St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Weeds Among The Wheat

Sermon on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Text: Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 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, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

In our sermon text for this morning, Jesus again uses a parable to teach. As we were reminded last week, a parable is a teaching device that Jesus used in which he took events from everyday life to teach a spiritual truth. Last week, Jesus spoke of a sower and four types of ground that received the seed that was sown. We saw that these four types of ground represented different reactions when the Word of God is taught. This morning, Jesus again takes us out to the farm and has us focus on THE WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT. We will look at 1. The Sowing, 2. The Growing and 3. The Mowing.

Jesus begins in verse 24, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” The farmer, we are told, made sure that the seed that he sowed was good seed. He took care in what was sown. However, we continue in verse 25, “25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” This farmer had an enemy. Without the least bit of concern for all the labor that had been done, the expenses incurred, and the hope of a good harvest, to spite him, the enemy oversowed weeds into the farmer’s field. The weeds that he sowed are particularly nasty. They look like wheat plants when they are young. So, they are hard to distinguish from the wheat plants. However, when they mature, they have a black head and play host to a fungus, which if eaten, is poisonous to animals and people.

Later, when the disciples asked for an explanation of the parable, Jesus told them, “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.” (Verses 37-39) Jesus is the sower. He makes sure that his Word is broadcast throughout the world. Just as the farmer was careful to select the good seed and make sure that it was properly sown, so Jesus took great care to make sure that his Word has been kept in its truth and purity and that this is spread throughout the world. Through preaching and teaching, reading, and studying, the Holy Spirit takes the seed of the Word and creates faith in the heart. Those who believe are the wheat.

Jesus also tells us about the enemy. The one who sows the bad seed, the weeds, is the devil. He has been God’s enemy, ever since he rebelled against God. Because he was defeated in the battle in heaven, he has done everything he possibly can to ruin what God has created. That is why he came into the Garden of Eden and tempted Adam and Eve to sin. He could not get back at God, so he tried to destroy the crown of his creation, mankind. The devil, like the enemy of the farmer, does his work at night. His deeds of darkness cannot stand the light of day, the light of God’s Word, for then his lies would be exposed for what they are. The weeds are, Jesus says, “The people of the evil one.” (Verse 38) Jesus uses a Hebrew expression when he said this. To be a “people of” something, meant that this was your character. These weeds are characterized by being of the devil. They follow in his footsteps. Jesus, in speaking to a group of Jewish religious leaders, who refused to believe in him said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.” (John 8:44)

We are also told what the field is: “The field is the world.” (Verse 38) The people of the kingdom, the wheat, the believers share the field with the people of the evil one, the weeds, the unbelievers. Both have been sown here on this earth and, like the plants in the parable, at first may be difficult to distinguish one from the other. They may have the same jobs, customs, political goals. On the outside, they may look just the same. The weeds may even appear to be righteous. They may be upright citizens, charitable givers, the good neighbor next door. However, make no mistake about it. They are weeds.

Jesus continues the story by saying, “When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” (Verse 26) Now the plants have matured a bit further. They have begun to form heads. Now it is easier to see the difference between the wheat and the weeds. When the farmer’s servants looked at the field and saw the weeds, they realized that these were not stray or volunteer weeds. Something was wrong. So, they came to their master and asked, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” (Verse 27) It may also be shocking to us that there are weeds, when the truth of the Gospel has been proclaimed. However, the farmer knew what had happened. He said, “An enemy did this.” (Verse 28) This is why there is still unbelief in the world. The devil works tirelessly, trying to get people to refuse to believe in the truth of the Gospel.

The servants have a plan. “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” (Verse 28) Get rid of the weeds. Pull them up by their roots. However, the owner says, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.” (Verse 29) He realized that, in pulling up the weeds, you would also likely pull up the wheat, as well, since their roots would be entangled. So, he says, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Verse 30)

The suggestion of the servants to pull up the weeds makes sense to our human reason. Just as the weeds hinder the growth of the wheat, so the unbelieving world hinders the growth and flowering of the Christian church. So, why not get rid of the unbelievers? However, the Lord would not have his church engaged in physically ridding the world of weeds. To the church’s shame, she has, at times, tried to do this. We might think of the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition. We think of how the church treated the early reformers like John Huss in Bohemia or Savonarola in Italy. We remember how the church branded Martin Luther a heretic and tried to have him killed. The church perverts justice when it, in Christ’s name, has presumed to torture and execute those whom it regards as heretics.

However, the owner says that they were to leave them until the harvest. The reason is that some of the wheat might be pulled up, as well. If you do this, you end up with a total loss. We have the reminder that God does not want to cut short anyone’s time of grace. Who of us can properly distinguish between the unbelievers who will remain unbelievers and those who will be brought to faith? For that reason, we do not look at people and say that they are not our type of people, or they are not church people. As we are reminded in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Please note the master’s command to “Let both grow together until the harvest.” (Verse 30) In saying this, Jesus is not saying that we are to go along with the unbelieving world in its ideas and ways. He is not minimizing the differences between the wheat and the weeds. We are still to stand up and proclaim the truths of God’s Word, in the hopes that the people we are speaking to might see that they have sinned and that in Jesus Christ there is forgiveness. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:11, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” Jesus reminds us that we are in the world, not of the world. (John 17)

This coexistence will not last forever. Just as the growing season comes to an end and then there is harvest, so also here. The owner said, “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.” (Verse 30) At the harvest, the weeds are easily detected and are taken out of the field and burned up, while the wheat is harvested and brought into the barn. Jesus explains, “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.” (Verses 40-43)

The weeds, the unbelievers, will be harvested and thrown into the fires of hell. It is described as a place of weeping – weeping over lost chances, weeping in sorrow – and gnashing of teeth. The teeth are ground together in pain. They are also ground together in hatred toward those around them, as a dog bares his teeth at an enemy. There is a very real place called hell and, despite what so many will tell you, God will send the unbeliever here.

The wheat, the believers, however, will be harvested and placed in heaven. Here all that causes sin and all that makes life so difficult on earth will be gone. It says that “The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (Verse 43) We will be free from sin and will live in the glory that has been given to us through the work of Jesus Christ. If he had not come to the earth to pay for our sins, we would also have spent our eternity in the fires of hell. We would have been lost forever. However, Jesus came and took our place. He lived a life that followed his Father’s will. He suffered the torments of hell and died to pay the debt that we owed to our God. He rose on Easter morning so that the gates of heaven would be wide open for us. Heaven waits for the believer. It is ours because of what Jesus has done for us.

As we study this parable, we pause and thank God that he has planted in us his Holy Word, so that faith has been created and we have heaven to look forward to. We know that it was nothing on our part that made us attractive to him. He chose us. In addition, when we read about hell and the fact that those who do not believe will spend their eternity there, it causes us to pause. Are there people that I know that do not believe? What can I do to share the Gospel message with them? May God help us all to recognize the urgency in doing this. As we watch the fields around us grow and mature, telling us that in the future, there will be a harvest time, may it remind us to share what we know with others so that they may also, at the last, spend their eternity in glory. We pray, “Even so, Lord, quickly come To your final harvest-home; Gather all your people in, Free from sorrow, free from sin, There, forever purified, In your garner to abide. Come with all your angels, come; Raise the glorious harvest-home.” (Christian Worship #613 v.4) Amen.