Mt13 24 - Parables (Continued): Wheat & Tares, Mustard Seed


Matt. 13:24 - Parables (Continued): Wheat & Tares, Mustard Seed So Jesus tells them the parable about the wheat & the tares where an enemy attempts to ruin his harvest, but the wise landowner tells the workers to wait until the harvest, then separate the worthless weeds from the grain. Then Jesus tells them another parable about how the kingdom of God is like a Mustard Seed in that it may begin with something small and insignificant, but it’ll result in something wonderful (and much larger than it’s beginnings might indicate). Then he tells a third parable about a woman putting a small bit of yeast in her flour and how it’s is mixed until the whole thing is “leavened.” And all of this is to fulfill the prophesy that he would use parables to reveal the “secrets” of the Kingdom to all who have ears to hear (Psalm 78:2).

So as I read I’m trying to balance all of these little stories in my head and discern the point of these three stories. Fortunately Jesus does explain the first one by saying that it’s a way of understanding God’s intentions regarding the fate of the wicked and of the righteous. Basically both will move along in this life, more or less side-by-side without divine retribution toward the wicked, but that they’ll get theirs at the end of the age when they’ll be tossed away into the fire like so many worthless weeds. It does seem to answer the age old question: You are always righteous, O LORD, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease? (Jer. 12:1).

The parable of the Mustard Seed or the Woman and the Yeast don’t get the same point-by-point explanation but it’s pretty clear that, in the first one it’s about insignificant beginnings and the resulting fruit and the second one is another view on how the kingdom of God will permeate that which it inhabits. In fact, after explaining the parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus adds three more parables to his description of the Kingdom of Heaven (buried treasure, pearl of great price, and the drag net). Only the Drag Net is “explained” again as being a vision of how the just and unjust will be separated to their respective “rewards” at the end of the age.

This section ends with a somewhat confusing “parable” about “teachers of the Law” who are instructed about the kingdom of heaven are like a merchant bringing out the new and old treasures. The NIV Commentary says that it’s not New added to Old, but Old made New by the New revelations of the kingdom of heaven. Huh? Part of my confusion is that I started reading this section with the idea in my head that God used parables/stories, in fact that the whole of scriptures is a collection of stories, intended to lead us into the truths about the Kingdom of God (which is quite different than a scientific or academic discourse on religion or religious truth). Anyway, it became clear in this section that Jesus’ use of Parables was two-fold: 1. to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would come revealing the truths of the Kingdom of Heaven in parables and stories, and 2. that these truths would be meaningless to those who have not been given the explanation of his meanings. Then in verse 52, it is as if he’s saying that once you understand the stories of the kingdom of heaven and you had a knowledge about the Law (teachers of the law), that you need to bring out both and share both (the thought being that the latter fulfills the former?). It’s a bit confusing. In a literal sense he seems to mean that the teacher of the Law whose has been instructed in the kingdom now has something more to share, old and new. The thought of the precedence of one over the other (New vs. Old) really isn’t in the text and is largely a theological construct. As a non-Jew, I feel like the actual implication is that one who has a grasp of the Law will really appreciate the message of the Kingdom more and have more to offer than someone who doesn’t have that understanding of the Law. Amazing. JBB 08/09/2004