July 21, 2002 -- NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST -- Proper 11
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
The Parable of Weeds among the Wheat
24 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; 25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. 26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ’Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ 28He answered, ’An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ’Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29But he replied, ’No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. 30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ "
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches."
The Parable of the Yeast
33 He told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened."
The Use of Parables
34 Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. 35This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet:
"I will open my mouth to speak in parables;
I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world."
Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds
36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." 37He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; 38the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!
Jesus is in the midst of his “parabolic,” discourse. This section has three parables- the weeds, the mustard seed and leaven- and an explanation of the parable of the weeds.
The Parable of the Weeds verses twenty-four to thirty, has an attached explanation verses thirty-six to forty-three, and sandwiched between them are two parables, the Mustard Seed and the Leaven, verses thirty-one to thirty-three, both making the same point that the small beginnings of the kingdom cannot hold a candle to the great results at the end of the process. The Parable of the Weeds and its explanation makes much the same point as the Parable of the Sower, chapter thirteen verses one to eight, that once the word is sown it grows on its own despite any and all obstacles. While this Parable of the Weeds is found only in Matthew it seems to be a rewriting of the Parable of the Seed Growing Secretly in Mark 4: 26-29. This “reworking” or “rewriting” along with the two explanations, that of the Sower and the Weeds, indicates how the original teaching of Jesus could and would be adapted to various circumstances, situations, settings, and problems. Whether these adaptations were done by Jesus or by the evangelists or by someone else is an open question. Likely, it would be a combination of all three possibilities.