For an introduction to this series, click here.
Dec. 20, 2006
The second parable in this chapter is the parable of the weeds. A man plants wheat in his field, and someone comes by and sows weeds in the field. The man is upset, but tells his workers not to try to pull up the weeds right away, but to wait until harvest time, and then it will be easy to separate the wheat from the weeds.
Later in this chapter Jesus explains this parable. The wheat are the children of the kingdom, and the weeds are the children of the evil one. The harvest is the end of the age. This parable generally teaches that it's hard to tell who is truly saved and who is not, and it is not our job to try to cull out those who are not.
This leaves us in kind of a conundrum. On the one hand, we are told to judge others - "You shall know them by their fruit" - while here Jesus tells us not to judge. It takes a lot of love - love for other people, love for the sanctity of the church - to do both in a right way. It's not our place to judge a person's faith until they make it obvious by their works that they aren't honestly following Jesus.
Between the parable and the explanation, Jesus tells two other parables that are related:
"The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make their nests in its branches...The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened." (13:31-33)
A lot of people stumble over the use of the word "leaven" in this parable. In other places, leaven is a picture of sin or, more often, wrong doctrine. Thinking that any reference to leaven must be negative, they come up with a weird explanation that fits this mold. But this parable, and its cousin, are plain and straightforward. This passage teaches that even though it seems small or is hidden, God is at work, and one day all will see the results. You can't tell by looking if a wad of dough has yeast in it or not, but you can tell when it begins to rise. A mustard seed is tiny, but it makes a large plant if it is allowed to grow.
Then Jesus gives three short parables:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13:44-50, ESV)
The first two parables are mangled by some in the name of dispensationalism. They look at the part that says the man bought the field or the pearl and say that this pictures God seeking man. The plain meaning of the parables is that a lost man sees the world's greatest treasure, Jesus, and leaves everything else behind to follow Jesus. I don't know about you, but when I got saved, I wanted it more than anything else in the world. I didn't care what anybody else thought. Maybe that's not how everyone comes to Jesus, I don't know. Maybe the ones who didn't come to Jesus that way are some of those who have a problem with my (and many others') interpretation.
The parable of the net is similar to the parable of the weeds. The fishermen will throw out the bad fish and keep the good ones. We will all appear before God one day, and He will separate the good from the bad, according to His definition. God's standard for all time is faith.