The Wheat and the Weeds

Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | July 19 - Sunday Morning,

Sunday Morning,
July 19
The Wheat and the Weeds | Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Tom Groelsema, Speaker

Well, that is our prayer, that when Jesus comes back and He sits on His judgment throne, I hope it’s your prayer that you would be found hidden in Christ, and that’s Jesus is going to teach us about this morning.

So turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 13. We’ll be reading together from verses 24 through 30 and verses 36 to 43. Matthew 13, verses 24 through 30 and 36 to 43 as we continue to think about the parables of the kingdom. So we’ve been in this series for a couple of weeks and we’ll continue on through the summer, at least into mid to late August, as Jesus is unveiling for us what His kingdom is like, teaching us about what to expect regarding His kingdom.

So let’s again read from Matthew 13. Let’s begin at verse 24. Hear God’s Word.

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 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?’ And 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. 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.”’”

Then we go down to verse 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.” And He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 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. 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 law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

Let’s pray to God for just that.

We do pray, God, that You will open our ears to hear Your Word. Not just to hear the words but to hear with our heart, to hear the message. We pray, Jesus, that You would meet us here this morning and help us, Lord, to think about our own life, our own hearts, our own faith, to ask are we really trusting in Christ or not. And our prayer is that when the end of the age comes, and Jesus, You sit on Your judgment throne, that all of us here, whether in this building or listening at home or some other place, will be hidden in Christ. And if we’re not, prompt us to trust and believe in Him, even today. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.

Well, dear people of God, every day Sheri and I are settling in to our own home, our new home, and many of you have been asking us how that’s been going. We appreciate you asking and your interest in that. And of course that’s a lot that still has to be settled and one of those things is my yard. So this is a new yard to me. I mean, we, we had our own home in Michigan, we had our own yard, but this is a new yard to me because I have never tried to grow Bermuda grass before. And so when we moved in I started thinking I wonder how this goes, is there anything special about Bermuda grass, and so I started talking to my neighbor, kind of admiring his yard, how green it is, how plush it is. So I said, you know, what, what do you do to take care of Bermuda grass, and he said to me, he said, “You need to consult the Bermuda Bible.”

That’s great for a pastor, right? Go to the Bermuda Bible.

And so I’ve been reading the Bermuda Bible. And the Bermuda Bible has been telling me things about fertilizing, when I’m supposed to do that. How I’m supposed to mow it. You know, how high or how short I need to mow the grass. When I ought to water it. And then also it’s been telling me about how to weed my lawn. Because one of the things I discovered after we moved in and I started mowing, there’s all these little weeds popping up almost as if somebody kind of went over my yard and scattered weed seed over my yard.

So I’ve been taking the question, you know, how do I get rid of them? I want to kill the weeds, I don’t want to kill the grass. What am I supposed to do and to the Bermuda Bible I go.

Now weeds, you know, they’ve been around ever since the fall, right? As God said to Adam and Eve, “You’re going to work the ground and thorns and thistles are going to grow.”

I was talking to one of my other neighbors about weeds and they said to me, “The weeds here, Tom, you need to know this, the weeds here they are resilient.”

You’re going to have a tough time getting rid of weeds. You might get rid of some, and then new ones pop out.

In this age, it’s true, isn’t it? In this age, there is always going to be a coexistence of good plants and weeds. And it’s weeds that make this parable that Jesus is teaching us this morning unique. It’s really what makes this parable stand out from all the others, Jesus talking about weeds.

The disciples, like most of the rest of Israel, they were longing for the coming of the kingdom. And the disciples had good reason for that. Jesus back in Mathew chapter 4 said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It is here, it is at hand, it is about ready to come and there were people who were asking this question. “Really? Is that really true, Jesus?”

I think even the disciples were asking it.

Where is the kingdom that You said was going to come?

And if the kingdom is at hand, why is there still so much sin and evil in the world? When is the kingdom of God going to triumph? When is sin going to be destroyed? When will we see the full coming of Your kingdom?

It was these kinds of questions that are behind Jesus’ teaching about the wheat and the weeds.

So first of all, just think with me about the parable itself. This is another one of those parables that has an explanation to it. And we can kind of think about this parable with sort of three pieces.

First of all, Jesus teaches how wheat and weeds are sown. And so He paints a picture of a field and Jesus says there was a man who went out to sow good seed but while he was sleeping, an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. It was actually while his men were sleeping. Secretly, sinisterly, in darkness, an enemy comes and sows weeds among the good wheat.

Many think the weeds were probably something called bearded darnel, kind of a weed that grew in biblical times, a weed that in its earliest stages looked just like the wheat. In fact, not until the grain would mature could you distinguish between the wheat and the weeds.

And in Jesus’ explanation He tells us what’s going on here. He says you see that the one who sows good seed is the Son of Man. It’s Jesus who sows the good seed. That title Son of Man, a title that Jesus used most often for Himself, a title drawn from Daniel 7 in which the Son of Man is handed power and authority from the Ancient of Days. And it fits the parable. Jesus as the Son of Man is the one who sows, but as we’ll see in the parable, Jesus as the Son of Man is also the one who judges.

The field is the world. Not, I believe, the world out there distinct from the Church like just what’s happening away from God’s people, field a worldwide kingdom of Christ. The good seed, sons of the kingdom. Weeds, the sons of the evil one. In other words, the wheat and the weeds are people, those in the kingdom, those outside the kingdom. Those who belong to Christ, and those who do not. And the enemy who sows the weeds is the devil.

Well, if that is how wheat and weeds are sown, how do the wheat and weeds grow? And Jesus says they grow together.

The servants were surprised that there were weeds. They asked the master, how did the weeds get here? Didn’t you sow good seed? And the master replied, the enemy has done this.

And then a key question of this parable: Well, if the enemy has done this, the servants say to the master, shouldn’t we gather up the weeds? Shouldn’t we weed the field?

I mean, that’s what we do, right? We weed our gardens. We try to get rid of the weeds in our yard.

And here’s the surprising part. The master says no. Because you see, if you gather up the weeds you may root up the wheat along with them. The wheat and the weeds, they grow together. They’re mixed. They even look alike for a time, but by the time you tell the difference, the wheat is maturing and you cannot take out the weeds without threatening the wheat. In fact, the roots sometimes are even intertwined with each other.

The surprising phrase of the master is simply this: Let them grow together until the harvest. Let them grow together until the harvest comes.

And that turns our attention then to how they’re harvested. Jesus says the weeds are gathered first, they’re bundled and then burned. The wheat is gathered into the barn.

And Jesus’ explanation is this, that the harvest is the close of the age, that the reapers are angels. At the end of time Jesus will send His angels to gather all law breakers and causes of sin. He’ll throw them into the fiery furnace where there is endless punishment, weeping, and gnashing of teeth, but the sons of the kingdom will be gathered and will shine like their Father.

Now, people of God, I think there are two lessons that Jesus is teaching here. Two principles that Jesus wants us to keep in mind as we consider this parable of the wheat and the weeds.

Here’s the first point, the first teaching: That the coming of Jesus’ kingdom is not immediate and not without opposition. The coming of Jesus kingdom is not immediate and it is not without opposition.

The wheat and the weeds exist together. As we’ve said already, they are mixed, they are intertwined. The wheat grows and the weeds grow. In this age, there are the sons of the kingdom and there are sons of the evil one.

And this is what we find. Isn’t it true in Jesus’ worldwide kingdom? Out in the world, all around the world, it’s a rather obvious fact, isn’t it? We see it all around us. Good and evil. And in fact, often we probably feel like there are more weeds than wheat, or the weeds grow faster than the wheat. That evil is triumphing in our world. We know that where there is wheat there will also be weeds. And it’s obvious, it’s apparent to us.

What is surprising in this parable is that Jesus says this is the way it will be all throughout this age. It is not time for the harvest. Let them both grow.

And people of God, this is not Jesus’ way of saying that we ought not to fight evil, that we out not to resist it, that we ought not to spread the Gospel, that we ought not to see the flourishing of Christ’s kingdom, but it is Jesus’ message that we ought not to develop what we might call an over-realized eschatology. Or to put it in simple terms, that we ought not to think that what is going to be true at the end of time, that the weeds will be uprooted and destroyed, that we ought to expect that now.

Let me say that again. We ought not to think that what is going to be true at the end of time, that the weeds will be uprooted and destroyed, is something that we ought to expect to see today and now.

Now how does this manifest itself? That kind of thinking. Well, in many ways, but I was thinking this past week that one of the ways that we even see it today, or one of the most popular ways among Christians, is in the area of politics. I think there’s a temptation sometimes among us as evangelical Christians to think that if we just get the right people in office, if we just get the right judge on the bench, that wheat will extinguish the weeds.

And of course we want people who love righteousness and justice to lead us. And so we weight candidates, we examine their positions, we take interest in this, we do our homework. But our hope for righteousness to triumph is not in a party and it is not in a candidate. They may do much good, but they cannot bring in the kingdom.

And we all know that that is true, but sometimes we might act as if we believe it. Our emotions show it. We lock in on one candidate or party if that is the only candidate or party that Christians ought to support.

Or sometimes we find it acceptable to criticize a candidate or a party but it’s all one-sided. All the criticism goes in one direction and in fact it might not even be acceptable to us for that criticism to flow even in part in the other direction. So much hope is put in one side of the political spectrum sometimes.

And Jesus says there will always be wheat and weeds until the very end. His kingdom is here, but not fully. Jesus’ kingdom is already, but not yet. And we have to live with that realism of wheat and weeds.

Now, people of God, it’s that way in the Church, too. Some as they look at this parable say this is a parable that is not at all about the Church. And the reason they think that is Jesus’ words in verse 36, that the field is the world. But I don’t think that’s the kind of distinction Jesus is trying to make here, that Jesus is saying the world is out there, the Church is here, this is a parable about all that is out there outside of our doors, and it’s not all about what is within our doors.

Why do I think that Jesus is talking about both? Well, first of all, the weeds are among the sons of the kingdom, Jesus says. If Jesus were simply saying that that is true out there in the world, that yes, there are Christians out in the world among all the weeds out there, I think it’s so obvious that Jesus would not have had to say it.

And then add to that Jesus’ words in verse 41, that the angels will gather out of the kingdom all causes of sin and law breakers. And that kind of language from Jesus is covenantal, church, kingdom kind of language. What I believe that Jesus is saying here is that there’s a message for the Church as well as the world.

And the message is the same, that we can expect wheat and weeds within the Church. That even among us here this morning there may be sons of the kingdom and there may be sons and daughters of the evil one. You think about that within Jesus’ 12 disciples, that within the 12 disciples, there’s Judas.

Or we look back in Jesus’ teaching earlier on in the book of Matthew. Jesus seems to want to make this point in Matthew 7 that not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.

There are going to be some who, who seem to belong but don’t belong. And then Jesus goes on in Matthew 7 to teach the parable of the builders. Two builders, two houses, houses that look exactly the same and the difference between the houses is in a place you can’t see, it’s in the foundation. One building on rock and the other on sand. Wheat and weeds, both growing together out in the world, of course, both growing together within the church of Jesus.

And people of God, what does this mean for us? Let me give you three words: Mercy, patience, and perseverance.

First of all, mercy. The fact that Jesus allows weeds to grow until the harvest, it means mercy, doesn’t it, for those who are apart from Christ. The fact that the harvest has not yet come, the fact that the harvest is still future. We don’t know when, but the fact that today the harvest is not yet here means mercy for those who do not belong to Christ. That’s what Peter was saying in the passage that Mike read for us this morning: The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but all should come to repentance.

Every day that Jesus delays and the harvest doesn’t come is another day of salvation for someone to come to Christ and become part of His kingdom.

And then there’s patience, second word. God’s patience and ours. If God is patient, we have to be patient. Now there’s, of course, the need for ongoing biblical discipline in the Church, but this parable urges patience within the Church for those who are living apart from Christ. And the two are not exclusive. It is not either or, it’s not discipline or patience. Jesus is teaching both. He teaches that in the Scriptures.

James Montgomery Boice puts it like this. He said, “We want a pure church, but in our exercise of valid discipline we must be extremely careful not to discourage or damage some for whom Christ died.”

And so we patiently exhort, don’t we? We patiently rebuke. We patiently discipline. Because the harvest has not yet come.

And then that third word, perseverance. Though there will always be weeds within the wheat, and though we wait for the harvest, let none of us become comfortable if we’re living in sin to say, “Well, Jesus hasn’t come back yet. I’m fine, I can live as I want. I just might get another day.”

People of God, none of us ought to hedge our bets that we might live for ourselves and count on tomorrow to repent and turn to Christ.

See, that leads us to the second principle or teaching of Jesus here. The first is that the kingdom is not immediate and now without opposition. The second teaching of Jesus is that the coming of Christ’s kingdom is, indeed, certain. The kingdom is coming. The age is going to close, this age.

What does it mean? Jesus says it means a complete and final separation of the wheat and the weeds. They grow together right now, but when the harvest comes, they will be completely separated. This mixing, this growing together, will be no more when Jesus returns. There will be two outcomes, two final destinies, two eternities, no third way, one or the other. The weeds, Jesus says, will be gathered by His angels and thrown into the fiery furnace.

Our minds go back, don’t they, to the book of Daniel. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdnego thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not worship the golden image. Thrown into the furnace because they obeyed God.

Turn things around at the end of time and it will be just the opposite: All lawbreakers, all causes of evil, Jesus says, those who have disobeyed God will be thrown into a fiery furnace. Everyone who has opposed God in every bit of evil, every evil word, every evil thought, every evil action, every temptation, the devil and his angels, all of it thrown into the fiery furnace to be burned.

And we understand, don’t we, this morning it’s a picture of Hell, of eternal separation from God, a place of anguish, a place of torment, of weeping and gnashing of teeth as Jesus says. A place of unspeakable suffering and punishment forever.

Sinclair Ferguson tells a story. He says a number of years ago one of the royal princesses of the realm coming out of a cathedral service in England spoke to the dean of the chapter of the cathedral and said to him, “Is it true, Dean, that there is a place called Hell?” To which the dean apparently replied, “Madam, the Scriptures say so. Christian people have always believed so, and the Church of England confesses so.” To which the princess responded, “Then in God’s name why do you not tell us so?”

There’s a preacher in our country in talking about God’s judgment and wrath and Hell has said not too long ago, he said, “Well, that’s, that’s old covenant.” In fact, he added to it. He said, “That’s southern.”

This is not old covenant, this is not southern, this is not northern, this is not eastern, this is not western, this is biblical.

J. Gresham Machen said these words are not spoken by Augustin or by George Whitfield or by Jonathan Edwards, these great preachers, but these are words that are spoken by Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus is the One who spoke about Hell. And Jesus is the One also endured Hell. At the cross, for our sins. He is the man who is well-acquainted with suffering, the Man of sorrows. And Jesus is the Man of sorrows who is well-acquainted with Hell, as He endured it at Calvary in our place, forsaken by God for our sins.

And you see, friends, it’s because of Him that Hell not only stands as one of the destinies, but heaven and glory stands as the other destiny. For when the harvest comes, there will also be everlasting life with God and Christ. Jesus said in verse 43, “The righteous they will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

It’s not our righteousness, of course, that makes us sons of the kingdom. It’s Jesus righteousness, an imputed righteousness, a righteousness that becomes ours by faith in Christ. And Jesus says we will shine like the sun shining with joy in seeing the face of our Savior, shining with glory, a glory that doesn’t come from us but a glory that radiates from God and is reflected in us. A glory that reflects from God and a glory that will reflect back to God, for all eternity.

The light is not shining on us, the light will be shining on Christ, glory upon God our Father, glory upon our Savior Jesus.

Friends, this is what Mark Barlan knows today in part. This is what Pat McKissick today knows in part. This is what Lucille Eubanks knows in part. This is what Leon Shendley knows in part, these brothers and sisters of Christ who have gone to be with Jesus.

And friends, you see, if all of this is true, that the wheat and the weeds may grow together now, but there is a day coming of eternal separation, then we must be found in Christ. And we must go and tell about Christ.

There’s a line that’s become famous, I think, from the Cross conference, that says “Hell is real, time is short, go.” If Hell is real and time is short, go. Believe it. Believe in Christ yourself and go to tell others about Him.

As we close, may this be our prayer, that Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come” from one of the Reformation confessions. Jesus, Your kingdom come means rule us by Your Word and Spirit in such a way that more and more we submit to you and preserve Your Church and make it grow, make it grow, O God, and then destroy the devil’s work, destroy every force which revolts against you and every conspiracy against Your holy Word, destroy them and do this until Your kingdom fully comes when You will be all in all.

Let’s pray that together. So, Father in heaven, we do pray that we’d examine our own lives. Lord, are we wheat or are we weeds? There’s a day coming, Lord, when Jesus will return, separate those out, a day of judgment, but a day of glory for those who belong to Christ. And so we pray that we might be found faithful, that we might be found hidden, ourselves to be hidden in Christ. But Lord in the meantime we pray we’ll also be faithful at sharing Your good news, that we would go and tell everyone who will listen that there is eternal life found in Jesus and apart from Him no life at all. So we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.