Pliny the elder who wrote Natural History in 78 AD referred to the plants benefits and its weed-like qualities when he said:
But what was Jesus referring too when He compared the Kingdom of God to a mustard plant?
22 Thus says the Lord God , “I will also take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and set it out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches. (Ezekiel 17: 22-23 NASV)
The mustard plant also produces seeds earlier than most plants. By the time other plants are entering their flowering stage, the mustard is already dropping mature seeds.
Three of the Gospels, Mark, Luke and Matthew, record Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to a mustard plant:
Because of these characteristics the mustard seed was unstoppable in ancient Palestine and even today with our modern technology the mustard seed is proving difficult to control.
It seems Jesus was emphasizing how quickly this annual plant can grow reaching several feet tall in a matter of a few weeks. The Kingdom of God would similarly explode from Jesus’ small group of 12 disciples.
A second theme that we ought to hear in this parable of Jesus is that only God is to judge; we human beings are not to see ourselves as the judge. It’s God’s responsibility to make the final judgment calls.
At the heart of this story about the weeds and the wheat, Jesus is clearly telling us that there will be a final judgment and a final separation of good people from bad. His clear revelation about the final judgment is meant to motivate us to live godly lives that would please God, stimulating us to be the kind of people God wants us to be. While such “threat of hell” motivation certainly isn’t politically correct, it’s still real.
The story raises many questions: What does it mean? What do the weeds stand for? Who’s the enemy? And why not judge good from bad by weeding the wheat field the same way many of us weed our flower and vegetable gardens?
Judgment in a Matter of Time — God’s Time
Today’s parable is similar to the previous one, but only to the extent that seed had been sown. Every other element holds a different meaning and takes us to a sobering conclusion about God’s field and those who live in it. Specifically, this follow-up weeds parable (also known as the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, and the Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat) — highlights the work of the enemy in people’s lives (“grain fields”). It’s filled with spiritual significance and truth. The first passage of this two-part parable introduces us to what Jesus has said to a crowd of followers, while the second passage provides Jesus’ clear explanation of it.
Here’s a simple summation of Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat: Some people believed wholeheartedly in Jesus while some didn’t believe at all. It’s not easy to know who trusted and followed Jesus. But one day, Jesus will come back to this world when he’ll separate those who fully trust him from those who don’t. The words that Jesus had said about people who didn’t believe in him or trust him are severe: “They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Satan is the god of this age. He actively attempts to keep everyone deceived. And he can infiltrate the closest quarters of God’s people. Jesus’ words to this effect should serve as a warning.
These twenty verses of Jesus’ parables are broken into two parts: In the first part (vv. 24–35), he tells three parables to a crowd of interested followers, including his many disciples: the Parable of the Weeds (vv. 24–30) and the brief Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (vv. 31–35). The second part of today’s passage covers Jesus’ clear explanation to his disciples of the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds (vv. 36–43). You can find each part in the following two videos.