The Wheat and the Weeds (Part 1), Matthew 13:24-30

Even uneducated people know that evil plays an active role in our world; they may even have a greater experience of it than those who have been to college. Since Jesus came bringing the rulership of God to this world, and did so long ago, what can we say about the ongoing presence and power of evil? Will things always be like this?

Jesus tells us how our world is and how it will be. Listen up!

Matthew 13:24-30

24 Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 The owners servants came to him and said, Sir, didnt you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?

28 An enemy did this, he replied. 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.

Commentary

Matthew 13 is full of parables about Gods rulership — also known as the kingdom of heaven — and we learned from the Parable of the Sower that the world will divide in its opinions about Jesus. We all have a horse in this race: knowing how God is going to respond to the division over Jesus. Will he do nothing? Will he destroy the world to eradicate the opposition? Or perhaps something in between.

As you know, Matthew 13 contains many parables that Jesus taught concerning the rulership of God — also known as the kingdom of heaven (verse 24). Each one is designed to teach a different facet of Gods rule through Jesus to help his disciples know what to expect. The crowd hears the parable and can discern what the subject is, but Jesus has already made clear that he will explain the parables only to his disciples (Matthew 13:11).

From the whole of the parable, we learn that the main character is a farmer who has servants to carry out the work; in verse 25 he is simply called a man who sowed good seed. We are soon told that the seed is wheat (Greek sitos). Verse 25 bears the mark — in Greek — of a fresh development: an enemy came in the night sewing darnel (Greek zizanion) all over the field where the wheat was newly sown.

Essential Background

NIVs translation weeds for the darnel makes it sound relatively harmless, failing to reveal why an enemy might do this. We will review the facts. First, wheat and darnel are very hard to tell apart until the plants are more fully grown. Wheat (Latin: Triticum aestivum) and darnel (Latin: Lolium temulentum) are two different species from the same biological family of plants.

Now, here is the kicker: darnel often produces a fungus that releases a toxin useful in repelling insects. If darnel is harvested with the wheat and ground into flour, a person eating that flour will experience a drunken nausea, possibly because an ether compound is part of the toxin. That is why the Latin name for darnel includes the adjective temulentum, meaning drunken in English. Sowing a field with darnel was such a hostile act that the Romans had a law against doing it.[1]

The presence of darnel among the wheat makes the crop commercially useless, but the plants are difficult to tell apart until the heads of grain form, at which time the difference is obvious.[2] This fact will make verse 26 easy to understand. By the time the difference was clear, the roots were so intertwined that pulling the darnel would harm the wheat. Action was only practical at harvest time.

The Mixed Field

As soon as the heads emerged, the difference between darnel and wheat could be seen throughout the field (verse 26). Naturally, the owners servants told him at once (verse 27). He knew immediately that an enemy had done this to the wheat crop (verse 28). Since the owner was unwilling to risk damage to the wheat, the best option was separation of the darnel from the wheat at harvest time (verses 29-30), a labor-intensive operation.

The final stage of the parable was to bundle the darnel for burning, possibly as fuel since forests had gradually become scarce. The wheat would get priority treatment by being placed in the barn (verse 30). In this way the parable ends, without explanation. Jesus will explain the parable to his disciples in verses 37-43.

Snodgrass informs us that this parable has been misused more than any other by people who interpreted it as talking about a mixture of good and evil in the church.[3] But, as we will see in a future lesson, Jesus explained that the field in which the seed was sown was the world (verse 38). This is another example of what I spoke to you about before: many interpreters try to make every part of the Gospels directly about us rather than giving an interpretation comfortable in the original context. You can learn a lot about reading and interpreting the Bible by the simple expedient of avoiding that erroneous practice.

Copyright 2017 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Materials originally produced for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used with permission.

[1] Grant R. Osborne, Matthew, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) 521.

[2] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 526.

[3] Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2008) 214.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:19-24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus

1 Corinthians 16:19-24

19 The churches in the province of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Priscilla greet you warmly in the Lord, and so does the church that meets at their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand.

22 If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!

23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

24 My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.

When Paul mentions the churches in the province of Asia (1 Cor. 16:19), he is again sending actual greeting but also making the Corinthians see that they are part of the larger body of Christ. Let them look above not only their factional divisions but also outward to see the bond of love between Christians everywhere. The Roman province of Asia was located in what is now western Turkey.

The role of Aquila and Prisca (a shortened form of Pricilla) is notable. Acts 18:1-3 informs us that Aquila was a Jew who, along with his wife Pricilla, was expelled from Rome (probably as a Christian) in A.D. 49, when Emperor Claudius closed down a Roman synagogue because of continuous disturbances centering on the figure of Christ.[1] They emigrated to Roman Corinth where they met Paul, another tent-maker, and both hosted him and worked with him in the trade. They also joined Paul in Ephesus, where a church met in their home.

Anthony Thiselton approvingly describes the research of another scholar concerning Pauls stay in Corinth: Murphy-OConnor convincingly paints a picture of Aquila and Prisca having their home in the loft of one of the shops around the market square (approximately 13 ft. x 13 ft. x 8 ft. without running water) while Paul slept below amid the tool-strewn workbenches and the rolls of leather and canvas.[2] Are you feeling the hardship?

Though Paul dictated his letter to a professional scribe or secretary, he could not resist writing a greeting in his own hand (1 Cor. 16:21). This was all typical. One of Pauls scribes actually identifies himself in Rom. 16:23.

Verses 22-24 serve as a sharp conclusion to the entire letter. The purpose of such a rhetorical conclusion was to reinforce the argument of the letter with emotional force. Here the vocabulary emphasizes Jesus Christ, love, and either the grace or the judgment that all will receive when Christ returns.

It seems most probable that in verse 22 the verb love refers to covenant loyalty. Covenant loyalty essentially amounts to obedience, just as Jesus emphasized with his disciples: If you love me, keep my commands (John 14:15). In the Old Testament, the result of maintaining covenant loyalty to God was blessing, while breaking the covenant resulted in curses. The curse is expressed by the famous Greek noun anathema, which has been adopted into English most frequently in reference to a person who has been excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church.

Thiselton summarizes: Paul has reproached the [message] of the cross and the content of the gospel through the array of pastoral, ethical, and theological issues that bubble away at Corinth: Come on, he concludes; are you in or are you out?[3] The return of Christ will resolve this question once and for all.

Come, Lord! represents the Aramaic term Maranatha. Generations of Christians have echoed this appeal.

Paul closes by mentioning the grace represented uniquely by Jesus Christ and Pauls own special love for all who are joined to Christ (verses 23-24). Amen!

Copyright 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1343.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1343.

[3] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1351.

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 16:10–18 Helping each other

1 Corinthians 16:10–18

10 When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. 11 No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.

12 Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.

13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.

15 You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, 16 to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it. 17 I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. 18 For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.

As he has just said, Paul will remain for a time in Ephesus because of the unusual opportunity there to spread the gospel. He had previously told the believers in Roman Corinth that he had dispatched Timothy to Corinth to teach and model Paul’s ways, just as those ways are taught in all the churches (1 Cor. 4:17). Next he calls on the Corinthians to pay close attention to how Timothy is treated “for he is carrying on the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 16:10). It is not Timothy who should fear, but anyone who obstructs him should fear the Lord!

Knowing that some in Corinth struggle with pride, Paul makes clear that Timothy is not to be disrespected or undervalued. He must also be enabled to return to Paul with other brothers (1 Cor. 16:11). As the apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul speaks with authority and without apology. But Paul was not a king. Apollos made up his own mind to delay his departure for Corinth, perhaps because he saw the same opportunity that kept Paul in Ephesus. Since it is also possible that Paul was imitating Christ in self-sacrifice (1 Cor. 11:1) by sending his associates to Corinth, Apollos may have decided enough was enough. Paul needed his help.

Many have observed how Paul generally follows the letter style of the early Imperial Roman period, and this becomes most apparent in his openings and closings. What made Paul’s letters more distinctive was (1) he spoke as Christ’s apostle, and (2) he inserted Christian content into the standard letter style. Ancient writers often included exhortations in closing a letter, and Paul puts five on them in verses 13–14.

However, several things make this letter distinctive among all of Paul’s letters. Nowhere else does Paul stress the importance of love so many times (verses 14, 22, 24). No other letter concludes with a potential curse (Greek anathema) against covenant breakers. The postscript expressing Paul’s love for the Corinthians is also unique (1 Cor. 16:24).

It is notable that the four commands in verse 13 are all present tense in Greek, meaning here that the need to do these activities is ongoing. He caps all four with the global “Do everything in love” (1 Cor. 16:14).

In verses 15–18, Paul recognizes the commitment of certain men and women (“household”) to serving the Lord’s people. Accordingly, Paul makes a personal request (verse 15b) based on his personal relationship to the believers in Roman Corinth: “submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labors at it” (1 Cor. 16:16). Recognizing leaders who model love and service in the church is a critical task in churches today, but submitting ourselves to work under their leadership clashes directly with values we learn from an American culture of personal independence. We also need to expand our concept of family to include our Christian brothers and sisters.

Though verse 17 may sound like a rebuke toward the Corinthians, Paul is actually saying that what is lacking is the presence of all the Corinthians so that he might enjoy them as well. In Stephanus, Fortunatus and Achaicus, Paul was experiencing a bit of Corinth and wanting more!

Thiselton notes that improvement is needed in 1 Cor. 16:18b: “Fee rightly comments that NIV’s ‘such men deserve recognition’ captures the broad sense but fails to communicate Paul’s use of the imperative [command].”[1] Thiselton applies this to the church today by saying: “It is a live issue in the church today to what extent, if at all, Christian congregations wish to ‘honor’ leaders in the Christian sphere. . . . This may apply at any level of service to the church, where often loyal hard work is simply taken for granted rather than publicly and consciously recognized.”[2] Food for thought! It is not too much to ask that a personal “Thank you!” be words that those who lovingly serve us — both staff and volunteers — hear regularly!

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 

[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 1342.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1342.