The Parables of Jesus
By E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

Matthew 13:24-30:

Jesus told them another parable:  “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time I will tell the harvesters:  First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

This parable, along with the parable of the dragnet found in verses 47-50, go together.  Both of them deal with the co-existence of good and evil until the permanent separation that will take place at the coming of Christ.  This parable has very important lessons for us and I would like to share those lessons with you.

First of all, let’s look at the parable.  To us — living 2,000 years after Christ in America — this sounds like a far-fetched story that Jesus told, but actually what Jesus was telling was very common.  It was very common, after a farmer planted his wheat — which is a very important crop in Israel — for an enemy to come at night and plant weeds (“tares” in some translations).  This was commonly done out of revenge.  Because of this, the Roman government passed a law that you could not do this.  It was illegal.  But it was common to plant weeds in the field of a farmer on whom you were trying to take revenge.

It’s hard enough dealing with the weeds that grow naturally, but the “tares” weren’t ordinary weeds.  They were commonly known as the “bearded darnel,” which belongs to the family of the rye grass.  When these weeds grew, the plant in its early stage looked identical to the wheat, so you could not tell the difference.  It’s only when they begin to mature that darnel is shorter and the color of the grain is grayer than the wheat.  But what was the problem with these weeds?  As I mentioned, it was not just an ordinary weed.  The grain of the darnel was poisonous.  So you can see why people were planting this out of revenge.  The only way to save his crop was for the farmer and his laborers to go just before the harvest and pluck or root out the darnel first and tie them in bundles to be burned and then harvest the wheat.  That is what the parable Jesus told was about.

There were at least four main parables that Jesus was telling the multitude.  So when it says in verse 24, “Jesus told them another parable,” the “them” is the multitude.  After the parables were all over, Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house.  Matthew 13:36:

Then he left the crowd and went into the house.  His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

The disciples singled out this parable and asked Jesus for an explanation.  They didn’t seem to mind the other parables.  This one they singled out and we have to ask ourselves, why?

But before we do, let us look at the interpretation Jesus gave this parable.  He told it to the multitude; He gave no interpretation.  He let them reason out for themselves.  But in verse 37 up to verse 47 you have an interpretation of this parable that Jesus gave to the disciples.  Number one, Verse 37:

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.”

So the good seed happens to be Christ.  Remember, Christ is the life.  He gave His life for the world.  The word “seed” in the Bible represents life.  That’s why we are saved through Abraham’s seed — singular — which is Christ.

The good seed is the proclamation of Christ to the world.  Remember Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Matthew 28:19:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit....

That’s the sowing of the seed.  Then in Matthew 13:38a Christ tells us:

The field is the world....

That’s the mission that Christ has given us:  “Go and sow the seeds into the world.”  Matthew 13:38a:

The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom.

In other words, the believers represent the wheat here.  The wheat that has germinated, the wheat that has been born again.

The wheat represents those who are born again, those who have accepted the life of Christ in exchange for their life, which stands condemned.  But then, in Matthew 13:38b-39a:

The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.

Christ tells us that the enemy that sowed the bad seeds is the devil because he tells us that the weeds represent the children of the wicked one, the enemy that sows them is the devil and the harvest is the end of the world.  Verse 39b:

The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

Now that, basically, is what the parable is all about.

Number one, what is the application?  The answer is two-fold.  There are some scholars who feel that Christ is referring to the world and that both believers and unbelievers will co-exist until the end of the world and the coming of Christ.  But if you look at the parable very carefully, it is obvious that what Jesus had in mind is not the world, but the church.

Yes, the good seed is sown in the world, but please notice:  the enemy takes his evil children and he sows them into the church.  So what Christ is saying here is that the church, because of what the devil has done, is a mixture of converted and unconverted people and the problem is how we can distinguish between the two.  Christ says we cannot.  I would like to read you a statement.  There is a statement in Testimonies, Vol. 5, p. 172, by Ellen G. White.  I want to bring it to your attention, because we need to keep this statement in mind.

“The accession of members who have not been renewed in heart” [that means unconverted] “and reformed in life is a source of weakness to the church.  This fact is often ignored.  Some ministers and churches are so desirous of securing an increase of numbers that they do not bear faithful testimony against unchristian habits and practices.  Hence many join the church without first being united to Christ.”  [That means the good seed has not germinated in their lives.]  “Hence, many join the church without first becoming united to Christ.  In this Satan triumphs.  Such converts are his most efficient agents.  They serve as decoys to other souls.  They are false lights, luring the unwary to perdition.”

That is one of the missions the devil employs.  He fills the church with unconverted people.  In Revelation 12:10-17, we have the history of the Christian church in a nutshell:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ.  For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.  They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.  Therefore rejoice, you heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.”
When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child.  The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent’s reach.  Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to make war against the rest of her offspring — those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus.

It’s very interesting.  It begins with Christ, who redeemed the world, and with the church being persecuted.  The early Christian church was persecuted.  Satan tried to destroy the Christian church through persecution.  But as the church father Tertillian said, “The blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church.  The more you mow us down, the more we will bring people in.”  And persecution failed.  It failed miserably.

Then Revelation 12:15 goes on to explain how the devil tried a second method of destroying the church, and, by the way, he was quite successful, not by destroying the church, but by perverting it:

Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.

The second method was to fill the church with water, which in Revelation 17 represents people.  After Constantine, he flooded the church with people, so that numerically the Christian church grew by leaps and bounds, but these unconverted people brought in all their heresies and the church was plunged into darkness.

But I thank God that He is not going to leave His church that way, and so, at the end of the chapter, we find God stepping in, opening the earth to trap the flood, purifying the church and, finally, He will have a remnant.  The word “remnant” means “faithful ones,” those who are faithful in spite of opposition, in spite of persecution.  Satan is going to make war on them, but they are going to remain faithful unto the end.

But in this parable we are studying, Jesus tells us that the devil is doing this and that; this has always been his method.  You know that even among the disciples one was of the devil.  Now the first question I want to ask in terms of the application is, Why?  Why did the disciples single out this parable from all the others?  What was in their thinking when they asked Jesus, “Please, we want this parable to be explained” [Matthew 13:36]?  Well, you must remember the disciples were victims to Judaism.

One of the things that the Jews believed and taught in the days of Christ is that when the Messiah comes He would not only restore the political kingdom of Israel back to the Jews from Roman bondage, but they taught and they believed and were very sincere, that the Messiah would cleanse the Jewish nation of all impure mixed blood, so that he would produce a stainless Jewish nation that was made up of pure Jewish blood.

Now it’s very interesting that Hitler did the same thing, but he thought that the Jews needed to be exterminated and they got a taste of their own medicine in the Holocaust.  But this is what they believed and what was bothering the disciples, because they were victims of this theology, was the fact that the people who were crowding around Jesus were not those pure, holy-looking Jews, but publicans and sinners.  And they were.  They represented the people — the laborers — who came to the farmer and said, “Should we get rid of these fellows?”

Remember the story of Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman?  Jesus left the Galilee area, went to Tyre and Sidon, which today is Lebanon.  A lady came up, a Canaanite woman, an unbeliever, and the disciples said to Him, “Please get rid of her, she is not one of us.  Get rid of her!”  Remember how Jesus tested her and found that her faith was very determined.  She was a remnant.  She refused to give in.  Jesus called her a dog.  Jesus ignored her.  He did everything, but she would not give in.

Then Jesus turned to her and said [Matthew 15:28]:

Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.

She was a Canaanite woman but, to the disciples, she was a dog.  She was an outcast.  She did not deserve to belong to the covenant people of God but, to God’s eyes, she was His child.  She called Jesus, “Lord, Son of David,” which is a typical Messianic term.

Unfortunately, there are too many today who have the same mentality.  There are too many in our churches today who feel that we need to cleanse the church, get rid of all the sinners so that we may have a pure church.  That’s the work of God because the answer the farmer gave, who represents Jesus was, “No!  Because, in trying to remove the weeds, you will remove the wheat.”

Until the very end the two will look alike, and we human beings do not have the capacity to distinguish between the true believer and the unconverted person who is coming to church.  In 1 Samuel 16:6-7, listen to what the prophet writes here:

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Now we have this statement:

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.

What’s the difference?

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

You and I cannot read the hearts of men and women.  Let me give you another text.  Proverbs 16:2.  You have the same idea brought out here:

All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.

I want to tell you about an incident that took place several years ago when China had its Marxist revolution.  We had to close down the China division [of the SDA Church].  The missionaries, who were many from this country, had to come back.  They had to flee for their lives, but one of the division officers in the China division was a national, a graduate of P.U.C.  Where could he go?  He was a Chinese.  Even though he could not go anywhere, he remained faithful to Christ, and so the Chinese Marxist government took him and put him in prison.  I believe he was there for 20 or 21 years.  How would you like, young people, to spend 20 years of your best years in a Marxist prison where they don’t give you angel food cake or spaghetti or salad?  This is what I ate when I ate with the prisoners here in America.

That young man remained very faithful even in prison.  They tried to brainwash him.  They tried everything.  Fifteen years later he wrote a very long letter.  I had the privilege of reading that letter, which was written to the General Conference.  He had managed to befriend one of the jailers, even convert him, and he gave this letter to the jailer, who promised to mail it and he did mail it.  In that letter he expressed some real concerns where he felt the church had failed to prepare his own people for a crisis.  And one of the things that he mentioned was that the missionaries were very generous, very kind, and very helpful to the Chinese people who had learned to bow down to the missionaries and say “yes” to everything.  They gave them scholarships; they gave them the praise and honor, but those who were quiet, those who did not say much, were ignored.  But when the crisis came, it was these people — one of them was the principal of the college — who actually denied Christ and were the greatest enemies of the church.  The ones who were ignored remained faithful to Christ.

When I read that I was impressed for the simple reason that we had a similar experience in Africa.  In Uganda under Idi Amin, in Ethiopia, in the Marxist revolution — the ones who we least expected to remain strong for Christ were the ones who were willing to die for Christ, and the ones who had such wonderful blessings from this church failed.  I remember a man who was sent to the Philippines by the church and given a degree through denominational money.  He was the one who organized the labor union in our hospital and tried to get rid of the doctors.

We are going to be in for a surprise.  You will be amazed who will remain faithful and who won’t.  May I make it clear that the one who thinks he will stand will fall.  We do not have the capacity to distinguish who is a true Christian and who is not.  We have no idea what some people are struggling with.  We have no idea, but I thank God, He reads their hearts.

As the parable tells us, the great danger is that, if we try to get rid of the sinners, we will pull out the wheat.  Jesus is not discussing discipline here.  He is discussing judging.  If you read Matthew 7:1, Jesus says never judge:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

Please follow that counsel when you see a brother or sister go wrong.  Please don’t come and report him to the church.  Those are not the steps.  You go to the person personally and, out of love, try to help him to correct the problem and, if he or she doesn’t listen, then take two or three witnesses.  If they don’t listen, then you report it to the pastor and the church.

Remember, Christ is not discussing discipline; He is discussing judging and we have no right to judge.  Paul says the same thing in Romans 14.  We must not judge each other because that is the work of God.  Now, the church will always have the weeds in it.  There has never been a time when there have been no weeds.  The mixed multitude were a great hindrance to the Jews in the exodus.  Judas was a child of the devil, in fact the Bible says so.  John 6:70:

Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?  Yet one of you is a devil!”

We will always have weeds.  The question is not whether we have weeds.  The question is, which of the two are you:  weeds or wheat?  I can’t tell.  Nobody else here can tell, but there are two people who can tell:  God and the Holy Spirit, because He can read your heart.  He knows whether you have genuinely accepted Him or not.

The next thing I would like to bring to your attention is weed pulling.  Pulling out weeds is always a negative work, and that is not the work God has given to the church.  The work that God has given to the church is to sow the good seed.  That’s our mission.  Leave God to pull out the weeds.  He will do it in his own time, but our mission is to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Sow the good seed.

Those why try to produce a “pure” church will end up where the Pharisees have ended.  The Pharisees tried to produce a pure church in the days of Jesus Christ.  They would have nothing to do with the sinners or the publicans.  They only mixed with those who belonged to their club.  They called it the Holiness Club.  There were two things wrong with them:

  1. They were self-righteous.
  2. They looked down upon others.

Luke 18:11:

The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  “God, I thank you that I am not like other men — robbers, evildoers, adulterers — or even like this tax collector.”

All of us are one hundred percent sinners saved by grace.  We have no right to judge anybody.  I don’t know if you realize we are all of the same stock.  We share the same life.  Given the right chances, given the right environment, the right circumstances, you and I, everyone of us, can do exactly as Hitler did in the Holocaust.

Don’t ever say to me, “What happened in Germany can never happen here in America.”  May I remind you that 55 million babies are aborted every year in the world of which 1.6 million are in this country.  Investigators have found that 90 percent of these abortions are not done because of necessity, but because of convenience.  If life begins at conception, that is worse than the Holocaust.  So don’t ever believe that it can’t happen here.  We are all of the same stock.  Given the chance, the right environment, it will happen.  We can do it.  That is why God has not ordained the church to separate the wheat from the weeds.  Our job is to present the truth.  It is God who has ordained the angels to pull out the weeds.

Look at Matthew 13:39-42:

..And the enemy who sows them [the bad seed] is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels [not us].  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 [which means His church and that is why I believe this parable is referring to the church] everything that causes sin and all who do evil.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Notice, Christ chooses His words.  In the Hebrew language there are 12 words that go under the umbrella of “sin.”  The word “iniquity” is very interesting.  It means doing something with a selfish motive, whether it is good or bad.  In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:21-22, Jesus said in the last days:

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?”

Jesus says in response [verse 23]:

Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you.  Away from me, you evildoers!”

What they were doing was good, but their heart was wrong.  That’s why we cannot judge, because we do not know the hearts of men and women.  God knows and these people were doing iniquity.  They may be proclaiming the name of Christ, they may be doing many good works, even casting out devils, but they were doing iniquity.  Therefore, He shall cast them into the furnace of fire.

This is exactly what Matthew 7 is saying [same as Matthew 13]:

There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

They will be crying, “But, Lord, open the door.  We have been part of your church.”  They will even quote, “We have been part of your remnant church.”  Please remember, the world “remnant” means “faithful.”  It does not mean “the last bit of cloth.”  It means those who are faithful towards the end.  Elijah said to God, “All Israel have departed from you.  I am the only one.”  And God said, “No, there are 7,000 who are still faithful.”  Do you know what God calls them?  The remnant.

Now I want you to be clear about this.  The remnant refers to those who are remaining faithful to God until the very end and, when the devil will make war, that war will separate.  When the shaking comes, it will separate, but it is God who will allow the shaking, who will bring in the shaking through circumstances.  The shaking is to separate the wheat and the weeds.  The shaking is the beginning of the separation.

It is my prayer when the shaking comes to this church, that not one of you will be separated from the body of Christ.  Because you can deceive your pastor, you can deceive your friends, you can deceive everybody around you, but there is one Person you cannot deceive and that is our Lord Jesus Christ.  He knows what is in you, and it is my prayer that when the separation takes place, which is the end of the world, and we are living in those times, we will not be among those who will be collected by the angels to be burnt.

But my prayer in the meantime is that we fulfill the mission of this church:  Go into all the world and sow the seeds.  There are people out there who belong to God, whose hearts are in the right direction, but who have not heard the good news.  Please let us go out and be witnesses for Christ.  That is our job.  Our job is not to clean the church.  Our job is to sow the good seeds.  Let God do His job.  He will do it in His own time.  He will cut this work short in righteousness.  May God bless you that we will be the laborers who will sow seeds, plant the good seeds, and leave the harvest and the judging and the separation to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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