THEME: Pervasive Evil
These parables show the subtlety of Satan is evil.
He put another parable before them, saying, “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. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 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?’ 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?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 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.’”
He put another parable before them, saying, “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 nests in its branches.” He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Nothing good has ever come into the world without opposition, and that is especially true in spiritual matters. Here we face not only the hostility and opposition of mere people like ourselves, but satanic or demonic opposition as well. That is why the Bible wants us to be on our guard against the devil who, we are told, “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). The Scripture alerts us to the devil’s “schemes.” He must not be able to “outwit us” (2 Cor. 2:11).
Since we have an enemy who is so fiercely opposed to the extension of God’s rule on earth, we should not be surprised to find the Lord warning us against his devices in the parables of the kingdom in Matthew 13. Jesus does this quite clearly in the second parable, showing how the devil, like an enemy of a certain farmer, sows weeds in God’s field—that is, scatters his unbelievers among God’s believers. Jesus also does this in the third and fourth parables, in my judgment, though he speaks there without explanation. He tells of a mustard seed that grew up to be a great tree and of yeast that a woman mixed into a large amount of dough. These parables alert us to strategies Satan has been using to hinder the work of God in this seed-sowing age between the time of Christ’s first coming and his coming again.
The first of these parables is the easiest to interpret (though it does have some difficult parts), both because much of it is self-evident, and because the Lord explains it. The details of the parable itself are given in verses 24-30 of Matthew 13.
In discussing this passage some have made much of a detail in Christ’s explanation, found in verse 38. In the previous verse Jesus had explained that “the one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man”—an explanation that no doubt applies to the first parable as well and shows that all the parables are somewhat linked. Then he goes onto say, “The field is the world” (v. 38). Some have stressed that point, arguing that if the field is the world, it cannot be the church. Therefore, Christ’s prohibition against trying to separate the weeds from the grain before the final judgment does not apply to church discipline. So the church, in spite of Christ’s warning, should try to be as pure as possible.
The concern that leads to that interpretation is a valid one, namely, that the church should strive to maintain purity. Other passages in the New Testament call upon us to work for that goal. But to argue for that idea gets the interpretation of the parable off track. For one thing, it is impossible here to make a rigid distinction between the world and the church, because a little farther on Jesus speaks of the angels weeding out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil (v. 41, emphasis added). God’s kingdom is not the world in general, so any interpretation that builds exclusively on the phrase “the field is the world” is suspect.
Why should you be on guard against the devil?
Explain what it means to sow weeds in God’s field.
What does Jesus mean when he states “the field is the world”?
How do some Christians go off track in interpreting this?
How is it true of your experience that “nothing good has ever come into the world without opposition,” especially in spiritual matters?
Ask God‘s help to be discerning in interacting with those who profess to know him.
These parables alert us to strategies Satan has been using to hinder the work of God in this seed-sowing age between the time of Christ’s first coming and his coming again.