Rick Sweeney
7 min readMay 6, 2024


Photo by Dương Trí on Unsplash


MATTHEW 13: 1–9 and 24–30 May 5, 2024


A. Most dads like to brag about their sons. But not my friend. He said “my son was not the brightest star in the constellation. Once I told him his shoes were on the wrong feet. He said, “But these are the only feet I have.” Another time I was teaching him to play hangman. I said, “Give me a letter.” He said 3. I said “It has to be a letter. He said 9. That was when we realized that we did not have to worry about saving for college. We all do dumb stuff once in a while. I was at the check out line at the grocery store when the young lady said, “Strip down, facing me.” It took me a few seconds to figure out that she was talking about my credit card.

B. I read this parable about this farmer, and I wonder if he was a fool. I don’t know much about farming, but wasn’t he wasting a lot of good seed just throwing it everywhere? It does not seem like he had plowed a certain area and planted the seeds there. It does not seem like he was following the best agricultural practices at all. This fool farmer had seeds landing everywhere. Some landed on the foot path and were eaten by the grateful birds. Some landed on shallow soil or a weed patch and did not produce anything. What was he thinking?

A. Jesus told this story to help explain why some people received the good news of salvation and took it in while others heard the same good news and rejected it. He goes on to explain the parable and tells us that the seed is the good news of salvation, and the soil is the one who hears it. And the farmer who is sowing the seed is God. So, I had to tell myself not to be stupid enough to call the farmer a fool. I think maybe Jesus is saying to me, If you have ears, hear the message.


A. Let’s take a look at the four soil types in the story and maybe ask ourselves what kind of soil we are. The first is the hard ground of the footpath. The seed cannot penetrate at all. It sits on the surface and does nothing but feed the birds. My friend Pete was a chaplain in a juvenile prison in upstate New York. He tried to have a Sunday school class, but the only time anyone attended was when they were getting out of some work detail. The kids were full of anger and bitterness. There was a sense of hopelessness. Any mention of good news was met with derision and scornful rejection. The seeds never got through.

B. The second type of soil was shallow. The seeds got through, but there was not enough depth for the plants to survive. I wish had not heard the following statement as much as I have, but it goes like this. As a child, I had to go to church every Sunday. I hated it. Now that I am grown, I will never go to church or listen to any talk about Jesus again. The seeds were planted, but the depth was not there.

A. The third soil type was able to take the seeds in and let them grow. But weeds came up and choked the plants before they could produce any fruit. I had lost touch with a guy with whom I had gone to church and Sunday school and Youth Fellowship. I met him again at a class reunion. He was a PhD who taught at a university. He was amused that I was a preacher. He said, “I outgrew religion when I became educated and matured in my thinking.” The same seeds were planted by the same good people as were planted in me. But the weeds of intellectualism and cynicism had come along and choked the faith right out of him.

B. Finally, there was the good soil. The most enthusiastic response that I ever saw to Jesus came from a class of adolescents. They were demonstrating the fruits of the Spirit in abundance. Oh, by the way, they were all Down Syndrome. Let the one who has ears, hear.


A. But that was only one of two parables read today. The other is about another farmer whose intellect we might challenge at first. In this story the seeds are all planted in good soil. But an enemy sneaks in at night and plants what are called bearded darnel. It’s a weed that resembles wheat. You can’t tell the difference until it begins to sprout grain or chaff. Th farm hands want to weed the garden and get rid of those ugly plants. But the farmer says, “No. Let them grow. We will separate the weeds from the wheat at harvest. He knew that bearded darnel would wrap its roots around the roots of the wheat. Pulling the weeds would injure the good crop. Again the farmer is God and again God is not a fool.

B. Sometimes in the church, we begin to think that it is our job to purify the faith. We think we know who the weeds are in the church and the world. We always see ourselves as the wheat. We are the good ones who have to weed out the bad ones. There is a story going around that God discovered that only 10% of the people were good. So God sent an Email to the good 10%. Did you get one? Neither did I.

C.. In some strange way we are all both wheat and weed. There is no one who is pure enough to judge others. Now most of the churches I have served have had a bad apple or two. A pastor usually thinks of more members, but when one of weeds quit, I was happy and I said, sometimes, less is more. I’m sure that this, church doesn’t have any bearded darnel. The lesson in the second parable is, leave the weeds alone. Let God take care of purifying the church. Now I look at our nation and I see some folks who claim to be wheat who through their actions look like anything but wheat. They take the name of Christian, but act nothing like Christ. How can you tell the wheat from the weeds? Galatians 5: 22, 23. The fruit of the Spirit. What show up in their lives? Is it love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, truth, gentleness, humility, and self-control? Then they are wheat. If you see hatred and self-centered bitterness and brutality and calling lies truth. If they brag and do whatever they feel like, then you have a weed. God judges by results. But let God do the judging. Let us just strive to produce fruit in our own lives.


A. No, God is no fool. It makes us feel better sometimes to know that while weeds may be able to fool us. God is not fooled, and the harvest is coming. So if God is not a fool, then how do we explain the reckless scattering of the seeds of salvation? The explanation is found in the nature of God. God is extravagant in love and grace. God has more than enough seeds of salvation, so God does not have to be careful about spreading salvation around. If someone asks me to define God, I refer to I John 4. “God is love.” At times, I think that is all I have to know. Have you ever known someone who loves too much? They are the ones who have their hearts broken from rejection by those that they love. That is a pretty good description of God too. God is love. God’s grace is so extravagant, that we can’t make any judgment about people that we think are weeds, or about people who have rejected the good news or the ones who started out but faded or had their faith choked out of them.

B. The seeds fall on good soil and bad. The rain falls on the just and unjust. We cannot imagine the magnitude of God’s grace. And none of us can brag about being loved by God, nor can any make excuses for rejecting God’s love. Like the farmer with the weed problem, there is no rush to judgment. God is not finished with us, any of us. We are always being reformed. But the same enemy that planted the weeds is still out there. We can see him in our workplaces and within our families and in our politics and even in our churches.

C. But like the New Testament as a whole, these parables bring good news to all of us. The harvest is plentiful. A hundred-fold is way beyond any reasonable expectation. But here is the kicker in the story. We are not called to just be passive soil. We are asked to sow the seeds of good news and love and leave it to God to take care of the harvest. And God can see a harvest that we can only imagine. Make no mistake, God is no fool. God is just so loving that love defines God. Thanks be to love, I mean thanks be to God. Let the ones who have ears, well, you know.



Rick Sweeney

The Reverend Dr. Richard Sweeney, Rick, is a retired Presbyterian pastor and author. Rick lives with his wife, Prudy, in Greensburg, PA.