36Then He left the crowd and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37And He responded to them, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of man, 38and the field is the world, and the good seed are the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one. 39And the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age and the harvest workers are angels. 40Just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather from His kingdom all those who cause sin and do evil 42and will cast them into the fiery furnace; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
In our corner of Christianity known as evangelicalism—and particularly in our corner of that corner known as Pentecostalism—I frequently hear people make the outrageous claim that Jesus’ disciples were uneducated fishermen. This claim is usually made in support of a flawed premise that the business of Christianity is purely experiential, not intellectual. Those who make this claim disdain education and thinking and reasoning as hostile to the faith. These people are wrong, of course.
This passage shows the disciples attending class in their own seminary. They may have started out as uneducated fishermen, but for three years they studied at the feet of the Master. Here, they have just witnessed Him speaking in parables to the crowds. In fact, everything He said to them was said in the form of a parable. And when Jesus turns from the crowds and enters the house, He does so with His students in tow. The disciples now have the opportunity to question Him further about the parables, and get a deeper explanation from Him. While He had His own reasons for not broadening the explanation for the crowds, He is preparing these men for eventual persecution and death in the service of the kingdom. In His explanation to them, He is educating them. He is instructing them. He clearly was listening to them. There was conversation, discourse, give-and-take. The disciples learn by watching, and they learn by instruction. Here in this particular passage, He speaks of the end of the age, in which the evildoers will be separated from the sons of the kingdom and burned in a fiery furnace. This final judgment has a parallel in Revelation 20, in which John on Patmos discusses the Great White Judgment Throne.
I see two applications of this passage. The first is an obvious burden for souls in our world. The children of the evil one must be transformed by His grace into children of the kingdom. We have a necessary mission to evangelize the culture around us—to change it by our presence in it. The other application is to willingly submit to education. Being a Christian doesn’t just mean experiencing stuff. It doesn’t only mean memorizing some verses and holding some stuff dear. It means KNOWING some stuff, too. Being a Christian means learning. And where do we get this learning?
Certainly not by ourselves. To sit at home and learn by devotional is to believe that you hold the ultimate epistemological and theological authority in your life—and such an idea is foreign to the New Testament. Like the disciples—and every Christian who has ever lived—you are to learn in the community of faith. That community of faith—called the “Church” in the New Testament—has been given gifts of knowledge and faith and encouragement and everything else you’ll need to learn and know and experience and do. Moreover, it is high time that evangelicals stop thumbing their noses at the intellectual aspects of the historic faith; to affirm experientialism and disdain intellectualism is to live an unbiblically gnostic existence that ignores this passage (and others like it).
What are you learning? How are you learning? And with whom are you sharing the gospel?