Saturday, 16th week in ordinary time – Matthew 13:24-30
Chapter 13 is the third of Matthew’s five discourses found in the Gospel. In this chapter, Matthew will line up seven parables. We have already heard the parable of the soil (not sower as I have argued so passionately in the earlier talk). In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a second parable about sowing seeds, this time about two sowers — one who sows good seed to grow wheat, and the enemy who sows weeds among the wheat. The audience seems to comprise both disciples, the audience for 13:18-23, and crowds (13:34, 36).
In the parable of the weeds and wheat, an “enemy” comes when everyone is sleeping and sows’ weeds”. In the scriptures, Matthew uses the Greek term ‘zizania’ to describe the weeds. In modern botanical terms zizania refers to wild rice grasses. What Matthew most likely refers to, however, is darnel or cockle, a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat and is plentiful in Israel. Darnel looked very similar to wheat in the initial stages of growth but revealed their true identity closer to the harvest when the pant matured and the ears appeared. The ears of the real wheat are heavy and will droop, while the ears of the darnel stand up straight.
In the previous parable, the seed experiences difficulties. This time, the difficulties involve not the types of ground on which it falls, but the actions of an enemy person, “while everyone was asleep.” When the householder’s slaves notice the weeds, their first response is to question the quality of the seed. “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” (13:27) When the master replies that an enemy has sown the weeds, the slaves are anxious to take care of the problem, to root those nasty weeds right out. But the master restrains his servants, saying that in gathering the weeds they would uproot the wheat along with them. He orders them to let both grow together until the harvest. Then he will send out his reapers to collect and burn the weeds and to gather the wheat into his barn (13:28-30). The farmer’s strange practice of allowing the wheat and weeds to grow up together can best be understood as a symbol of God’s patience.