Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. Who are some people who seem to get away with wrongdoing? Why is it troubling to you that these people never seem to have any consequences for their actions?
2. What do we mean when we talk about someone’s past catching up to them? Tell about a time when you got away with something in the moment, but later had to face the consequences.
Read Matthew 13:24-28.
1. Compare these verses to Jesus’ explanation of them in verses 37-39. Paraphrase Jesus’ original words so that they no longer tell a story but so that they simply explain why God’s people and the devil’s disciples often exist side by side in this world.
2. Notice that the enemy did his work when people were sleeping. Give an example of evil infiltrating into society when good people were figuratively sleeping. What steps can be taken to keep the church awake and aware?
Read Matthew 13:29, 30.
3. Gardeners know that sometimes it is hard to pull up weeds without damaging good plants that have become entangled with them. How does that image apply to the church? Have you ever seen congregations damaged when leaders attempted to uproot the wrongdoers in those congregations? Tell about such a time.
4. At first glance it may seem that Jesus was teaching that the church should never confront wrongdoers in it. Yet other passages of Scripture seem to suggest this is not true for every circumstance. See Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 3:11-15. What steps can a congregation take to confront wrongdoers in it without harming others?
5. It is easy to wrongly conclude that justice will never come to good people who do right or bad people who do evil. Use Matthew 13:30 and Jesus’ further explanation of it in verses 40-43 to correct that idea.
Read Matthew 13:31-33.
6. Imagine being in the crowd when Jesus told the parable of the weeds. Someone next to you turns and says, “That’s a lovely sentiment, but the rest of the world doesn’t think like that.” How do the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast address that idea?
7. What do you know about the brutality of the Roman Empire of New Testament days and later? Is there a world power today that is stable and thriving that equals that brutality? Think of empires that have tried to conquer the world during the past few centuries. How do their fates illustrate the mustard seed growth and leavening effect of the gospel? What can we do to further advance the kingdom of God in our world today?