Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Ep. 63 - Wheat and Tares

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In Matthew 13:24–30, Jesus tells us this parable:

[24] He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, [25] but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. [26] So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. [27] 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?’ [28] 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?’ [29] But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. [30] 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)

Kingdom Secrets 

For obvious reasons, this parable is called The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (or the Wheat and the Weeds). Matthew's telling of this parable follows immediately after his telling of Jesus' parable of The Sower and the Seeds (Matthew 13:1-9 ESV), two agricultural parables back to back. Though their meanings are not the same, there is something that we can learn from one, in order to understand the other. Specifically, the parable of the Sower and the Seeds includes a rare, behind-the-scenes explanation given to the disciples about why Jesus teaches with parables.  You can read their question and his answer in Matthew 13:10-13:  

[10] Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

[11] And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. [12] For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. [13] This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand." (Matthew 13:10–13 ESV)

So some have been... "given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven." Those that have been given this great gift, will be given more, abundantly more. Those who have not been given to know the secrets: what they have will be taken away. In a very real sense, one could say that there are two types of people in this world: those who have been given to know the secrets and those who have not been given to know the secrets.

Two Types of People

The parable of The Wheat and the Tares also has two types of people. The wheat represents one set of people and the tares represent the other set. A few verses later in Matthew 13, Jesus' disciples also ask for an explanation of this parable. Listen to his explanation:

[37] He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. [38] The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, [39] and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. [40] Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. [41] The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, [42] and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [43] Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." (Matthew 13:37–43 ESV)

So the Son of Man has sown the seeds of the Kingdom in this world. The Kingdom, composed of the "sons of the kingdom" are growing up in this world. They have been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom by their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Since his time in this world, the kingdom with its people, has grown and flourished. There is hardly a place on this planet where the gospel of the Kingdom has not been preached. Jesus prophesied that this would happen before the end, and it has.  In fact, the Gospel's spread is one of the predictors of when the end will come. See Matthew 24:14, which says, "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (ESV)

Key Characteristics

But the sons of the Kingdom are not alone, there are others in this world. The master's servants notice this right away and are ready to take care of the problem, but the master urges caution, not for the sake of the weeds, but for the sake of the wheat. There is a chance that some wheat could get uprooted along with the weeds if the separation is attempted too soon. An explanation isn't given for this, but what is clear is that, as the end draws near, the distinctions between the wheat and the weeds will be clear enough for the reapers (the angles) to discern the difference. Two key characteristics that are mentioned in Jesus' explanation are "all causes of sin and all law-breakers."  

Unlike any other time in world history, at least on a global scale, issues are arising which are presenting themselves as opportunities to be full-grown, ready-to-harvest wheat or weeds. Across the globe, permeating every corner of every cultural community, regardless of national boundaries, societal conventions, language, history, or world views, people are aligning themselves on one side or the other. Life or death, fidelity or promiscuity, law or licentiousness, orthodoxy or progressive beliefs, true justice or social justice, humility and repentance or pride and permissiveness, and ultimately... the love of Christ or love of the world. As things come to their fullness, the distinctive differences between the wheat and the weeds are becoming much more clear. 

Take a moment to consider with whom you've aligned yourself. Are your allies the meek and humble of the earth or are they the boastful and proud? Have you locked arms with those who are hateful or those who are compassionate? And... now, don't miss this, because this is one of the two key defining characteristics that our Master Teacher states...  Are you on the side of the law-breakers or the law keepers? 


As we near the end, it is important to keep this role of law at the center of our minds. Law has not ceased to play a role in the hearts and minds of those who have been saved by grace through the gospel message. The Law of God still stands firm as a guiding principle in a world that is overrun with weeds. It clears a path for us. It is written on our hearts and in our minds. We uphold it and keep it by the very grace of God that saved us from a righteousness that comes by the law. It was never for making us righteous, but for pointing us to righteousness. 

Lawlessness was already at work in Paul's day but has been subdued by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Lawlessness will increase as the faith of many will grow cold. At the very end, there will be a "man of lawlessness" that will be at the forefront of all abandoning of all of God's law. Consider 2 Thessalonians 2:9–12

[9] The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, [10] and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. [11] Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, [12] in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thessalonians 2:9–12 ESV)

As the wheat is beginning to develop the fullness of its fruit and the weeds are distinguishing themselves from the wheat, through their lawlessness, it is only a matter of time before the lawless one appears. May you be aligned with the grace of God through the work of his Son and by the strengthening of his powerful Spirit as displayed in the law of God that is written on our hearts and keeping us until his coming. 

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