Jesus’ stories are called parables because the lessons they teach arise out of concrete human experience to make a spiritual point, assuming that what is true in the physical world is also true in the spiritual world.
Here’s one of his stories, retold from Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43.
A farmer sowed wheat in his field and then he and his household went to bed. But while they slept an enemy crept into the field and over-seeded it with weeds.
The next morning, the field appeared unchanged. But weeks later, when the wheat sprouted and began forming heads, the farmer’s servants noted that weeds were threatening to crowd out the wheat.
The servants were baffled. They asked the farmer where the weeds had come from.
The farmer’s reply was that an “enemy” had done this. No more than that is said because Jesus’ lesson is not on the origin of evil. Rather, it is about the final accounting of good and evil.
Although the two often appear to be intermixed in this world they will eventually be dealt with separately and with finality.
The farmer’s servants wanted to act immediately. They offered to go out and pull up the weeds but the farmer said no, because in doing so they would pull up the wheat also.
Let them grow together until harvest, he told them, adding, “I will then tell the harvesters to collect and tie the weeds into bundles to be burned, whereas the wheat will be gathered into my barns.” One plant would be treasured, the other destroyed.
Later, when his disciples were alone with Jesus in the house and still baffled by his story, they asked him to explain.
He broke the story down by telling them the sower was the Son of Man (Jesus); the field was the world; the good seed represented the people of his kingdom; the weeds were the people of the evil one; the enemy was the devil; the harvest was the end of the age; the harvesters were the angels.
The parable helps us understand that wherever Christ’s kingdom is sown and growing in the world, the weeds of evil will be found. This may be true in a Christian youth group, a megachurch, a Christian home, or in a country like China, where the Gospel is advancing while at the same time being mercilessly resisted and persecuted by the state.
In the eyes of the servants, an immediate clean-up appeared to be the right thing to do, but the farmer knew that the clear and complete separation of wheat from the weeds must await the day of harvest.
Similarly, where the Gospel is operating and manifest in this life, evil often appears intermixed and deeply rooted. In such cases, we are sometimes called to be patient, being assured that evil and righteousness will be thoroughly dealt with in a final judgment.
Deep reflection on this parable and the reality it explains helps us to bravely endure wrongdoing that we are powerless to resist or “root out.” We know that all things in this life will be put right when Christ reappears to judge the living and the dead.
With this story before us, how can we escape the urgency of the Apostle Paul who wrote that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for things done while in the body, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Photo credit: Sleepy Claus (via flickr.com).