The Wheat And The Tares – Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43
The parable of the wheat and the tares: If God’s Kingdom is in our midst and Jesus is enthroned as King then why does evil exist and even increase?
The Kingdom of God was not what the Jewish people expected from the Messiah. If the Kingdom of God has started already and Jesus is the Messiah-King, then why is there still evil in the world and why does it seem to increase? The parable of the wheat and tares answers that question and gives us comfort in the midst of trial in three ways.
- Despite the presence of evil, the Kingdom is here and Jesus is indeed king.
Jesus, the Son of Man, is the owner of the field. Despite evil’s presence, the world is still his and the harvest will still be reaped, just as he planned. The presence of evil, more than that, the increase of evil in the world, in no way changes the fact that Jesus is in charge right now. While God is not the author of evil (it’s the devil that sows the weeds) he is still in control. It’s by his decision, no-one else’s, to allow things to continue as they are. He could stop it at any moment if he wanted to.
- The presences of evil does not question God’s goodness, but rather shows us the value of human beings in God’s plan. The roots of the weeds and the wheat are entangled, so if you pulledup the weeds, the wheat would die too. The good harvest represents the good harvest of the world God made, people made in his own image who freely choose to love God. This freedom necessarily means that there is the possibility of evil. But the good that is produced by this freedom outweighs evil, since it means that we can have true fellowship with God, as his children, not merely as servants.
- Despite His Patience Toward Evil, God Will Destroy His Enemies. One of the consequences of God’s patience towards evil, revealed in the fact that evil is growing in the world, is that people will think that God doesn’t take sin seriously. The rebellious will become more and more depraved:
‘‘…in the last days scoffers will come following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? …everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”’ (2 Peter 3)
And the righteous will question God’s ways:
“You are always righteous, LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” (Jer 12:1)
However, Jesus, as King, is extraordinarily patient, but that doesn’t mean he is lenient:
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 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. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The prince of peace will judge the Earth. The day of harvest that the prophet Joel spoke about, that the Jewish people expected, when the wicked of the Earth will be destroyed, that day will happen. And afterwards there will be, in the end, something even greater than the perfect Kingdom that the Jewish people expected.
Applications & Uses
Persevere in the face of evil. There is a temptation in the face of great evil to feel overwhelmed at its ferocity. Just as a cornered animal can be the most ferocious, or a man who has run out of options will take desperate measures, so it is with evil in the world. As time runs out, as judgement approaches, evil increases almost exponentially. The devil is filled with fury, for he knows his time is short. (Rev 12:12) And in the face of his rage, we are tempted to cower away. Yet when the weeds are at their ripest so is the wheat. Today across the world nations who have never heard the Gospel before are turning to Christ in their millions, across the middle East, China and in many places formerly Godless regimes are like great fields or wheat, ripe for the harvest. In our own country, history tells us that when it seems all have turned away from God, revival is just around corner. And wherever we see evil, whether in the misuse of technology, or of political power, or the breakdown of society as people reject God’s law, we can be assured that the harvest that will come for the glory of God will be greater than evil that threatens to overwhelm us.
Persevere in obedience. We should recognise the value of apparently insignificant obedience’s to God. The parable tells us that what may seem pointless to you, in the face of the evil all around, is of a value in heaven that cannot be measured. Just as angels rejoice at our salvation, so they weep in awe at our apparently small obediences. And just as we award medals to soldiers for great courage in the face of overwhelming odds, so Christ will reward those who are faithful in this life.
Persevere when we see evil in our own hearts. We look at our the state of our lives, of our discipleship and we see a big mess. But, when evil is destroyed, then we will see the value of what God has already done in us, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” (v43) Just as the best formula one drivers get their most important skills in tiny little go-karts, so we are doing are most important learning in these rickety bodies and the tiny tracks of everyday life, marriage and family and work and community. It is hard to see because of sin. But what righteousness we will see God has worked in us, what store he sets by our apparently insignificant growth, when our mortal bodies are swallowed in immortality and the parochialism of this life is replaced by the glory of heaven. Mrs Smith who learned through hard lessons how to discipline her children will one day judge angels!
2 Moderate Your Expectations For This Life
Naturally we long for God’s Kingdom to come. We want the world to be perfect, it is right for us to strive for it. But this parable teaches us that our results will be mixed in the world, in the church and in our lives before Jesus returns. This gives us wisdom in understanding God’s activity in the world. Firstly because it reveals the strategy of the devil. Wherever God is at work, there, the devil, like the enemy in the parable maliciously tries to sabotage what God is doing. So whenever we see the church growing in numbers of maturity, or the world being transformed by the Gospel, we are right to expect the enemy to sabotage. And it will seem for a time that he is successful. Churches will split, people will fall away, projects may fail, whole nations may turn away from Christ. And because we hope for perfection we are tempted to think we did things the wrong way, that it’s been a waste of time. But God says the harvest will still be there, don’t give up because of opposition.
With regards to political ideas and human efforts, no political idea or force will ever bring perfect goodness, but will always be corrupt. Those that try to create utopia end up destroying good along with evil, as history has shown us, because they lack the wisdom of God. We do not place our trust in princes, but in the King of Kings.
We should moderate our view of sin. The world likes to think that things are just getting better and better. That somehow progress is just this simple force for good. But it’s not. And we have to be careful about such a naive view of history. Alongside all the developments in technology and politics and agriculture, things that bring great freedoms and relieve poverty there is great evil at work. In the cultured halls of power or behind the sanitised doors medicine and in the dust-free labs of science great evil is at work alongside good. We must be courageous in pointing it out and fighting against it, even when we are denounced by those who call themselves progressive.
We should moderate our view of the church. No church will be anywhere near perfect in this life. The presence of sin, or of weak members, or weak leaders, of rebellion or lukewarmness, should not make us less patient with our churches than God is, nor should we go looking for the perfect church. We will be disappointed! There are a million excuses we could give for giving up on a church, or even church in general. Instead we need to trust in the value of what God is doing now, in this age, with his imperfect church. The value of grace, and forgiveness, and repentance and change. These things are treasures that we can only experience this side of heaven, they won’t exist after the marriage supper of the lamb!
3 Elevate Your Expectations of the Day of the Lord
Finally, briefly, this parable teaches us to elevate our expectations of what it will be like when Jesus returns. A warning to the sinner and a reward for the faithful.
Of the awe of that day, Daniel writes, “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” All that’s normal, all that we take for granted will be stopped in a moment. Cars will stop driving, ships will stop sailing, planes will stop flying. Money will be instantaneously worthless. Babylon will fall. Wars will cease. Mouths will be stopped. The sky will be torn. Angels will appear with trumpets. The sea and the grave will give up her dead and each person will be judged according to what he has done.
in the valley of decision!
The sun and moon will be darkened,
and the stars no longer shine.
The Lord will roar from Zion
and thunder from Jerusalem;
the earth and the heavens will tremble. ” (Joel 3)
The reaper will reap the harvest and the field will be left empty. All evil will be destroyed. All evil people and every cause of evil Jesus tells us.
To the sinner it reminds us that God will not be mocked. That we reap what we sow. If you are tempted by disobedience to God, or walking in deliberate disobedience to God today, then know that there will be a reckoning. God is patient with you, but things will not carry on forever as they are now. You cannot reject his Kingship and still claim his protection. Jesus warns us to repent quickly before we cannot repent anymore. And, if you are not a believer, then know that the day will come, when God will destroy all evil, and those who reject him as King. But all who trust in him will be saved.
For the faithful, we have the promise of a brilliance that we cannot imagine. It is almost comical that Jesus uses a farmyard barn to describe our eternal home. The eternal palace of the King, the throne at the centre of the glorious New Jerusalem, the eternal temple of God, is a barn! But it speaks of the security that we will enjoy. No, secret way in for the enemy, no evil to corrupt or spoil what God has finished. No more tears. No fears. No doubts. No questions. No evil. We will be with him forever, secure. And the barn speaks of abundance. There will be no meagre rations in heaven, but like piles of grain in a storehouse, a multitude that cannot be numbered. There will be no stubble or straw, no mundanity, no wasted moment of boredom in heaven. We will have, not the weak and watery joy we know now, but a joy without limit, to see God face to face, to know him, to be loved by him and to be alive with his love. It will be a concentration of delight that we cannot comprehend. And here Jesus finally has to change the metaphor. On that day you will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of your Father. Ever-blazing, unimaginably glorious, nothing but the blazing heat of God’s love, filled and overflowing with it, pouring out endless streams of life upon life upon life into eternity. All the riches of Christ are yours. Pleasures forever at his right hand. To the glory of God.
Lord Jesus, come quickly!