We continue our series on Klyne Snodgrass, Stories with Intent, and today we look at the parable of the wheat and weeds.
One of the highlights of this study by Klyne is the listing of evidence that could be useful, and this parable has a long list of lines and summaries of (mostly) Jewish evidence that illuminates final judgment.
On background: most commentators agree the “weeds” are lolium temulentum, “an annoying weed that looks very much like wheat … and can carry a poisonous fungus.”
On interpreting … the singular problem, which is common with parables, is trying to wring more theology from the parable than it should carry. Is it about:
The church as a mixed body of believers and unbelievers?
The church as mixed into the Jewish world?
The individual person who has good and bad characteristics?
This parable has some potentially unrealistic features, but they are there to serve the parable and not to depict agrarian realities. Klyne thinks the charge of unrealism — say the sowing of weeds into the field by an enemy — is smokescreen and overrreading.
Is it about a mixed church? Is Matthew, in other words, speaking to his church? Matthew’s Gospel is not against judgment and discernment; so the passivity of the righteous is not consistent with how Matthew/Jesus describes his followers (or how Jesus behaves). The parable’s interpretation says the field is the “world” and not the “church.” That should matter. So, the point is the coexistence of sinners and the righteous.
Furthermore, it is inconceivable for Jesus to gather a community of good and bad and not call the bad to be transformed; it is not about an inclusive, non-judged community.
Klyne suggests the implied question behind this parable is this: “How can this be the kingdom if evil is still present?” That’s the question more ought to ask in reading this parable; it is its secret. A fundamental reality for the followers of Jesus, then, was “inauguration” of kingdom but not “consummation” of kingdom. The now-but-not-quite-yet theology is at work in this parable and it arose during the very lifetime of Jesus, which is part of a the problem of interpreting this parable — many scholars think the interpretation of the parable, at the least, is not from Jesus. Snodgrass argues it is from Jesus.
Three expressions for kingdom:
Kingdom of Son of Man
Kingdom of Father
Are they different? They are at least in some sense. Snodgrass suggests, tentatively, that Kingdom of Son of Man is the degree to which the kingdom has become a reality in this world. Kingdom of the Father is the consummation of the kingdom now present.
Finally, this parable teaches that:
the kingdom is now present
evil is also present
evil will be dealt with by God at the end.
These are the foci of the parable; this parable is not about how to achieve God’s will; it is not passivity; it is about kingdom and final judgment, and that God is the final judge — not us.