Parable of the Weeds, 26 July 2015

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: good and evil coexist in our world—for now!


Last week we began our series Parables, a look at several stories Jesus told as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel—good news—or biography of Jesus.

Lectio Divina: Matthew 13:24-30

Last week we talked about a man who sowed seed. The success of the harvest was not dependent upon the sower, the seed, the water, or the sun, but rather by the soil. Bad soil produced bad crops and good soil yielded a great harvest.

As we continue reading Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus continues to talk about sowing seed, this time seed that apparently lands in good soil…but there is a problem. Its origins go back to the Garden of Eden—in more ways than one!

In the first chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are enjoying God, the Garden, one another, and work. Yes, they enjoyed work.

They were punished for their disobedience, listening to the enemy, the serpent, satan, the devil. They ate the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

At the risk of oversimplifying the punishment, God allowed weeds to grow!

I hate weeds. Hate is a strong word, yet weeds were the bane of my existence as a child. You may have heard me share stories about pulling weeds in our garden and yard. I’m sure my mom would disagree but it seemed as if my sister and I spent half of our summer days pulling weeds in 100 degree heat, sun beating down, no water until dinner, no rest until bedtime, and no vacation until winter break! I love you, mom!

Obviously I had no such experience, but I do vividly remember moments—if not hours—pulling weeds, wanting to curse Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and causing me great hardship!

Weeds are nasty. I dare say weeds are evil.

As we will see from our text today, had I studied the Bible more as a child, perhaps I would’ve discovered this passage and used it as an excuse to not pull weeds!

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. (Matthew 13:24-26)

First, this is a parable, a story of what the kingdom of
heaven is like, a picture of the future. We are all so curious about heaven. Where is it? Who will be there? When do we get to go? What does it look like? Do all dogs go there?!

Jesus says a man sowed good seed in his field. Good seed produces…good crops, in this case wheat (my apologies to those who are gluten-free!). We can assume the soil is good, but unfortunately the man has an enemy. The enemy goes to the trouble of sowing in the same field, but instead of sowing seeds, he sows weeds.

Why? Weeds grow naturally. I have a garden full of them to prove it!

Growth takes time. It takes time for babies to grow into adults, for seedlings to grow into big trees, and for seeds to grow into crops. In the early days following planting, it’s difficult to know what is planted…or where. Many gardeners use popsicle sticks or other markers to show above ground what is below.

In Jesus’ parable, the wheat and weeds appear together.

The world is getting better. The wheat is growing.
The world is getting worse. The weeds are growing.

“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?’ (Matthew 13:27-28)

This is a great question. I’m sure I asked it many times of my mom. Do you
really want us to pull the weeds? Wouldn’t it be better for us to swim in the neighbor’s pool and not get our clothes dirty?!

No parable or analogy is perfect. As a general rule, pulling weeds helps the crops grow. This explains why I’ve grown so few crops in our garden over the years; we don’t spend enough time pulling weeds, they rob the crops of nutrients, and sometimes even choke them, winding their way around the stems of our plants. Weeds are evil!

The answer really is surprising.

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot 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.’ ” (Matthew 13:29-30)

Jesus seems to be saying two things:

  1. Pulling weeds risks pulling the wheat.
  2. At harvest time, the wheat and weeds will be separated and have very different outcomes

Do you understand this parable? If you’ve read this chapter, you have an unfair advantage, one unavailable to Jesus’ disciples. A few verses later we get the explanation.

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.” (Matthew 13:36)

The more I read the Bible, the more I understand human nature and realize I’m not alone in my cluelessness! There’s so much of the Bible I don’t fully understand, yet that prompts me to pursue it all the more.

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)

Jesus begins by identifying the two teams! Jesus sows good seed—the people of the kingdom—into the world. The devil sows his people into the world, the weeds. The harvest is coming and angels will harvest the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one.

God is real. The evil one is also real.

Most people prefer to talk about God than about satan. More people believe in angels than demons. They’re all a part of reality.

If you don’t believe me, last night “an 8½-foot-tall bronze monument featuring a goat-headed Satan” was to be unveiled in Detroit by The Satanic Temple. The monument, a “1½-ton Baphomet, which is backed by an inverted pentagram and flanked by statues of two young children gazing up at the creature, shows Satan with horns, hooves, wings and a beard.” (

So much for underground! For the record,

“The Satanic Temple Detroit chapter founder Jex Blackmore has said the group doesn't worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.” (

As I’ve said before, the essence of satanism is the worship of self, something that seems to be our national—if not world—religion!

Talk of heaven and hell, God and satan, angels and demons makes many uncomfortable, but whoever said life and reality were to be comfortable?

Here’s what Jesus said:

“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 everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-41)

I don’t like the thought of hell any more than the next guy, but these are Jesus’s words. Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. There will be a separation of the wheat and weeds, the sheep and the goats, those who follow Jesus and those who follow their own desires, those who worship God and those who worship themselves.

Which are you?

The world really is getting better.
The world really is getting worse.

A day is coming when we will all be judged for the way we lived our days on this earth. Today really matters. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.

This past week Heather and I attended one of the most gut-wrenching gatherings we’ve ever experienced, the funeral of a five month-old baby who died in his sleep. Like all funerals, it was a reminder of how fragile life is and how each day is truly a gift. They say you are not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? Are your loved ones ready?

The reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven upon following Jesus is there is work to do here on earth. Light and darkness coexist. Good and evil coexist. One is always in tension with the other. Let’s make sure we are in the light of Jesus and reflecting that light to our dark world today. Tomorrow might be too late.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Parable of the Sower, 19 July 2015

Matthew 13:1-23

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: spiritual seeds produce a variety of results


Stories. Life is filled with stories. In many ways, life itself is a macro story with a nearly infinite number of micros stories contained within.

What is your favorite childhood story? Why?

What is your favorite Bible story? Why?

Stories are powerful. They’re so powerful, in fact, that they’re strategically used to prompt you to spend money. The success of Tom’s Shoes lies largely in the story behind them; for every pair purchased, another is given to a shoeless person in another country. I have a friend, Joelle McNamera, who started a company as a teenager called Badala, which means “instead.” She employs former sex slaves to produce jewelry and sells it at market rate, providing alternative employment for these women “instead” of their former work. Purchasing a Badala product does more than just provide you with another piece of jewelry; it changes lives, and that story is getting noticed, now even available at some Chicagoland Target stores. Author Donald Miller has begun a consulting business showing companies like Intel, Chick-fil-A, and Steelcase how to use story in their marketing.

Stories are powerful in other ways. Most movies would be dreadful without a good story. Many songs tell moving stories in their lyrics. Ghost stories at a campfire, stories of the good old days told by the aged, or even the infamous fishing stories capture our imagination and seize our attention.

Some have found stories to be unnecessary, preferring nothing more than hard data. “Just the facts. Get to the point,” they say. Jesus vehemently disagrees. He used the sacred texts, He was straightforward in much of His preaching, but so much of His teachings focused on stories, parables in particular. For the next several weeks we’re going to look at one chapter of the Bible, Matthew 13, and the parables of Jesus recorded for us.

Lectio Divina

There is a real art to telling a great story. Listening to one is quite a different experience from silently reading one. Lectio Divina is an ancient practice of simply listening to a passage of scripture read repeatedly, asking the Holy Spirit to speak through the text.

We have done this a time or two in the past. Today’s text will be read aloud three times. Please sit comfortably still as the text is read. Consider these two questions:

  1. What word or phrase grabs my attention?
  2. What question about the text would you ask a New Testament scholar?

Remember, the text will be read three times. Be still and listen to God’s Word and ask Him to speak to you now.

Matthew 13:3-9

Then he told them many things in parables, saying:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”


  1. What word or phrase grabbed your attention?
  2. What question about the text would you ask a New Testament scholar?

It is essential that we read the Bible, but things get especially exciting when the Bible reads us!

Our text today will be especially familiar to those who were a part of the Envision DR trip two weeks ago to the Dominican Republic. Our team presented this parable to various groups of students at a Compassion International site hosted by one of our Alliance Churches near Santiago. We used readings, songs, drama, and even puppets to present this account. I’m sorry, but I don’t have the puppets today!


There’s a bit more to this parable that what was read. The previous verses provide the context.

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. (Matthew 13:1-2)

Jesus then begins with the first parable, a story of a sower scattering seed.


We take food for granted. It seems like it’s everywhere—grocery stores, roadside stands, coffee shops, in our pantries and refrigerators, drive-thru windows, …We are very blessed to live in a land of abundance and plenty, yet so many in our country and countries around the globe will go to be hungry tonight. May we always be grateful and generous.

In the midst of our wealth, I have heard stories of urban children actually believing food was produced in the grocery store, unaware of its agricultural origins (or chemical laboratory origins in the case of our processed foods!). Food is important to us, but in Jesus’ day it was not as convenient to obtain as it is for us. Jesus taught His followers to pray not for a full refrigerator and freezer but for daily bread. Needless to say, agricultural metaphors are not powerful in our culture as in Jesus’ day, but the parable is no less powerful.

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. (Matthew 13:3-4)

What is needed to grow a crop?

  • seed
  • sun
  • water
  • soil

This is a parable about sowing seeds, but the attention is on the soil. It’s commonly understood that the same type of seeds, sun, and water are used in each of the four accounts. Notice these were not gardens. People often grew crops in open areas with footpaths.

A footpath was not a good place for seeds. Even if it was once good soil, the feet of travelers and their possessions would compress the soil, making it hard. It’s no wonder the birds were able to eat the seeds. You can’t grow many crops in a hard road!

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. (Matthew 13:5-6)

It’s not enough to have soil. You need an adequate amount of soil for the roots to grow deep. Each time I add a new plant to our small rose garden I read how deep I must first dig. A seed in shallow soil will not last. A plant is only as strong as its roots.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. (Matthew 13:7)

Have you ever touched a thorn? They’re terrible! It’s no wonder they made a crown of thorns for Jesus during His torture. They destroy everything they touch, including plants.

Finally Jesus saves the best for last.

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:8-9)

Good soil is essential to good crops. It always amazed me how tiny seeds can produce huge crops in months or even weeks.

Story: my tree Herman

What Does It Mean?

Besides basic gardening techniques, what is Jesus’ point in talking about the sower? We can know because we can read ahead, but often (usually?) Jesus’ parables were not understood. In fact,

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” (Matthew 13:10)

Jesus spends several verses answering their question before addressing what must’ve been their primary question: what does this parable mean?

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. (Matthew 13:18-19)

Perhaps this is like drive-by evangelism, the megaphone guy yelling at people he doesn’t know and will never see again. Although some claim fruit, many hear and leave confused, hurt or angry. Like a baby or a plant, growth takes time.

The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matthew 13:20-21)

I’ve seen this in people. It’s like the old expression, “Easy come, easy go.” They get excited about everything, so they can quickly move from Jesus to Buddha to whatever the latest fad may be. They may also be sincere in their faith until storms come, they blame God, and renounce their faith. I’ve heard so many tragic stories of people who used to follow Jesus…until a priest abused them, a Christian betrayed them, a storm destroyed them, or they simply weren’t willing to pay the price to follow Jesus. We take our freedom of religion for granted in this country, yet most Christians on our planet pay a dear price for their faith—and they have since Jesus arrived and experienced the ultimate persecution. Following Jesus is not just praying a prayer, getting a “get out of hell free” card, and living in guaranteed health and wealth. It’s a 24/7 fully surrendered life to Jesus as LORD, as King. We must die in order to experience the abundant life He offers.

The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. (Matthew 13:22)

This is so common in our culture, too. We are obsessed with consumerism and stuff, working crazy hours to be able to maintain lifestyles we don’t need and even buying things we can’t afford. Jesus said we cannot worship God and money.

But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:23)

Many crops are contagious. One planted seed might produce multiple plants over the years. That’s what happens when we are infected by the love virus of God’s Word: it spreads to others. Good news must be shared!

So What?

I believe we are to both sow the Word of God into the lives of others and also tend to our own soil.

The sower had a job to do. He took action. It may have been hot! I’m sure it was in the Middle East! He couldn’t run up to Meijer and grab a bag of salad or an apple. He sowed seeds…but seemed careless about where he was placing the seeds, especially the seeds that fell on the path. It’s easy to be discouraged when people don’t respond positively to your faith. I believe the key to all sowing of spiritual seeds is prayer. It’s like supernatural fertilizer for the soil. There are many you and I know who simply are not interested in matters of faith today. We must persevere in prayer for the Holy Spirit to soften their heart and prepare the soil of their soul. Others, however, are ready, their soil is prepared, they are receptive and it’s a joy to plant and cultivate those new crops!

How is your soul’s soil? What are the thorns in your life? Worry? Wealth? Busyness? Consumerism? Work? Social media? Politics? Religion? What is keeping you from becoming a “little Jesus,” a choice fruit, a reproducing crop?

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.