grew with the wheat—growing side by side, roots intertwined.

Our world is choked with weeds, and it’s not difficult to see them. Last week the weeds stood for the worries that try to choke out our faith. This week, the weeds are people, people who don’t believe in Jesus and don’t want us to believe either. The weeds are all around us—noxious people whose words and actions lead us away from Jesus instead of closer to him. Think about some of the people you know at work. They invite you to join them for an evening of fun—fun that goes way beyond what you know is good and right. Think about your friends at school—the ones who offer alcohol at their parties, or the one who shared a little something to make you feel good. These people aren’t bad, at least not on the outside. On the inside, they are like those noxious weeds—producing things that are dangerous for your faith.

There are even plenty of weeds within Jesus’ church. They look like believers, they sound like believers, but on the inside they are focused on themselves. They look at Jesus as a piece in a bigger puzzle, and they can change the message of the gospel to fit their own ideas. The apostle Paul warned many years ago that any message that says we are saved through anything but Christ alone “is really no gospel at all” (Galatians 1:7 NIV). These weeds grow rapidly, threatening to choke out our faith. We feel the chokehold more and more each day. The weeds surround the wheat, and they are dangerous!

Both good and bad seeds were sown. Both have grown. What should we do about all the weeds? The farmer’s servants said, “‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’” (Matthew 13:27-28 NIV). Pull the weeds! Buy weed-killer and spray them. Get rid of all the weeds among the wheat! The workers knew how dangerous the weeds could be. The farmer, however, was more concerned about the good plants. He told them, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn” (Matthew 13:29-30 NIV). The farmer would rather allow the weeds to grow among the wheat rather than lose some of his precious grain.

Why doesn’t God get rid of the weeds now? Why doesn’t he clean up the world now? Jesus’ explanation helps us understand. “The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:39-43 NIV). The time is coming when God’s angels will do the mowing, when the good will be separated from the bad. Jesus will send his angels on the last day to collect the unbelievers. They will gather up all those who have said and done evil and ungodly things—anything against the words and promises of God. The angels will take the weeds and will throw them into the fire of hell for all eternity. Then they will collect the wheat—the believers—and bring it into the Father’s barns. Believers will enjoy the pleasures of heaven forever. Even though the weeds are among the wheat right now, there will be justice. In the mowing, God will carry out his justice against those who have rejected him and he will rescue us.

The temptation for us as God’s children—the wheat—is to do the mowing ourselves. “Lord, do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?” The Lord’s answer is the same one Jesus gave in the parable: “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.” We are convinced we know who the weeds are, and we are tempted to call them out all by ourselves. Look at the evil in the world around us. We see the murderer, the child abuser, the sex trafficker arrested, tried, and sentenced. We think, “Good, and I hope he gets what he deserves!” Lord, forgive us! We don’t do the mowing and the separating. Only God can do that! God himself tells us, “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV). God knows hearts! God knows every last believer and unbeliever. He loves the wheat and he loves the weeds. He wants all of us to hear his Word, repent, and believe. It sounds crazy, but that’s how much God loves this world. God wants terrorists to hear the gospel. He wants the murderer to repent. He wants the child abuser and the sex trafficker to stop. God loves the weeds! In his patience he has given each one of them a time of grace. He decides how long that time is. He decides when that time is over. Remember, we aren’t the mowers!

God has given the wheat an important job in this whole process. We need to share what we have with the weeds that surround us. Our Savior Jesus planted us in his field. He made us “good seed” when we were baptized. Through the water of baptism, Jesus connected us with his death and resurrection. The payment for sin is ours. Jesus died for you and me. Forgiveness belongs to us. Jesus rose from the dead to prove it. We have the power to share that message. The good news about Jesus has the power to turn choking, noxious weeds into fruitful stalks of wheat. We can’t do that, but God’s Word can.

“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Do you have ears? Can you hear? Jesus’ words are for all of us. He wants us to consider the blessings we have as wheat planted in his field. He wants us to think about the weeds and their desperate need for the life that Jesus offers. We don’t have a lot of time. The day the Lord mows us could be today. We can’t afford to waste a moment of the time that God has given us. Are we stubbornly clinging to a grudge against someone? Today is the day we need to repent and forgive. Have we judged someone on the basis of gossip rather than fact? Today is the day we need to repent and mend that relationship. Do we harbor a desire in our hearts for someone or something that is not ours? Does our temper drive our responses out of control? Today is the day we need to repent. He who has ears, let him hear. The harvest is coming, and the Lord wants us for his barns, not for the burn pile.

There are weeds among the wheat. The enemy sows them. They grow. One day the time for mowing will come, and God’s angels will sort the good from the bad. We won’t get mixed up in the wrong pile, and the weeds can’t choke us off. We have God’s promise that he will never forget or forsake his children. No matter how many weeds there are, no matter how bad it looks, we can be sure that Jesus will take care of us and make sure that we make it safely into our Father’s barns. Amen.