Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
ESV Matthew 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” … 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Once again, we have a split in the Gospel. We have the parable given to the unbelieving crowds and to the disciples, and then we have the explanation Jesus gave just to the disciples, those who would become Jesus’ authorized sent ones or apostles.
Jesus is the subject of all the parables. In this parable, the sower of good seed is identified as the Son of Man. The good seed is identified as the sons of the Kingdom, people the heavenly Father has planted in the field, or world.
Jesus also introduces the hostile one, the one who plants weeds in the midst of the wheat. This is the devil. The weeds are so close and so intertwined that if you pull out a weed, it may take a wheat plant with it.
Jesus instructs his servants, who are clearly his apostles and later pastors, not to pull out the weeds but to let them grow until the harvest. Not until the end of the age will the evil ones be separated from the righteous. The sons of evil will be collected and bound to experience everlasting suffering, while the righteous will be gathered to a safe place where they reflect the holiness of God.
What can we learn from this? First, that in the visible Church in this world, there will be both genuine believers and hypocrites. Jesus is contrasting his chosen apostles against the Pharisees, who pose as those included in the Kingdom.
The difference will be seen and the genuine believers will be known by their fruits of faith, whereas the hypocrites will be identified by superficial attempts at self-justification. This weedy fruit is recognized by their false teaching and false worship that tempts man to look on his own merits and good works as justification before God. In creating their own means of justification, they become numbered among the lawless.
Speaking of works, or even fruits of faith, can cause us to squirm a little in our pews. The believer does not look at his works or fruits, however, but to Jesus, who is the cause of faith and all good works.
Next we learn that the Lord instructs his authorized servants not to pull out the weeds, but to let them grow with the wheat until harvest. There are some weeds, especially when they’re young, that mimic the cash crop. You won’t know until the fruit shows that they’re weeds. And besides, pulling weeds isn’t the servant’s role but the role of the angel reapers at the end of the age.
This seems difficult—to allow or even tolerate evil in the world, let alone in the midst of the Church. In fact, there are other passages that stress separation from evil, such as when Jesus tells the disciples to cast out the leaven of the Pharisees or when he empowers Peter and the others not only to loose the forgiven but also to bind the unrepentant on earth.
Further, Paul warns the Corinthian Church to cast out an immoral member of the congregation. But excommunication is only designed to put fear in the erring so that they may repent and be restored to the Church. Excommunication always has restoration in view.
It is not consistent with Jesus’ other teachings and that of the apostles to be “antinomian,” or against using God’s Law. Yet God’s servants need to be careful not to judge too quickly that a son of the evil one is among them, especially since, in our sin, we are all evil. The believer is simultaneously sinner and saint and still carries with him or her one of the causes of sin, our flesh.
The Church and her servants also do not have the power of the sword, that is, the power to carry out criminal punishment. That was the great travesty of what was known as the Inquisition, the Medieval Church’s persecution of heresy. Certainly when a law is broken, the civil authority has the right to punish and curb evildoers, but this authority is not given to the Church.
The false teachers and hypocrites will receive their punishment at the end of the age, when they will be cast with the devil and all causes of sin into the eternal fire.
This is good news for the believer, for she can look forward to a new life without the causes of sin. At her death and later on the Last Day, she is gathered in for safekeeping. Yes, the same angels who cast the sons of the evil one away to their fiery fate also gather beloved Christians to the bosom of Abraham for safekeeping.
Thus, the Church will struggle with the causes of sin in the world and even the work of the evil one in her midst. This is why we believers still on earth are called the Church Militant. We have a section in our hymnal devoted to this teaching. Many people today complain about the strife in the organized Church, but this is to be expected. Jesus says he does not bring peace, but a sword.
Nevertheless, and above all, we learn from this text that already now, in the Church, true peace can be found in Christ Jesus. In the Means of Grace, Christ dwells with us and does his ministry through his called servants, and in his grace we are already at peace—at peace with God and at peace with our future.
Jesus’ death on the cross has sealed his pledge to redeem your bodies at that future date. His voice in the reading of the Scriptures and the preaching of the Word assures you that he is with you despite our suffering in an unbelieving world. His very body and blood, which you eat and drink with the bread and wine, gives certainty that you are forgiven for all those times the wickedness around you draws you also into sin. Even the suffering the Church experiences in this life identifies it with the sufferings of Christ. In this way, the Church is blessed.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:11–12). This is the theology of the cross where, through suffering, a great good results: “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (v 43).
So for now,
The World Holds Both Belief and Unbelief,
but We Are at Peace Because
in the End Christ Will Judge the Difference,
and the Righteous Will Shine like the Sun.