Summary: When the end comes, it will become clear who those people are whose faith is truly in Jesus, and it will become clear who those are who have been just playing a religious game.
When I was a kid, weeding the garden was one of my least favorite activities. It was often hot out there and my back would hurt from bending over. Worst of all, I thought it was monotonous work, so often I did not pay real close attention to what I was doing. And, sure enough, I would sometimes pull up a bean or a pea or a carrot plant along with the weeds. I think my Mom thought I did that on purpose so she would decide to do the job herself, but really I was just careless. That simple mistake of confusing a weed with the plant you want to grow, is the basis of a parable that Jesus tells in our text today. We are again in Matthew, Chapter 13, and we will be exploring Verses 24-30 and 36-43. This little story about a very ordinary part of life contains some important spiritual truths that we as Christians need to hear and heed. Let's pray that God would help us understand His Word for us today.
Let's look at what the New International Version titles "The Parable of the Weeds." Matthew 13:24-26 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared." What the enemy planted was almost certainly a weed called "bearded darnel" which looks very much like wheat when the plants are young. However, when the heads of grain appear on the wheat, there is no doubt about which plant is which. 13:27-30 "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?' 'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 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.'" That is the story. What does it mean? Fortunately for us, Jesus' disciples asked that question, and in Verses 37-43 we have Jesus' explanation of His parable. The Lord says, 13:37 He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man." "The Son of Man" is a title for the Messiah which Jesus claims for himself. So in other words, the one who planted the seed is Jesus. 13:38 "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,..." The sons of the kingdom are believers in Jesus Christ - Christians. The sons of the evil one are all those who reject Jesus as Lord and Savior. 13:39 "...and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels." This is the cast of characters.
Matthew 13:40 "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age." The focus of Jesus' story is the end of the age, the end of history. This will be the time when Jesus Christ returns to the earth. As we have talked about before, the Bible tells us that we don't know when this will occur. It is not for us to know the times and seasons of the end of history. It may be tomorrow or a thousand years from now. 13:41 "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." That is Jesus' way of referring to all who reject Him. 13:42 "They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This is the destination of those who reject Christ. It seems clear that Jesus is talking about hell. It is difficult to know how literally to take this description, but it is a picture which Jesus paints for us almost every time He speaks of the punishment of the nonbelievers. 13:43 "Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."
That, friends, is the story Jesus tells of the weeds. Obviously, one implication of this text is a warning to those who do not trust in and follow Jesus Christ. Such an individual may succeed in fooling other people. Everyone may think that he or she is a wonderful person and even a wonderful Christian. But God can never be fooled. When the end comes, it will become clear who those people are whose faith is truly in Jesus, and it will become clear who those are who have been just playing a religious game. That is a very solemn warning to anyone here who is not a genuine believer in Jesus Christ. But, there is another important lesson here too. It is not always easy to distinguish between those who are believers in Christ and those who are not. Last week as we explored the parable of the sower, of the soils, we noted that not all who claim to be Christians really are. There are those who seem very sincere in their belief, and excited about Christ, but their faith proves to be very temporary. One of the things Jesus does in this parable is to remind us that we as human beings should not be going around deciding who are the true Christians and who are the counterfeits. That is not our job. If we try to do that, we are going to do some real damage. We have to let God sort things out in the end. This is an important truth and we will come back to it a bit later, but I want to first respond to a couple of mistakes people make in understanding this parable.