Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Jesus often taught people by the ancient method of telling stories that made points. He would tell these parables, rich with multiple layers of meaning, and allow the people who heard them to “get it” – to understand the point.
Jesus tried to get people to look at life beyond today. In his day people speculated about many things, including the presence of evil in the world. They seemed to have answers for most of life’s most vexing problems.
Jesus told a parable about the world and why it is in the current situation. Today we call this explanation “The Parable of the Weeds.” Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is similar to situations all of the listeners knew about. A farmer goes out to plant his fields using what he knows is good wheat seed. But that evening, an enemy came and sowed others seeds besides the good ones. These were weed seeds.
When the wheat sprouted, the farmer’s employees saw the weeds mixed with the wheat and were puzzled. Where did they come from? What should they do-pull up the weeds?
The farmer was too skilled at his craft to tell the hands to pull the weeds while the wheat was young and tender. If they had done so, they would have uprooted the wheat also. In the parable the farmers tells his servants, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” That statement is the heart of the parable. From that we can learn several things.
I. The Need for Patience
We can understand the impulse of the farmer’s servants to pull up the weeds. Anyone who has ever planted a garden or tended a yard knows how aggravating weeds can be. But for ancient farmers, they were more than just an inconvenience. They seriously interfered with the yield of the wheat, causing a shortfall and possible financial ruin. The desire to pull them up was not a beautification project. It was possibly a matter of life and death.
But the farmer had seen it before. In Jesus’ explanation of the parable, the farmer was the “Son of Man” – Jesus himself. He knew that the weeds, a symbol of evil in the world – could not easily be eradicated. Pull up the bad, and you destroy the good also. We must have patience to wait until the right time.
Patience is not a virtue that many people today possess. We rush headlong through life and don’t like waiting for anything, especially if it takes time. Today many people are worried about the economy. While responsible financial experts are advising people to wait it out, others are turning to investments they think will bring quick profits. Thomas M. Anderson, in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, explains this rush. “When storm clouds gather over the economy, people often seek shelter in a glass of whiskey, a pack of cigarettes or the green blaze of a roulette table. That’s why many financial advisors are telling clients to invest in sin as a bulwark against a possible recession.”
In this parable, Jesus is teaching the need for patience with the world as it is while we anticipate the world as it can be. “Let both grow until the harvest.”
II. The Need for Perspective
Just as we need patience, we also need a new perspective on life. In his explanation of the parable, Jesus was clear that God is working in the process. God knows which are the wheat and which are the weeds, and there will come a time of separation. Our task is to have a wide, long-range perspective to understand this truth.
An old “Calvin and Hobbes” cartoon shows the two main characters sitting on a rock outside. Calvin says, “The problem with people is they don’t look at the big picture. Eventually we’re each going to die, our species will go extinct, the sun will explode and the universe will collapse. Existence is not only temporary, it’s pointless! We’re all doomed, and worse, nothing matters!”
Hobbes replies, “I see why people don’t like to look at the big picture.” The boy responds, “Well, it puts a bad day in perspective.”
The parable of the weeds reminds us that we cannot know all the facets of life’s story right now. We need to pull back from it and try to get a bigger picture. God is involved in the process. When the time is right, the wheat and the weeds will be separated. Until then we need patience and perspective.