6 May 2013

Matthew 13:24-30

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.” (vv. 24-25)


Today's passage is commonly called "the parable of the weeds among the wheat," or "the parable of the wheat and tares". Matthew 13 begins with Jesus going down to the sea to teach: crowds have grown so great that he has put out in a boat to address the people gathered on the beach (verses 1-2). Rather than give explicit rules for living he uses parables to show what life in the kingdom of heaven is like.

The Gospel account itself includes record of people being confused by Jesus' parables and questioning what they mean. It is as if the substance of the teaching itself includes drawing people into a lively questioning relationship with Jesus.

The disciples challenged Jesus directly (eg Matthew 13:10) about why he was using these sometimes strange stories instead of being more direct in his teaching. And the Gospel writer often interweaves explanation of the stories (sometimes in private with the disciples, sometimes public) with Jesus' teaching itself. In these, contemporary readers can see the early Church grappling with the meanings much as we do today. An interpretation of today's passage follows in Matthew 13:36-43, for example: the field is the world, the good seed "children of the kingdom", and the bad seed "children of the evil one". The reapers are angels, and the harvest the "end of the age".

Today's passage does not give rules or regulations, but it does suggest good ethical behaviour for Christians living in diverse situations. To try to form a pure community in this age would be both foolish and counterproductive. In the kingdom of heaven, the parable suggests, discernment as to what is weed and what is wheat belongs to God and will be settled at the end of time. Christians seek to live in, and for the kingdom of heaven. And as the passage begins in verse 24, "the kingdom of heaven may be compared to …" a place where the good and bad seed continue to grow together until a time of God's choosing, not our own.

To Ponder

  • How comfortable are you with an interpretation of this parable that counsels non-resistance to evil?
  • How far do you think this parable relates to the Church, how far to the wider community?
  • Might there be good seed and bad, "wheat and weeds", in each person?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.