The Good Seed
By Rev. Heidi L. Barham | July 23, 2023
Click here to listen to the service.
Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (NIV)
When I was younger, I remember reading a book entitled, “The Bad Seed,” which was adapted for stage and later for the big screen as well as television. “The Bad Seed” told the story of a young girl, named Rhoda, who had a really dark side… the epitome of evil, masquerading as the perfect little girl.
Well, in our text for today, we find the exact opposite. Jesus tells the Parable of the Weeds which draws our attention to a farmer planting what is described as GOOD SEED…
As the story unfolds, after THE GOOD SEED had been planted, the farmer and his hired hands went to sleep. That is when the enemy crept in and planted weeds throughout the field where THE GOOD SEED had been planted… and as the grain began to grow, so did the weeds.
The farmhands confirmed with the farmer that he had indeed planted GOOD SEED and expressed their confusion over where the weeds had come from. The farmer, on the other hand, knew exactly where the weeds had come from… they had been planted by an enemy.
And while the farmhands offered to pull out the weeds… the farmer cautioned them against doing that… because trying to pull out the weeds at that early stage could potentially cause them to pull out the wheat as well.
The farmer told them to wait until the wheat grew to the point that it was ready to be harvested… that is when they would be able to separate the weeds from the wheat which grew from THE GOOD SEED.
The weeds would then be bundled up and burned while the wheat would be gathered up and stored in the barn.
Now, a short time after He told this parable, Jesus’ disciples asked Him to explain it. Because what good is a parable without an explanation? Jesus told them that the farmer who planted THE GOOD SEED was the Son of Man, in other words, Jesus Himself.
He went on to explain that the field where THE GOOD SEED had been planted is the world and that THE GOOD SEED itself represented the people of the kingdom – God’s kingdom that is.
On the other hand, the weeds or the thistles (as they are called in some versions) were the people who belonged to the evil one… you could call them the original bad seeds. And the enemy, of course, is the evil one… the Devil.
Jesus then explained that the time of the harvest represents the end of the age and the harvesters are actually God’s angels… the ones who will weed out from the kingdom everything that causes sin… meanwhile THE GOOD SEED, God’s righteous ones, will shine like the sun.
Now, Jesus was known for using parables as teaching tools for the disciples and for others that He met throughout His earthly ministry.
Parables are sometimes described as earthly stories with a heavenly meaning because they use common themes and images that people are familiar with to explain heavenly or spiritual concepts that may be harder to grasp.
My guess is that the imagery of seedtime and harvest is a rather familiar one… knowing how many of us in this sanctuary (and even on the phone) have more than a passing acquaintance with planting and harvesting.
In fact, it was not that long ago, that we heard about Jeff helping Dave with his tractor and tiller which allowed Karen to plant her spectacular dahlias.
So, as we think about this Parable of the Weeds and reflect on THE GOOD SEED, let me suggest that there are some lessons that we can glean from this parable:
First, proceed with caution, what starts growing from good seeds can sometimes look like weeds…
The farmer told his farmhands not to try to pull out the weeds, because early on in the process, the wheat and the weeds looked alike… it could be difficult to tell them apart… so there was a good chance that the farmhands would pull out the wheat instead of the weeds.
And, believe it or not, it can be the same with us. When people are in the early stages of their development as followers of Christ, it may be hard to distinguish THE GOOD SEED from the bad.
New believers may not stand out from unbelievers because they have not had the opportunity to learn how to separate themselves from their worldly ways … they have not matured enough in their faith to know how to distinguish themselves from the rest of the world.
And so, when we are serving as God’s farmhands so to speak, we need to show kindness and compassion to everyone rather than being judgmental and critical… lest we cause hurt to a new believer… potentially alienating them from the church and sending them right back out into the world.
But we must also be careful about being judgmental and critical of the more seasoned believers as well… after all, the reality is that none of us has a right to judge anyone else…
In Matthew 7 (1 – 2) we find Jesus’ words of caution, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Now, I am speaking for myself on this one… this not being judgmental thing is so much easier said than done. It is hard not to look at some of the things that other people are saying and doing and point a finger at their behavior… especially in this current environment we find ourselves living in…
But I am reminded of something that I learned a long time ago… when we point one finger at someone else, there are literally three fingers pointing back at us.
And if we want the Lord to show grace to us and forgive us of our sins… we have to be willing to do the same toward others… “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us…” Sound familiar?
So, in our approach to others, let us not be quick to rush to judgment… keeping in mind that good seeds and weeds can sometimes look alike… Besides, who gave us the right to judge anyone anyway?
Now the next lesson that we can take from this parable is this…
When plants are allowed to grow to maturity… they will be known by their fruit.
Back in Matthew 7 (15 – 20) we read:
When THE GOOD SEED is planted and allowed to grow to maturity… it will produce good fruit. And just what is that good fruit that THE GOOD SEED will produce?
In Galatians 5:22 – 23 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
While in James 3:17 we read, “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”
THE GOOD SEED will produce fruit that reflects the nature and character of the One who has done the planting… the One who calls us to love God and the people of God… the One who has shown kindness and compassion toward us and told us to “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
And conversely, when those bad seeds, those weeds, are allowed to grow into full maturity… we will know them by their fruit as well.
I am reminded of something that Maya Angelou is credited with saying, “When people show you who they are, believe them.”
As people reveal more and more of who they really are… we need to know just who we are dealing with.
Now, Jesus said to “Watch out for false prophets…” And in his letter to his young protégé, Timothy, the Apostle Paul offered these words of caution, “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3 – 4)
Or as it reads in the Message Paraphrase
There are a whole lot of people who are willing to say whatever people want to hear… whether it is the truth or not. They will say whatever is popular just to curry favor with others and dare I say in order to win their votes...
But that is the kind of thing that will land us out in the weeds… and that is definitely NOT where we want to be.
We should always seek to be part of THE GOOD SEED. And why is that?
Well, I am glad you asked because that brings us to the last lesson that I want to highlight from our text this morning.
The day will come when the Lord will separate the good fruit from the bad.
There are so many images that come to mind when I think about this final point… when it comes to separating the good fruit from the bad.
The first goes back to the story of Cain and Abel and the difference in the offering they each made to God.
In Genesis 4, we read about how Cain brought an offering of some of the fruits of the soil… from the produce of his farm… while Abel brought an offering from the fat portions of the firstborn of his flock… the choice cuts of meat.
What it boiled down to is this… Abel gave the best of what he had to offer… while Cain just gave something… seemingly without much thought over what it meant to give his best. This also calls to mind the difference in offerings that Jesus pointed out in the temple when He compared the gift of two small coins offered by a poor widow with that of the rich people who gave simply out of their excess.
Abel as well as the poor widow brought forth good fruit… giving their best from a place of gratitude… honoring God for the gifts they had been given.
While Cain and the rich folks in the temple gave blemished and tainted fruit… given seemingly from places of complacency and without careful consideration to the original Giver of the gifts.
Now one of the other stories that came to mind as I thought about the Lord separating the good fruit from the bad was the story of the sheep and the goats that is found later on in chapter 25 of Matthew’s Gospel (25:31 – 46).
Jesus starts by saying:
He then goes on to describe the ways in which the sheep… the good fruit… have done what was pleasing and acceptable… caring for those who were hungry and thirsty, homeless and naked, sick and imprisoned. He explains that their reward will be eternal life.
On the other hand, the goats… the bad fruit… have done just the opposite. And as a result, they will find themselves facing eternal punishment.
The difference is actually fairly simple.
THE GOOD SEED produces good fruit which results in eternal life while the bad seed produces bad fruit which leads to eternal punishment.
And here is the good news… Jesus gave His life in exchange for ours so that when we grow weary and tired of living as bad seed… we have the ability to become THE GOOD SEED that Jesus desires for us to be…
Jesus is calling us to be THE GOOD SEED… to follow in His footsteps and do as He has commanded… to forgive as we have been forgiven… to be merciful as we have received mercy… to be gracious as we have received grace… to love unconditionally as we have been loved.
And if your heart’s desire is to say, “Yes,” when Jesus calls, I want to invite you to stand and join in singing our Hymn of Discipleship: Softly and Tenderly #340.