Summary: How to discover make-believers in the church, and make-believing attitudes in ourselves.
Nobody likes weeds. Weeds are the bane of our existence. We do nothing, and weeds come up. We spray like crazy, and weeds come back. There’s one weed in particular that I dislike more than any other. I don’t know what they are called – but I have my own name for them: “Explode-a-weeds.”
I’m sure you’ve seen them. Innocuous looking plants with little seed pods on the top – innocuous, that is, until you go to pull one out. Suddenly you are surrounded by millions and millions (or at least it seems like millions) of seed pods. They literally explode around you – spreading seeds for next year’s crop all over the area you just carefully weeded.
We’ve probably had weeds as long as we’ve been planting things. Weeds are highly adaptable – have you ever noticed that weeds grow where other plants won’t? Weeds are also sneaky – sometimes we plant corn in our garden. Now, we may never see this particular weed in years – but as soon as we plant corn, up comes this plant that looks just like corn – but isn’t – it’s a weed. Now, I could go into the garden and pull it out, but when they are young they look just like corn seedlings – so I would be in danger of pulling up the corn plants right along side the weeds.
Jesus takes this very familiar scene in everyday life and applies it spiritually – in another one of His stories, called parables, designed to make us think about spiritual things in a new way. Let’s begin in Chapter 13, verse 24.
24 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 root up 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.’"
You’ve probably heard the story before, but picture yourselves in the sandals of someone hearing it for the first time – without the explanation. As I’ve mentioned before – after Jesus’ plain talk previously, these stories might seem confusing at first. It’s like Jesus is now addressing different audiences differently. To the Pharisees He speaks judgment, to the people, He speaks in ways the curious can understand, but the callous won’t have a clue.
We’ll skip around a little here – as Jesus explains the parable to His disciples starting in verse 36:
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 sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons 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 fiery 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. He who has ears, let him hear.
Remember – this is a story. Jesus is painting pictures for us – but we are simply too simple to understand the kingdom in all of its complexity, so Jesus gives us lots of pictures, each one with a different point of view.
This point of view is relatively simple on the surface: in the world Jesus has broadcast His gospel which is received by many, but not by all. Everyone is either a member of God’s kingdom (the seeds) or Satan’s (the weeds.) God will wait patiently until every one of His “seeds” is brought into the kingdom, then He’ll weed out the unbelievers and put them in a place of sorrow and pain.