11 October 2016

Matthew 13:24-30

“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field.’” (v. 24)

Psalm: Psalm 25


Matthew's Gospel continues to interweave stories that Jesus tells to the crowd with his teaching to a smaller group of disciples (Matthew 13:34, 36). Now the crowd is back and they are offered another agrarian parable. It is a simple word picture which draws on what must have been a common experience for all those involved in growing food (as it is to anyone who has a vegetable garden) - the propensity of the plot to grow weeds alongside the crop that has been sown. But in this story there are two surprises. One is the malice that lies behind this instance of a common experience ("an enemy has done this" (v. 28)) and the other is the landowner's solution (not to try to eradicate the weeds but to let things be until the harvest - verse 30).

It is clear (even before we get to the interpretation of this story later in the chapter) that the parable links God's purpose for God's world with a common image from farming life. It is a link that can be seen in the harvest hymns of the 19th-century (see, for example, verse 3 of 'Come, you thankful people, come' (Singing the Faith 123)).

The hymn 'How small a spark has lit a living fire!' (StF408), however, is not a harvest hymn. Instead it picks up an alternative theme which seems to be the key point of the parable: nothing can frustrate the kingdom of heaven. The landowner's nonchalance about the weeds (verse 30) may be surprising to those who would want to tackle the problem with an hoe at the earliest opportunity, and farmers may dispute whether destroying the weeds would do more damage to the crop than leaving them, but the point that Jesus makes here is clear. God has God's purpose and that purpose cannot be thwarted.

To Ponder

  • God's timing is not always our timing. How do we know when it is better just to let things be than to try to put them right?
  • This is one of a number of parables that draw on common experiences of the natural world but the first time that Matthew's Gospel records Jesus saying "The kingdom of heaven is like ...". What everyday experience has said to you, "The kingdom of heaven is like ..."?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jonathan Hustler

Having been a Methodist circuit minister and a theological college tutor, Jonathan is now Ministerial Coordinator for Oversight of Ordained Ministries in the Connexional Team..