The Kingdom Among the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

This is the second parable of the kingdom of heaven that is found in Matthew 13, and it is one of only two of those parables that is given a detailed explanation. In the parable, Jesus continues the agricultural theme by comparing to the kingdom to somebody who sows wheat in a field, only for an enemy to come in and sow weeds in amongst the wheat. The parable show us how the kingdom of heaven relates to the work of the evil one in the past, the present and the future.

The Past: The Enemy Sows Weeds – The scenario that Jesus creates in this parable is of a contested space. The kingdom of heaven has not come to earth unchallenged, but rather the evil one has attempted to thwart the work of God. This can be traced right back to the fall, when Satan first sowed temptation on God’s earth, and has been replicated ever since. In Jesus’ own day this was manifested in the hostile response that some had to his message of the kingdom.

The Present: Growing Side By Side – Once the sower sees what his enemy has done, his solution is not to act immediately but to allow the wheat and the weeds to grow side by side. A common question that people ask is why there is evil in the world, and this parable offers a response to that question. At the present time, the work of the enemy and the work of God coexist in the world, and it is to protect the sons of the kingdom for the coming harvest that God has allowed this to be the case.

The Future: Harvest Time and Separation – Once harvest time comes, there is a great sifting of the wheat from the weed, with the wheat being brought into the barn and the weeds thrown on the furnace. This harvest represents the end of the age when Christ returns and the kingdom comes in fulness. At that time a great separation will come, with all sons of the evil one being sent to hell, and the righteous brought into the kingdom.

Possible Applications

  • Cultural Engagement – Sometimes Christians struggle with how to operate in the world, and either retreat from it into detached Christian ‘silos’ or synchronise and become like the world. This parable helps us. The wheat is meant to be in amongst the weeds and yet distinct, and this is exactly how we are to be in the world.
  • Patient Endurance – A lot of the time we can find it difficult to understand why bad things happen. In this parable we get an understanding of why the world is the way it is and a promise that it will not stay this way. This gives us the hope to patiently endure adversity.
  • Long For the Harvest – The payoff in the parable is that God has a day planned when the current evil we see will not intermingle with the kingdom. He will return and will judge with justice and bring about the kingdom in all its fulness. This is a day we should long for.