Matthew Bible Study (The Gospel of the King and the Kingdom of Heaven)

Matthew 13:24-43, In The Weeds


What is God doing in the world? It is not too hard to look around at this world and wonder what God is doing. This can be especially troubling for Christians and their faith. The scriptures tell us that Jesus rose from the dead and took his rightful place at the Father’s right hand, possessing all rule, authority, and power over the nations of the earth (cf. Daniel 7:13-14; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28). Even Jesus himself, when he rose from the dead, proclaimed, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18 ESV). Since Jesus has authority over earth and has established his kingdom, then shouldn’t things be different? Shouldn’t the world be better? Jesus knew that this would be a concern for his people and gave many teachings about what his kingdom would be like. We are in a section in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus is teaching the crowds in parables. But the parables had a key purpose of sifting out who wanted to learn the deep teachings of Jesus and who would dismiss his words as hard or confusing. In Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus tells three parables about the kingdom which address these questions. Then we are told another reason for why Jesus teaches in parables. Finally, the disciples will ask for an explanation about these parables. So listen to these three parables and consider what Jesus’ rule over this world would look like.

The Parable of the Weeds (13:24-30)

In verse 24 of Matthew 13 Jesus begins another parable in which he does not immediately give an explanation. Verses 24-30 contain the picture of God’s rule. The kingdom is like a man sowing good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the plants sprouted and produced grain, weeds also appeared along with the wheat. The servants ask the master where these weeds came from. The master responds that an enemy came and did this work. The servants then want to know if they should go and pull up the weeds. The master rejects this idea. He says to not pull the weeds because you might uproot the wheat as well. Verse 30 is the key to the parable. The master says to let the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest. At the harvest the reapers will be instructed to gather the weeds and burn them and then gather the wheat into the barn.

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and Leaven (13:31-33)

Jesus then moves into two short parables. The rule of God is also pictured like a man who sowed a mustard seed sown in his field. The small seed grows and becomes larger than the garden plants. It even grows to become a tree so that the birds come and nest in its branches. Then Jesus said the rule of God is like a woman taking leaven and mixing it in fifty pounds of flour until it was all leavened.

The Purpose of Parables (13:34-35)

Then we are told something amazing in verse 34. Jesus did not teach the crowds any other way but with a parable. It is worth taking a moment and reflecting on this revelation. Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. Why? Look at verse 35. What Jesus is doing is fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 78. The prophecy said that the hidden, secret sayings of the past would be revealed to the coming generation (Psalm 78:1-4). The mysteries of God’s kingdom plan were being revealed through Jesus’ teachings. Jesus is telling parables to explain the hidden things of God. But you will notice that these explanatory parables require effort. Understanding the parables requires effort and reflection. The parables that we just read do not have an obvious explanation. It does not just jump off the page. Proof of this is how many times people have made the explanation of the parable more confusing than the parable itself! Jesus is explaining God’s hidden truths in parables so that the people will come to him to learn the answers.

This point was seen earlier in Matthew 13:10-17 when Jesus told the disciples why he spoke to the crowds in parables. The people think they see but do not see. They think they hear but do not hear. They think they understand but do not understand. I illustrated this idea with looking in the pantry. You are looking but you are not diligently looking. You are not trying hard enough to understand and see what God is revealing. Jesus is revealing the secrets of the kingdom. But who wants to dig in deeply to consider what Jesus is saying?

The Parables’ Explanation (13:36-43)

Notice Jesus leaves the crowds in verse 36 without giving any explanation for these parables. The goal of teaching God’s truths is not to dumb it down. We need to be clear in our teachings. But that does not mean we avoid teaching complex truths and difficult scriptures. Jesus is being clear but teaching kingdom complexities to see who will seek him. Jesus gives no explanation and goes into the house. Look in comes in to him in verse 36. The disciples come in and they ask for the explanation. This is an important truth: Disciples sit down and seek to understand while the crowds walk away without understanding.

A careful reading of this explanation in verses 37-39 is very important. The one who sowed good seed is the Son of Man, Jesus. The field is the world. The good seed represents the children of the kingdom and the weeds represent the children of the evil one, Satan. The enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil. The harvest is at the end of the age and the angels are the harvesters. Too often people have misunderstood this parable because they get stuck on thinking that the kingdom must refer to the church. But notice that the kingdom, that is, God’s rule is pictured as the world. In the world there are those who belong to Jesus and those who belong to the devil. The parable is not saying that there are good and bad in the church. In fact, this is impossible because the church, by definition, is only the people of God.

Why Wait?

So in the world there are those who belong to Jesus and those who belong to the devil and they are growing together. When is Jesus going to do something about it? Look at verses 39-40. The harvest is at the end of the age. The weeds are not gathered and burned until the end of the age. So we are given a very important picture about God’s kingdom. Just because there are weeds does not mean that the master does not have authority over his field. Why doesn’t the Son of Man just pull out the weeds? The short answer is that he does not want the wheat to be pulled out with the weeds.

Now this might be a little confusing at first. Doesn’t God know who are weeds and who are wheat? Why would there be a concern about pulling out wheat accidentally? Why does the master need to wait until the harvest to pull the weeds and burn them in the fire? The other two parables help in answering these concerns. In one of the parables Jesus refers to the kingdom as being like leaven that is being mixed into the flour until all of it was leavened. The kingdom is not pictured as being static or unchanging. The rule of God on earth is pictured as dough in which leaven is permeating and changing the dough. The master is waiting until the end to pull out the weeds because he is allowing the leaven to do its work. He is allowing the gospel to continue to affect the world. The idea is that we cannot pluck out the weeds yet because there is opportunity for them to become wheat before the harvest.

The other parable confirms this idea. The parable of the mustard seed shows the kingdom starting small and growing into a tree in which birds come and nest. This is a reference to Ezekiel 17 where God prophesied that in the messianic kingdom, God’s people would bear fruit and grow branches so that the every kind of bird would come and enjoy its blessings (cf. Ezekiel 17:22-24). The idea is that God’s people would produce fruit so that the outsiders would come in. To say this in terms of the parable of the weeds, the wheat will work in the world so that the weeds will see the blessings of the kingdom and become wheat also.

Therefore, the goal of our existence is not to pull the weeds, but to transform the weeds. There is a reason that the master is waiting to the end of the age to pull the weeds. It is not for us to wish for the Lord to hurry up and pull the weeds but do our part to like the mustard seed and the leaven. We are called to have patience in this world so that the good seed that the Son of Man has scattered can do its work. What is God doing in the world? Why are things the way that they are? God is patiently waiting, making sure that some potential wheat is not pulled out.

The Harvest (13:41-43)

Notice in verse 41 that Jesus explains that he will send out his angels to gather out of his kingdom (the field, the world, not the church) all who cause sin and all lawbreakers. So who are the weeds? The weeds are those who cause others to sin and those who practice lawlessness. People who defy God’s law are going to be gathered out of his kingdom. People who cause others to break God’s law are going to be gathered out of his kingdom. They will be thrown into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. As much as people do not want to talking about or thinking about the idea of justice and punishment for sins, Jesus is the one who spoke about it the most.

The idea that Jesus is full of love and therefore such a judgment could not exist. God is full of love and that is why a judgment must exist. God loves the people you have hurt. God loves the people you have sinned against. God loves the people you have used, abused, and acted unjustly toward. God loves those people and must do something about it. This is a key truth. God does not allow evil and evil ones to continue. Even if we look around and wonder what is going on, God has said that this is the nature of his kingdom rule. Evil will be allowed so that the wheat is not plucked up. But then they will be gathered and judged for their lawlessness. Please also notice that Jesus does not suggest that the punishment will be tolerable. It will be weeping and grinding of teeth. The judgment will be painful and not something anyone will want to experience.

By contrast, the righteous are pictured as shining like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. This comes from Daniel 12:1-3. But I want you to notice a key word. It is a small word but it is a key word. The word is “then.” Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Now we have the wheat mixed with the weeds. Then that will no longer be the case and we will enjoy the flourishing that God has ultimately promised for his people. We are not looking to shine now but shine then. We are not expecting justice now but justice then. We are not expecting flourishing now but flourishing then. We are not looking for glory now but glory then.


So let’s bring this picture home because this is Jesus’ picture of what his kingdom rule on earth looks like. First, the weeds are allowed to grow together with the wheat. That means that the workers of evil are going to be doing evil things. That means that we are going to experience evil while we live righteously for the Lord. But this does not mean that there is not a God. This does not mean that God is not in charge. This does not mean that Jesus is not ruling over this earth. This does not mean that Jesus is not in control. This does not mean God does not care what is going on throughout the earth. Nor does this mean that God does not see or will not act.

Second, Jesus’ waiting and allowing the evil to grow with the good has purpose. Jesus is waiting because he is not willing for any to perish. He will not pluck out the weeds before the time because he does not want to remove them until it is absolutely necessary. Dark times only reminds us of God’s amazing love for his creation and his amazing patience to rescue his people. He will not uproot wheat, only weeds. God has a purpose for all that we see allowed to go on in this world.

Third, though unseen and seemingly insignificant, God is working in the world like leaven works in dough. God’s word must continue to permeate the world. We are not to look around and think that nothing is happening. Transformation of people can still be happening even if we are able to visible see anything happening. We must never think like Elijah that we are only ones doing God’s will and there is no one left. There is always a remnant of God’s people who will not succumb to evil or bow the knee to the devil. Jesus’ kingdom is not going to have dramatic, physical presence. But that does not mean that his kingdom is not present. Jesus’ kingdom is to transform the world as his people bring the good news to others so that they come in and enjoy God’s blessings.

Fourth, God will do the sorting himself. God is purging people every day and the tool he uses is his word. The sorting of the wheat and the weeds is the word of God, not us. The message determines who will grow as wheat and who will grow as weeds. Jesus is sowing the good seed and has proclaimed that he is teaching the crowd in parables so that those who want to learn will come to him. Jesus even ends this section with that picture. “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (13:43). Who will listen to what Jesus is teaching? This is the nature of Jesus’ kingdom rule. We are not lose courage because we look around and see weeds in the world. Rather, we are to be encouraged that God will weed out all who cause sin and practice lawlessness.

Finally, there is something after this life. You will either be spending eternity with weeping and grinding of teeth or rejoicing and shining like the sun. There will be reward or consequences for our life decisions. God is love and therefore he must act against those who cause sin and those who practice lawlessness. What will be your eternal outcome? What will you do with the message God has given to you today?

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