The Son of Man’s Field and Kingdom

The Son of Man’s Field and Kingdom

Last week we considered various types of soil and saw how good soil, or believers respond to the Gospel message; bad soil, or those who reject the Gospel do not respond to this message for a variety of reasons. This week we’re going to consider a different metaphor for believers and unbelievers used by Jesus, that of good seed vs. weeds in the second of Jesus’ parables recorded for us in Matthew’s Gospel.

This parable is variously known as the parable of the weeds or the parable of the tares or the parable of the wheat and tares or the parable of the wheat and weeds. Since I was unfamiliar with what, exactly, a “tare” is, I looked it up and learned that it is “an injurious weed resembling wheat when young.” This definition helps us better understand this parable since it would otherwise be easy to assume that wheat and weeds look nothing alike. But knowing that tares are a type of weed that resembles wheat when it begins to grow is helpful.

Now unlike last week’s parable in which Jesus simply jumped right in by describing four types of soil in which a farmer sowed his seed, this week Jesus introduces the parable by letting those who are listening know that the point of what he’s about to say is tied to the kingdom of heaven. In verse 24 Jesus begins this parable by stating, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.” So right off the bat we know that the theme of this parable, its focus, is the kingdom of heaven. And the first thing we’re told is that God’s kingdom is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. Once again an example from agrarian life might not be immediately relevant to many of us who no longer make our living from agriculture—as evidenced by a recent online survey in which 7% of all American adults (that’s 16.4 million people!) said they believed that chocolate milk comes from brown cows![1] However these parables would have been familiar to and thereby resonated with Jesus’ audience.

Jesus’ second point, verse 25, is that “while everyone was sleeping,” the man’s “enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” So there’s a foil to the good intentions of the first man. His enemy seeks to hinder his attempts to grow good seed. Initially the enemy is successful for, verse 26, “When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.”

Then starting in verse 27 we’re told how the man sowing the good seed chose to deal with this problem:

First, “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?’

So he answered them, 28 “An enemy did this,”

Next, “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”

As was true with last week’s parable, so far as the events described in the parable itself are concerned, there’s nothing remarkable here. If a farmer had sown good wheat seed in his field and someone intending to do him harm, an enemy, came by cover of night and planted weed seeds that would resemble wheat when it sprang up, the farmer would need to figure out the best course of action for saving his crop. Everything stated here makes sense. Rather than immediately pull out the weeds and risk harming the wheat whose tender roots may be intertwined with the weeds, the farmer tells his servants to allow both wheat and weeds to grow to their fruition when the wheat will be mature and ready to be harvested. That then would be the time to gather the wheat into his barn and collect the weeds to be burned.

But, again, since a parable uses a natural event or story from everyday life to provide a deeper meaning or lesson, Jesus’ disciples want to know what the meaning of this parable is and so they once again pull Jesus aside. And though as I mentioned last week it isn’t common for Jesus to offer explanations or interpretations for his parables we’re now 2-for-2 since this week he once again does. We’re told that after Jesus “left the crowd and went into the house,” verse 36, his disciples “came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’” And, again, keep in mind that Jesus has already indicated that this is a parable about the kingdom of heaven.

So Jesus again complied with his disciples’ request as he states in verse 37, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.” If this is a parable about the kingdom of heaven, the sower of good seed is the King of heaven or Jesus himself. “Son of Man” was the most common title he used for referring to himself. It appears 81 times in the Gospels and is used there only by Jesus.[2] So in this parable he is explaining part of the reason why he, the Son of Man, came to earth. He came to sow good seed in “the field” which is the world, verse 38. But notice that the field isn’t simply “the world” but the parable refers to the field as his world—“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field” (v. 24). The world belongs to the Sower. The world belongs to the Son of Man. The world belongs to Jesus Christ.

The next thing we’re told is, “the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom” whereas the “weeds are the people of the evil one.” So Christ, the Son of Man, came to usher his Kingdom into his world, his field, and he did so by sowing good seed. He came into the world he had made, to the people he had made, to draw those people back to himself. He came to add citizens to his—that is God’s— heavenly kingdom. This is all in keeping with God’s triune plan—to create a people for himself from one man, Abraham, from whom he made not only his people Israel for himself but through Abraham he extended his blessing to include all nations to be included among his people.[3]

But God’s good seed, God’s people—Christ’s people—have ever been challenged by those who have turned against God, the people of the evil one, God’s enemy. This evil one, “the enemy who sows” his own people “is the devil,” verse 39. In stating this, Jesus is acknowledging the reality and enormity of spiritual warfare. And, again, notice that in the parable the devil is referred to as his enemy—“But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (v. 25). Though we often place the source of evil solely on humans, it’s important to remember that it wasn’t Adam and Eve’s idea to disobey God, but it was the serpent that initially planted this idea. And though we don’t know the specifics about when Satan and his minions fell, we do know that it occurred prior to the Fall of humans for the serpent is already present in the Garden. And John in his Revelation refers to the devil as “that ancient serpent,”[4] alluding to Satan’s presence as a serpent in the Garden of Eden. Now Scripture everywhere discloses that God is all Good and that Satan is all Evil. And though we don’t know how it’s possible that a Good God would allow evil to enter and distort his good creation—this is why we so often speak of the problem of evil—we do know that God was sufficiently concerned about evil to do something about it. He was concerned about it because the Creation was his. He was concerned about it because he had graced the human part of his creation with his very own image.[5]

And starting in Genesis it’s clear that the serpent is the instigator of the Fall. The first thing we’re told about him is that he was “more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.”[6] The serpent approaches Eve and causes her to question the truth of what God had said: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”[7] Eve responded by correcting the serpent, noting that God hadn’t said they mustn’t eat from any tree. In fact it was just the opposite. God said they could eat fruit from the trees in the garden but that they, “must not eat fruit from the tree”—singular—“that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.”[8] Do you see the serpent’s craftiness? Not only is he questioning God’s Word but he’s also questioning God’s goodness. He makes it sound as though God would have Adam and Eve starve; as though God didn’t want them to eat from any tree in the garden. Initially Eve stands firm and corrects his misstatement. But having planted a seed of doubt in her mind as to God’s truthfulness and goodness, the serpent went on to try and broaden the crack of doubt: “He only gave this prohibition to stay away from this particular fruit because he knew that on the day you ate of it, you would become like him, knowing good and evil.” Again whereas according to Eve, the reason God gave for not eating from the tree in the middle of the garden was that it would cause them to die, the serpent quickly dismisses God’s Word— “You will not certainly die,”—and changes the focus to “God doesn’t want you to become like him.”[9] It’s almost as if the serpent is trying to get the woman to think that God is petty. “God doesn’t want any competitors. He doesn’t really care about your good. Believe me—you won’t die. This is about God. Believe me. Don’t believe God! Believe me.”

Well, we know what happened. Eve took of the fruit. She gave some to Adam who was standing there with her. Their eyes were opened to the shame of what they’d done—to the consequences of their disobedience to the God who had made them in his image and sought to protect them by his Word. And so they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves.[10] But God didn’t give up on his image-bearers. He judged them, yes, but he cursed the serpent and promised that one day One would come who would crush his head.[11] This is known as the proto-evangelion, the first presentation of the Gospel. Even at the time of the Fall, the outcome for God’s creation, for humanity, and for the serpent, had been sealed.

Beginning at the time of the Fall, Satan’s defeat was declared. And with the coming of Christ, as borne witness to throughout the New Testament, the One who would once and for all crush the serpent’s head at long last arrived. So for example, in an account in John’s Gospel, after the people heard the Father’s voice from heaven respond to Jesus,[12] he went on to explain, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” By means of Christ dying on the cross, Satan’s defeat was sealed. God’s creating a people for himself of necessity involved the destruction of the one who caused evil in the first place. And whereas Jesus was speaking at a time when the cross still lay before him, Paul, looking back at Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven testified about him, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”[13]

Again, part of the reason Christ came to earth—came to his field, the world—was to destroy evil, to destroy the one who caused God’s image-bearers to sin in the first place. But he came not only to destroy evil but also to sow good seed, to create a people for himself that they might not eternally experience the devastating effects of the evil one. The author of Hebrews testifies to this. Referring to Christ Jesus, he states “14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”[14] Christ came to destroy the one who convinced Adam and Eve that they would not die if they ate of the one fruit forbidden them. In so convincing them he introduced them to the death from which God had sought to protect them in the first place. Paul similarly notes Christ’s role in delivering us from Satan’s wiles when, in his greeting to the churches in Galatia, he says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”[15] And, again, in his letter to the church at Colossae Paul similarly testifies about Christ, “13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”[16] In Christ alone are Satan and death conquered. In Christ alone can we be rescued from the present evil age. In Christ alone can we be rescued from the dominion of darkness. In Christ alone is Satan’s power over death broken once and for all.

But if good soil, God’s people, exists, then so too does bad soil; so too do people of the enemy. In his first epistle, John pleads with believers, his children in Christ, to guard their faith. In the context of his plea, he reminds them that their faith isn’t simply a matter of professing what they believe but also requires living out what they believe. Actions reveal a person’s values and beliefs. Or, to put it in terms Jesus also taught, good tree bears good fruit but bad tree bears bad fruit.[17] So John writes,

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.[18]

Satan ever seeks to sow those who will follow him, those who will become his people and live according to his ways. When people live according to the ways of evil, by their actions they are demonstrating that they are children of that ancient serpent. So John calls believers to live instead according to the ways of the God who created us in his image and desires to redeem us by his love as he so sacrificially demonstrated by offering up to us the blood of his Son as well as the sealing of his Spirit.

Finally Jesus explains the harvest and the harvesters in verse 39. The harvest “is the end of the age” and “the harvesters are angels.” Though we may well wonder when all evil and wrongs will be made right, though not answering the matter of when, in this parable Jesus nonetheless makes clear that one day God’s goodness and justice will win, verse 40: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.” Further in that fearsome day, “41 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. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Beginning with the time of the Fall, God has allowed the wheat and the tares, the good seed and the weeds, believers and those who are at odds with God’s purposes, to live together in this world. But one day, when Christ returns, there will be judgment. One day evil will be destroyed definitively. One day evil will be destroyed once and for all.

And on that day, at last, verse 43, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.[19] Whoever has ears, let them hear.” As in the coming of Christ we have the initial arrival of the kingdom of God, so with the final return of Christ, we will have the arrival of the end of the age. One day, those who belong to Christ will be made completely like him, all evil and darkness having been removed from his field, all evil and darkness having been removed from his world, and those who are his will shine in their kind and heavenly Father’s kingdom.

This parable is a powerful reminder that evil exists and will continue in this world until the Evil One is destroyed once and for all. By means of sowing doubt in people’s minds, causing them to question the truth of God’s Word, causing them to question the truth of Christ’s salvation, causing them to question the goodness of God, Satan seeks to draw people to himself. In this beautiful creation we see many evidences of his weeds, of his tares. And until Christ returns, the enemies of his kingdom will co-exist with the children of his kingdom.

But Christ won’t return until his harvest is ready. As we learned a few weeks we’re called to ask the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers—to send forth good seed—to send forth those who are his into his harvest—that the harvest might increase, that more may come to a saving faith and knowledge of our loving and heavenly Father.[20] Though we may be eager for evil to end now, in his long-suffering mercy and compassion, Christ won’t return until all he has called to himself have had an opportunity to respond to the good news of God’s kingdom having arrived in him.

So we can take heart in knowing that one day:

There will be no more abortions.

There will be no more injustice.

There will be no more war.

There will be no more hatred.

There will be no more murder.

There will be no more unkindness.

There will be no more suffering.

There will be no more death.

But as we await that glorious day, our loving God calls us, his good seed—good by virtue of his mercy, grace, and righteousness, not our own—to spread more seed and obey his final commission to go and share the Gospel, teaching and making disciples and baptizing this new good seed, watering this new good seed, refreshing this new good seed in the name of the God in whose image they have been made, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[21] For the world is Christ, the Son of Man’s, field. The world is his Kingdom. So let us introduce others to their King. Let us together pray, let thy kingdom come, Lord; let thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Let us pray.

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[2] Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on Mark 8:31.

[3] Genesis 12:1–3: 12 The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”

[4] Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him; Revelation 20:2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

[5] Genesis 1:26–27: 26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

[6] Genesis 3:1a: Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made.

[7] Genesis 3:1b: He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

[8] Genesis 3:2: The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

[9] Genesis 3:4–5:“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

[10] Genesis 3:6–7:When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

[11] Genesis 3:14–15: 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

[12] The account is from John 12:27–32: 27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. 30 Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine. 31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

[13] Colossians 2:15.

[14] Hebrews 2:14–15.

[15] Galatians 1:3–5.

[16] Colossians 1:13–14.

[17] Matthew 7:15–19: 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

[18] I John 3:7–10.

[19] This is probably an allusion to Daniel 12:3: Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

[20] Matthew 9:36–38: 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

[21] Matthew 28:19–20: 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

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