The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. (Matthew 13:24)
In last week’s parable Jesus described the Word by which “sons of the kingdom” are created. This week’s parable is about those sons of the kingdom who are “planted” by the Son of Man throughout time and throughout the world. They stand as good wheat in the planting of God’s kingdom. The parable also then describes the “sons of the evil one” who stand as weeds in the midst of the wheat.
It has been noted that the Greek word for “weed” was a word used for a pernicious plant called the darnel. When the darnel begins to grow it looks identical to the initial growth of a wheat plant. Thus at the beginning of growth the entire field looks like wheat, even though a portion of it is weeds.
Thus it is in the church. While the Apostles lived, but especially after they fell asleep, the devil twisted the apostolic doctrine, and the gates of hell were disguised as the doors to heaven. Satan’s religion often speaks highly of Jesus, but it frequently denies His deity, or it denies his universal atonement, or it denies what is and isn’t sin, or it denies justification by grace…and the list goes on. Satan plants this counterfeit word in the hearts of certain people, and they spiritually grow up as sons of the evil one, yet they religiously stand next to the sons of the kingdom in the visible church. The sons of the evil one also include those who brazenly live in unrepentant sin, behaving as if sin did not matter.
When individual pastors look out over their congregation, they cannot tell the difference between a darnel plant and a wheat plant. At times a weed will display its true nature by spewing doctrines of demons, or by living in outward unrepentant sin, yet there cannot be absolute identification that such a person is a weed. For even when false doctrines are spewed or when a person is living unrepentantly, it is still possible that person is not a weed! The pastor will constantly be correcting false doctrine or at times, for instance with the loving act of banning from the Supper, he will guide individuals to repentance. However, since a pastor is constantly dealing with sinners, he is unable to differentiate weed from wheat.
So if a pastor cannot differentiate weed from wheat, why then did Jesus tell the parable? There are numerous reasons for the parable, but consider the following. The Son of Man establishes the wheat, the sons of the kingdom, in His Church; appropriately we deserve no credit. From the parable we stand warned that the devil is active—especially active in the visible church—and that pseudo-Christians will exist in congregations until the end of time. As the weeds of the parable are understood to be the wheat-mimicking darnel, we also realize from the parable the difficulty in differentiating weed from wheat in a given congregation. As a final thought, attempting to uproot the darnel before Judgment Day is not our business, for in so doing we may harm and uproot wheat. A corollary to this is that on Judgment Day the Judge will sort the wheat and weeds, sending His angels to gather and burn the weeds.
The wheat—those established by the Word of the cross as sons of the kingdom—will finally be gathered into God’s barn. Understand the “barn” to be the new heaven and new earth, the wondrous paradise to be experienced by Christ’s resurrected people into eternity.