Darnel is a weed that, as it grows, looks exactly like wheat – but unlike wheat, darnel is poisonous and can be deadly. Jesus tells the crowd a parable in which a devious enemy sows poisonous darnel amongst the wheat in a farmer’s field. It’s impossible for the workers to tell the wheat from the weeds, until harvest time.
In last week’s Gospel, we heard the parable of the sower. Jesus described how his Word takes root in the heart of his disciples, grows and bears fruit. In today’s parable of the darnel, Jesus once again uses an image that is familiar and easy for the people to understand. Jesus’ disciples – the subjects of the kingdom of heaven – are like wheat growing from good seed, strong and healthy. But mixed in with the wheat is the poisonous weed – the ‘subjects of the evil one’ – all that is bad in the world. The servants want to rip up the weeds and get rid of them. But the master tells his servants to wait until harvest time before doing the weeding. Wait and see.
With this parable, Jesus is warning his disciples to be patient. We may be tempted to rush to judgement on those who do evil. We may even want to take justice into our own hands. But only God has the power to judge. We will all face God’s judgement at the end of time, but we have no right to judge others now. Like a good farmer, God waits patiently, giving us the chance to grow and be fruitful; giving time to separate the wheat from the weeds. And, as a small amount of yeast can make a loaf of bread rise, so a few faithful disciples can make a difference to a whole community. By God’s grace, Jesus tells us, we will ‘shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.’