Matthew 13:24 – He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field,
The gospels of Mark, Luke and John all use the expression ‘Kingdom of God”. The kingdom of God is the sovereignty (supreme power, dominion and authority) of God, which is universal. It existed from the beginning and will know no end (it is eternal). It is overall, and embraces all; it is unlimited in its scope. It is the subject of New Testament revelation.
Only the gospel of Matthew uses the expression “Kingdom of Heaven”. The kingdom of heaven is a phase or aspect of the kingdom of God. It refers to the dispensation that began when Jesus was rejected as the Messiah and it will end when he returns to earth as king. This is the dispensation that we are currently living in. It is also referred to as the age of grace or the gospel dispensation. It is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy.
The parables of Jesus show us what we can expect this age to be like. In our last lesson, the parable of the sower, we saw that Jesus plants (sows) the seeds of the gospel into the hearts (soil) of men. The type of soil, that is, the state of a man’s heart, determines the outcome of the seed.
Jesus now reveals another aspect of the kingdom of Heaven in what is known as the parable of the weeds. In this parable, a man plants good seed in his field.
Matthew 13:25 – but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.”
The weeds referred to here may possibly be what is known as darnel grass. It is a species of ryegrass whose seeds are poisonous to humans. Eating these seeds can produce violent nausea, convulsions, diarrhea and death. When growing, it has an uncanny likeness to wheat. The difference between the two can only be seen when they begin to bear fruit.
Other possible candidates for the weeds in question are blasted grain, degenerate wheat, chess grass or brome grass. Since the truth behind the parable is not dependent on the exact identification of the weed, any of these speculations are acceptable. All we really need to keep in mind is that the tares/weeds and the wheat looked identical until harvest time.
Matthew 13:26-27 – “So when the plants came up and bore grain then the weeds appeared also. 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?”
The two plants looked so identical when growing, that the servants only discovered the weeds when the grain formed.
How interesting that we just saw this principle back in Matthew chapter 7, where Jesus says a tree is known by its fruits! Here is an identical parallel of that – the difference between the weed and the wheat can only be known when we see the fruit.
Matthew 13:28-29 – “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? “But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.”
The servants were more than willing to take action, but the action they proposed was very zealous and would be harmful to the true wheat. Jesus tells them to let them both continue to exist side-by-side for the time being.
Matthew 13:30 – 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.’”
According to the will of the Lord, both will grow together for a time, but in the end a separation will be made. And not only a separation, but a distinction – the wheat will be safely and carefully stored in the barn, while the weeds will be bound together and burned.
How do you interpret the parable of the weeds? How does it apply to the present gospel dispensation? Take a few minutes to form an answer. In a little while Jesus will give us the correct answer and you can see how close you were to finding out the ‘secret/mystery’.
Matthew 13:31-32 – He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’
Just like that tiny mustard seed, the era of the gospel started out very small and seemingly insignificant. In fact, its earliest beginning passed by completely unnoticed by most people. As you recall, the birth of Christ (the word made flesh) was in a manger; very little notice was taken except by some shepherds and a few wise men from a non-Jewish nation. Likewise, the early life of Jesus was also virtually unknown and has passed into obscurity.
Over time, the mustard plant began to grow. In the same way, Jesus’ ministry also began to grow, eventually becoming public. People started to take notice of the gospel message. After the resurrection of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit, that message began to explode onto the world scene.
The mustard plant become so large, it became a shelter for other life. Although the gospel message was preached to the Jews first, it was too big to be limited to just the Jewish nation. As we have seen many times, God had always intended to bring the Gentiles (other life) under the umbrella of salvation as well.
Matthew 13:33 – He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
The bible sometimes uses the word ‘leaven’ in a negative connotation. For example, in Matthew 16:11 we find Jesus warning the disciples against the ‘leaven’ of the Sadducees and Pharisees. However, that is not the case here. Jesus guides us to the correct interpretation when he says “the kingdom of heaven is like…” In other words, this parable describes the gospel age.
The leaven is initially obscured in some flour, but eventually it multiplies and leavens the entire batch of dough. The results are unmistakable. In the same way, the gospel message started out obscurely, but has progressed from Judea to Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the world. Here too, the results are unmistakable!
Many people also see a secondary principle at work in the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven. Instead of just referring to the growth or spread of the gospel message through the earth, it may also be applied to the individual human heart.
When a person first accepts the gospel, it takes root in our hearts but it is still a very immature entity. We must grow in grace, working with the Holy Spirit to make the gospel mature in our hearts. As we grow and mature in our faith, we become more and more like Jesus.
Matthew 13:34-35 – All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundations of the world.”
Neither the masses of common Jews nor the Jewish leaders were ready for a clear statement of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. That being the case, Jesus teaches them in parables. This allows the information to stay in their minds and hearts until it has a chance to take root. It also keeps their interest, so that they continue listening and seeking.
What, exactly, has been hidden or kept secret since the foundation of the world?
Ephesians 3:8-9 – To me (the apostle Paul)… this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things…
The secret or mystery hidden from the foundation of the world is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Specifically, salvation is given to man through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is found numerous places in the New Testament including Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:7 and Colossians 1:26.
Praise be to God that this is not a mystery to us; because we have been born in the gospel dispensation (the time of the kingdom of heaven), we were born under the revelation of the greatest mystery of the ages!
Yet, the gospel is still a mystery to many people and nations. We must do our part to spread the gospel message throughout the earth – and in our own neighborhoods as well!
Matthew 13:36 – Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.”
The crowds went away having heard a sermon by the Son of God, but they were not changed by it. That seems a bit shocking but then, how many times have we too, heard the word but it did not impact us?
Did you take a few minutes to determine the meaning of the parable of the weeds? If so, read on and see how much you understood.
Matthew 13:37 – He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”
The good seed is the good news; salvation along with all its riches and privileges. These are sown in the world by Jesus, the Son of Man.
Once Jesus ascended into heaven to sit by the right hand of the Father, the Holy Spirit came down to earth to empower believers continue to preach and share the good news with all nations. This task will continue throughout the duration of this age. It only stops when the age ends, with the return of Christ.
Matthew 13:38-39 – “The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels.”
So, clearly the world is the field. True believers in Christ represent the wheat.
Satan is the evil one, who came and sowed weeds in the world. Weeds represent people who work iniquity and are disobedient to the gospel. They are enemies of Christ and of the gospel message. They seek to do the will of their father Satan, who comes to steal, to kill and to destroy.
Back in verses 28-29, the master’s workers offered to pluck up the weeds, but the master declined. His decision was to allow the weeds and the wheat to exist together, until the time of the final harvest. So, while the righteous may wish that God would immediately put an end to wickedness, God has decided to do otherwise. For His own righteous and just purposes, He has decided to allow wickedness to continue until the end of this age.
Take a moment and consider some of the things that God accomplishes in our spiritual lives by allowing us to live in an age where good and evil are both present. We learn to love as he loves. We learn to forgive as he forgives. We learn to be patient, good, kind, longsuffering and joyful. We learn the true meaning of peace and happiness. We learn to walk with God and we have opportunities to learn his ways. We develop trust in Him. We learn to hear his voice and follow him in all things. And these are only the things we know or understand. We can be sure that God, whose ways are higher than our ways, is also accomplishing things in us that we don’t even understand yet!
Also of note back in verses 28-29, is the fact that the master does not want the weeds plucked up, because the wheat may be destroyed or damaged in the process. This shows that God spares the wicked for the sake of the righteous, reserving all judgment for the final day when divine justice will be executed and each person will be recompensed according to his/her own works.
The day of judgment/divine justice will happen at the end of the age, which is represented in the parable as the harvest.
Angels will somehow be connected to this great harvest as evidenced by the book of Revelation:
Revelation 14:15 – And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.”
However, their precise role is not so easy to understand. We may have to wait until the end of the age to find out exactly how they assist the Master!
Matthew 13:40-42 – “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all lawbreakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
A final separation of the righteous and the wicked will occur at the end of this age.
Those who rejected the gospel and persist in sin will be sent to hell, which is a place of severe torment and punishment. They will inherit shame and everlasting contempt.
Matthew 13:43 – “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
The saints and faithful servants of Christ shall receive glory, honor and eternal life. We will inherit a kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. We need have no fear when the end of the age comes upon us, for we will be taken to Heaven, to live forever with Jesus, our Lord, Savior and King!
There, we will experience what no eye has seen, no ear has heard and no earthly tongue is able to express. What a wonderful day that will be!
So let me offer you some encouragement and some relief: Just as there is a big difference between and a weed and wheat, so should there be a big difference between the righteous and the wicked. So when you are attacked for being ‘narrow minded’ or ‘old fashioned’ or even ‘a bigot’, don’t let that disturb you. In fact, it should be an encouragement to you. Remember what Jesus said:
Matthew 5:11-12 – Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…
There will always be conflict between the righteous and the wicked in this age, but take heart – it will not last! The day of separation will come, when Jesus comes to take us home, and we leave all that is sinful behind!
Let me offer you some strength: The timing of your birth was not an accident. Jesus planned for you to live your life in the present age – the gospel dispensation. He knew you would be living side-by-side with evil and even though it can be a struggle, remember that God is using your present circumstances to bring about something glorious in you. Take heart! God will cause you to be victorious in Christ Jesus!
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.