Thursday 13 October 2016

Bible Book:

“Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” (v. 36)

Matthew 13:36-43 Thursday 13 October 2016

Psalm: Psalm 27


This is interpretation of interpretation. Even where the writerof the Gospel offering an understanding of what a passage means,later commentators find that the explanation may itself be open tomore than one reading. That is the case in Matthew's allegoricalinterpretation of the parable of the weeds in the field (Matthew 13:24-30).

There has been much debate amongst biblical scholars about thedifference between a parable and an allegory. One way ofunderstanding it is to see a parable as being a story that has asingle point, often a surprising punchline, and has an impact onthe hearers. An allegory, by contrast, is a story in which eachelement represents something. When we looked at the parable of theweeds on Tuesday we saw that its single point isthat God (who cannot be prevented in achieving God's purpose) doesthings in God's own time. Here we are invited to read it as anallegory: the field is the world and the harvest is the end oftime; the first sowing is the work of the Son of Man and the secondis that of the devil; the crop is the children of the kingdom andthe weeds the children of evil.

That still leaves room for interpretation and there are threeways in which this can be read. The first is to see it as anexplanation of the problem of evil, as true of the originalcreation as of the work that Jesus inaugurates in the Gospel. Whyare there bad things in the world when surely God createdeverything and everyone to be good? The answer is that a diabolicalenemy spoiled the work.

The second reading suggests that this answers the same questionas was asked by the parable of the sower. Why is it (sometimes)such hard work to evangelise? And why are our best effortssometimes unrewarded? The answer seems to be that there are evilpowers working against the mission of the Church.

The third reading sees the parable as a picture of the Church.Why is the Church not perfect? And what should be done about it? Assuch, this has been read as a warning against those groups thathave tried to create a pure Christian community and to suggest thatwe have to live as an imperfect group of disciples for thepresent.

None of these readings is easy to understand or to accept. Whatall three offer is perhaps less of an answer than a reflection onthe fact that we live in a world where good and evil coexist andthat that is also true of the Church.

To Ponder

  • Many modern Christians find the notion of a personal devil whoworks against the mission of Jesus unhelpful as it can seem toreduce out own responsibility for our actions. What do youthink?
  • Will there ever (this side of eternity) be a perfect church? Ifthere were, would you want to join it? Why?
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