June 18, 2010

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Jesus’ parables: More parables about seeds

John F. Fink(Third in a series of columns)

Last week, I wrote about Jesus’ parable about the sower and the seeds. It was the first of several parables that involved seeds.

Mark’s Gospel (Mk 4:26-29) is the only one that tells us about seed that grows by itself.

Unlike the first parable, Jesus says directly that the kingdom of God can be compared to the growing seed. After the sower sows the seed, he says, the seed grows and produces a blade, then an ear, and then the full grain in the ear. When it’s ripe, the farmer harvests the crop.

Jesus didn’t provide an explanation to his disciples this time, but the meaning seems obvious. He was saying simply that the kingdom that Jesus was initiating by proclaiming the word of God could develop without human intervention until it is fully established by him at the time of the final judgment.

Mark followed that parable with the one about the mustard seed (Mk 4:30-32). That parable (also in Mt 13:31-32 and Lk 13:18-19) says that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, but when full grown is the largest of plants. It is Jesus’ way of contrasting the small beginnings of his kingdom to its marvelous expansion. His kingdom has expanded to include the entire world.

His next parable isn’t about seeds, but it makes the same point. It’s about yeast that a woman mixed with wheat to make bread expand.

But back to seeds. Matthew is alone in telling this parable (Mt 13:24-30) with its explanation (Mt 13:36-43). This time, the sower sows good seed in his field, but an enemy sows weeds in the field when it is dark. When his servants ask if they should pull up the weeds, the farmer tells them to let the grain and weeds grow together until harvest and then collect the weeds for burning.

Jesus is very specific in his explanation. He himself is the sower, the field is the world, the good seeds are the children of the kingdom, the weeds are the “children of the evil one,” the enemy is the devil, and the harvesters are the angels. Just as the weeds are collected for burning so evildoers will be thrown into a fiery furnace.

The emphasis in the parable is the fearful end of the wicked at the end of the world when the harvest will take place. However, the parable also emphasizes God’s patience with the wicked until judgment time.

As for the children of the kingdom, those who follow the teachings of Jesus and his Church, they will be like the wheat that the farmer gathers into his barn. They, Jesus says, “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). Here, Jesus might have been alluding to what the prophet Daniel said, “The wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Dn 12:3).

Jesus ended with, “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt 13:43). †

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