20 July 2014Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
“Let 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.” (v. 30)
The parables of Jesus are a key feature of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, though not John. The parables are typically about the kingdom of God and are a teaching tool intended to achieve a number of disparate ends.
On the one hand a parable is a literary device which makes use of familiar ideas, objects or experiences to describe the unfamiliar (eg the kingdom of God). Parables that fall into this category often begin, "The kingdom of God is like … a mustard seed, a pearl of great price, treasure in a field, lost sheep" etc.
However, on the other hand some parables can also be a way of speaking hidden truth that is only available to the initiated. In other words, some parables are designed to ensure that the casual hearer does notunderstand. The best example of this is the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9), which is designed to ensure that the casual hearer does not understand. Jesus' disciples are instructed later in private what the parable means (Matthew 13:18-23).
So it is with the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat. The disciples are instructed later what the parable means. It suggests that this parable falls more easily into the latter rather than former category.
Parables, of course, do not necessarily have fixed meanings. They seem to be able to be applied to different contexts, either by Jesus himself or by the writers of the Gospels. So, for example, Jesus tells the Parable of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 18:10-14 to make a point about pastoral care. However, when the parable is used in Luke 15:4-7 the point is how much God loves the straying sinner.
One helpful reading of the Parable of Weeds and Wheat is that it offers some insight into the problem of evil as well as into the nature of God's kingdom.
In traditional Methodist three-point sermon style here are three points:
- Sometimes evil appears inexplicable - the enemy who sows weeds among the wheat is not explained but simply is
- Evil sometimes appears unavoidable - the weeds are completely intermingled with the wheat
- Sometimes evil appears irresistible - the weeds cannot be removed from the wheat because to do so will put the wheat at risk as well.
However, this not the end of the story; evil does not triumph. Rather the Lord of the harvest ensures that even though it takes some time the weeds ultimately are destroyed and the wheat safely gathered in.
- Sometimes the problem of evil can seems overwhelming. The age-old question, 'Why does an all powerful and loving God allow evil not only to exist but also to flourish?' does not allow for easy answers. How do you maintain your faith in a loving God in the face of evil?
- The parable suggests that it is at the end that the problem of evil is dealt with finally. How do you make sense of the kingdom of God in the here and now?