Parables can be confusing. In the Church we may forget that, since we have had parables explained and interpreted for years. We may think that they are easy.
Consider the potential confusion in the Parable of the Weeds. A man went out and sowed good seed. Now, just before this parable was the Parable of the Sower. In that one, the seed is the Word of God, as Christ clearly explained. So a guy in the crowd hears the parable and thinks, “Oh, the seed in this parable must also be the Word of God, like it was in the Parable of the Sower.” That would be a reasonable conclusion, and dead wrong. The good seed in the Parable of the Weeds is the sons of the Kingdom.
A similar confusion could happen with the weeds. In the parable of the sower there were thorns that grew up with the good seed and choked it out. These thorns represented the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, as Christ explained. A reasonable conclusion would be that the weeds in the Parable of the Weeds are the same as the thorns that grew up in the Parable of the Sower. But no, that is completely wrong. Here, the weeds are the sons of the evil one.
Here I should briefly add that the devil does not have literal children. The people Christ is referring to are the unbelievers who are part of the sinful world around us.
As for the confusion that comes with this and other parables, notice that the disciples did not get it at first. Even they, who were directly instructed by Christ, did not understand it. So they came to Christ for His explanation.
But as soon as He gives His explanation, ANOTHER source of confusion arises. When you compare the explanation He gives in the second half of the Holy Gospel with the parable in the first half, there seems to be a completely different emphasis. In the parable, the main point seems to revolve around the question of why the master of the house did not order the weeds removed from his field. But the emphasis of the explanation has to do with what the Last Judgment will be like.
Why the difference? If we consider the different audiences, the change in emphasis makes a lot of sense.
The parable itself was spoken to the crowds. Gathering around Christ were many people who saw the work of the Lord and heard His preaching. Yet they also saw resistance of different kinds. Some people would believe in Christ for a time, but then fall away. Could this Man really be the One? If so, how could people abandon Him? Others actively resisted and questioned Christ, like the Pharisees and scribes. But wouldn’t the true Messiah unite all people and persuade everyone?
Was Christ really establishing the Kingdom of heaven? If so, why did it look like this was NOT the Kingdom of heaven? From the pagan Romans to the hypocrites, the world was filled with wickedness. If God was establishing the Kingdom, then why did He not get rid of all those evil people?
The Parable of the Weeds was Christ’s way of saying that the evil one sows his seeds in the world, in both the world and the Church. But it is not the will of the Father to immediately remove the false seeds.
In other words, evil will remain in the world for some time. This does not mean that the Kingdom has not come. Christ has fully established it upon the best Foundation that can exist, which is Himself. But the Kingdom, the Church, exists in a hidden way.
Especially at the time of Christ’s earthly ministry, people needed to know that now was not the time for all wickedness to be judged. They needed to understand this so that they would not reject Christ because He was not doing the things they thought the Messiah should do. They needed to continue to listen to Him and find redemption in His life, death, and resurrection. But if they rejected Him because He did not vanquish the Romans, then they would miss out on all the eternal gifts He came to bestow. They needed to realize that some would reject Christ, but that did not mean that He was not the true Messiah.
In our day, people outside the Church might have similar feelings. “If this congregation were a true Church, then it would be full to be the bursting. More people would flock here, and no one would ever leave.” This is as if to say, “Christ must not be there, because satan still sows seeds of discord there.”
Also, people look at the Christian Church as a whole and notice that there are hypocrites who say they are Christians yet act as if they believe nothing in the Bible at all. Is THAT the Kingdom of God?
Or they look at Christians who are killed for their faith. They wonder, “If these are really the people of God, would He allow that to happen? Surely not!”
The danger for us is if we become like these critical grumblers. We need to not blame the Church for the seeds satan sows. We need to see the Kingdom, hidden as it is. Christ is here. His Kingdom is here. We should not expect a utopia here, nor around the world. That is not this Kingdom.
We should expect persecutions to come from people who are so much like their father the devil that they try to destroy Christians wherever they can. These are the most obvious examples of the sons of the wicked one, who were prophesied as early as Genesis three when the Lord said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.”
Sometimes, the serpent’s seed present a less obvious and threatening danger. They can be as subtle as their father in Eden.
When we are frustrated by the many forms of human wickedness in the world, then we should remember that it is not time for the judgment yet. God is purposely allowing them to remain in the world. Although His plan may look ugly or foolish to us, we know that it is His good and wise plan. We should be patient and remain faithful to the Kingdom that He has put in our midst by His gracious will.
When the disciples were alone with Christ, they asked for the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds. When He explains, the emphasis is upon the Last Judgment. The disciples needed to keep their eyes upon the goal. They were already committed by the call of Christ to follow this path to its end – a bloody end, for eleven out of twelve of them.
One of them would turn out to be a son of satan. One would betray, but the rest remain faithful.
And sure, the Twelve still misunderstood or did not get things. They would make errors and be too weak for the task many times.
So what do you need when you are committed by God to follow the path of discipleship, but you are not always equal to the task? Really, no minister of Christ, lay person or preacher, is equal to the task. He gives us far more than we can handle many times. But He is with us in His Word and Sacraments so that much more can be accomplished than what we are capable of.
Upon the long hard road, the disciples needed encouragement that the end was certain. There could be no doubt what would take place. The Lord will one day send His angels to gather the sons of the Kingdom. The sons of the wicked one will be cast into fire forever. The injustices and imbalances of this world will be corrected. On that Day, the Kingdom will be visible and glorious, and we will shine like the sun, and everything will be as it should be.
When the disciples faced stiff persecution and threats to their lives, Christ wanted them to stand up straight and say, “Do what you will to me. My Lord has a day in store for us. You cannot take away the Kingdom. You may rule and destroy today, but an eternal day comes which our Lord has purchased for us.”
With such words we can comfort ourselves. The Kingdom is ours. Our eternal destiny is assured by no less a price than the Blood of the Son of God. What could we not face for the sake of what He has made for us? What injustice would we not endure?
From the perspective Christ has given us in the parable, we can see the worst of this world and say, “This too shall pass away.” Indeed, the darker this world becomes, the greater the light will shine for us. We shall be carried by angels out of the darkness of this vale of tears into the Kingdom of light. For Christ is our Light, the only true Light for mankind, and He is ours.
All praise to Him who has graciously given us the Kingdom. Amen.
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