Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

"Weeds" by Kazakhstan Artist Nelly Bube.


The parables beginning with verses 24, 31, 33 were spoken to the multitude and the disciples. The parables beginning with verses 44, 45, 47 were spoken only to the disciples. All six are about the Kingdom of heaven, what we call the Kingdom of grace here on earth. The six parables treat various features of this kingdom.

Matthew 13:24 Jesus told them another parable:  "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

"Another" does not mean "different." These parables are not different in that they treat different subjects. All of them treat the Kingdom of heaven from different points of view. It's somewhat like the various facets of a diamond. Six of our translations (LB TEV NIV NEB NKJV AAT) read "is like." "Kingdom of" is adjectival, telling us what kind of kingdom. It could also be called subjective, for it comes from heaven. And also objective, for it ends in heaven. Of course, the damned will not be in heaven but neither were they true members of the kingdom while on earth. "Good",  useful, profitable, productive.

Matthew 13:25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.

"Everyone" means "people." The point of the clause is that the enemy worked in a stealthy fashion at night when no one was aware of it. The point is that it is very difficult to distinguish weeds from true wheat. "Went away" implies that the enemy did not want people to know that he had been there.

Matthew 13:26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

Here is the rendering of seven translations:

The point is the craftiness with which the enemy had operated. "Appeared", this is what caused the workers distress.

Matthew 13:27 The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'

They did nothing on their own but consulted their master. This is proved by the fact that they call him  "Sir." "Didn't you" introduces a question which expects the answer "yes." The first question does not denote doubt as is proved by the second question. They practically ask: "How can it be that the field has phony wheat?"  They are distressed.

Matthew 13:28 'An enemy did this,' he replied. The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

In the first sentence of this verse the omniscience of the Lord begins to be evident. He knew though no one else knew. The question of the slaves is:  "In view of this underhanded act, is it your will that we go and gather up the phony wheat?"  They are letting it entirely up to him. They don't know the answer.

Matthew 13:29 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.

The point is that their action would be entirely harmful. His whole concern is with the "wheat" and it is implied that the "weeds" will not harm the "wheat." He is saying:  "Don't be rash."

Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" 

"Let" must always be translated contextually. Here it is "allow." Note that both are growing but for entirely different purposes. The Master is in complete control. No harm will be done to the wheat. "First collect the weeds", the point is so that none escape. Note the play on words.  "Collect -- gather."  "Burn it -- bring it."  The owner places high value on the wheat which will be safely stored.

Matthew 13:36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said,  "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

The third and fourth Kingdom parables were spoken before Jesus dismissed the multitudes. "The house",  the same house as in 13:1, likely denotes Jesus' home in Capernaum, the place where He stayed. Nowhere is it said that He owned a house.

Now He is alone with the disciples. It would seem that the third and fourth parables needed no further explanation.

Matthew 13:37 He answered,  "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

"The Son of man" denotes the incarnate Christ, man and yet more than man. Jesus Himself sowed the good seed and still does through His ministers and laymen.

Matthew 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one,

Note that, as in verse 37, we have three sets of articular subjects and predicates. In the parable of the Sower the seed represented the Gospel, the life-giving Word. In this parable the seed is the  "sons of the Kingdom,"  those who are spiritually alive because of the Son of man. "Of the kingdom" is adjectival telling us what kind of sons. "Sons" is variously translated  "children, people, sons, subjects." "Evil one" is the actively wicked one.

Matthew 13:39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

"The enemy" means "the one who hates the Lord,"  as is clear from verse 25.

By the way,  "the children of the actively evil one " in verse 38 does not mean unregenerate man in general but the hypocrites who appear to the Christian but actually are not. They are the products of the devil. Judas was a hypocrite. Read John 6:70.71; 13:2; 13:27. God did not predestine Judas to damnation. Judas rejected the shield of faith to ward off the fiery missiles of Satan (Ephesians 6:16). He did not resist the devil and therefore the devil did not flee (James 4:7). But Judas covered his wickedness so completely that, even after a clear indication from Jesus (John 13:21-30), the eleven evidently still did not know or believe who the betrayer was.

Matthew 13:40 As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

"Therefore"  introduces the point of comparison. "The consummation of the age" means that point at which all, without exception, will be judged.

Matthew 13:41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

In verse 37 the Son of man is the Sower. In this verse He is both the Commissioner of the angels and the Judge. The angels merely carry out His will. They are not judges. Compare 28 and 30. What the workers were forbidden to do, the angels are sent to do, only at the consummation of the age.

Augustine: They who today are tares may tomorrow be grain.

Exactly. Hypocrites might yet repent. But if not yet at the consummation, then they will be lost. By the way, this pericope does in no way prohibit church discipline. See Matthew 18: 17-19 and 1 Corinthians 5:3-5. Manifest and impenitent sinners must be excommunicated. But the church must not go beyond cases of church discipline. The "out of" phrase in verse 41 denotes separation. Note that it is called "his" Kingdom, His Kingdom of grace.

What will the angels, at Jesus' command, gather? Two things. The translations are interesting:

The text implies that hypocrites are a definite danger to true believers. Read John 6:66-71. It was a critical moment for the disciples (a year before Jesus' crucifixion). Many left Jesus. That was a temptation to leave Him. But Peter, in the name of the others, made a beautiful confession. He said  "We have believed and we have come to know that You are the Holy One of God." But, in response, Jesus says that though He chose the twelve as disciples, one was a devil, a deceiver. Even then already he was about to betray Jesus. Jesus was then already preparing His disciples so that they would not fall prey to the "evil one." True to His own Word (our pericope) the Son of man did not uproot Judas then and there. On Judgment Day Judas will be shown as a worker of iniquity.

Matthew 13:42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Compare Daniel 3:6. In this case is figurative for excruciating pain. The second part of this verse describes the reaction of those mentioned at the end of verse 31, and, of course, means in hell.

Matthew 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear." 

Here compare Daniel 12:3. Compare Jesus at His transfiguration, Luke 9:29. "As the sun " is a simile. The sun is the brightest light we know. We can't even look directly at it without harm to ourselves. In this life nothing is brighter than the sun. This time "kingdom" means the kingdom of glory. The Father is the author of this kingdom.

"He who has ears, let him be hearing." What? Both Law and Gospel. The hearer is to ask himself:  "Am I a hypocrite? There are hypocrites among the believers. Am I one of them?" 

Secondly, the penitent sinner may often be frustrated by the impurities in the visible Christian Church. But he must remember that he too is a sinner and that, except for the excommunication of manifest and impenitent sinners, fellow-members are to be treated in an evangelical manner.

Thirdly, the Son of man is He who has sown His own and He alone will gather them in.

Fourthly, the church should never resort to the use of the sword as does Islam in eradicating heretics.

Fifthly, several quotes . . .

Luther: When so much wickedness and offense is noticed in the church, then many Christians, especially Christian pastors full of zeal would like to remove all the tares, and all the children of wickedness, desiring a church of pure saints. Some are inclined like Peter to strike with the sword, but the Lord prevents it. . . . If we proceed to establish a congregation in which there is no sin, we will condemn weak Christians, and even the strong because they stumble at times, and must also exclude them from the church.
Stoeckhardt: Through the angels, and not by us men, they will be separated. But he who would insist on doing this himself, would make the evil worse, would with the tearing out of the tares also tread under foot or root out the good wheat with the weeds.

To be a pastor or member of a Christian congregation takes a good deal of heaven-sent wisdom. Just one other thought: If ever you are told by an unchurched person that he does not wish to belong to the church because there are hypocrites in the church, grant him that because Christ said it long ago. But that is no reason for not belonging to the church, for the Son of man who sows the good seed will also take care of the deceptive weeds on the last day.

It is a grim fact, stressed throughout Scripture, that the devil and his agents do their most nefarious work in the visible Christian Church, not outside it. Where God builds the Church, the devil builds a chapel. Christians need repent daily. They know and believe that Satan has been conquered. They have the shield of faith for protection. They must resist the devil who must then flee.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Matthew-John Sundays After Pentecost Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 29-32. Used with permission.

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