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Sermon Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Date: August 9/10, 2014
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A
Matthew 13:24–30, 36–43 (NIV84)
Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”
Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
What Should We Do About the Weeds?
1. Understand their source
2. Know their destiny
Parables and stories have a way of teaching and enlightening that strict lecture can only ever dream of accomplishing. By putting a point within a real world example, an example that the audience is familiar with, it allows the people listening to identify and take to heart what is being taught in a much more intimate way.
Jesus’ parables are a master class in how to meet people where they are. Last weekend we heard Jesus’ parable of the man planting seed, where the seed fell among four different types of soil. Jesus used that as a picture of how God’s Word works when it is proclaimed. Today, Jesus continues teaching the crowd with parables as well as explaining the parables to his disciples. Jesus could have easily made the point, “There will be problems in the world until the end of time!” and been done with it, but his parable makes the point much more vibrant and the reasoning behind it much more clear.
Jesus once again focuses us on a man planting seed. This time, however, we’re not especially interested on where the seed falls, but the crop that results. The farmer, wanting a good crop, uses only the best seeds. We might well assume that he is careful when scattering the seed so that it falls among the good soil. In the modern day, farmers use careful blends of fertilizers, irrigation, and even GPS in their tractors to ensure that the plants are planted where they should be and where they will thrive. The goal is the same as in Jesus’ day: a good crop.
But all the careful planning in the world can’t compete with sabotage. The farmer had an enemy that, for some reason, wanted his crop to be ruined, or at least bothersome. This enemy comes into the field at night when no one can see him and plants zizanium or darnel. It’s a grass that looks like wheat until the grain appears. The zizanium’s fruit is black and it carries a poisonous fungus on the fruit that would be harmful if consumed. It is the direct opposite of the life-supporting wheat next to which it is growing!
The servants of the farmer are alarmed. They know that their boss is dedicated to getting good results. Surely he didn’t plant seed with all this garbage mixed into it. He confirms their thoughts. “An enemy did this.” The servants want to get right to uprooting the weeds, after all, they’re certainly not helping anything and may actually be hurting the wheat. But the farmer says, no, let them both grow together. The roots may be intertwined or their simple proximity may mean that as rip up the weeds, the wheat may be damaged or uprooted too. No, the boss says, “Let both grow together until the harvest.” At that time it will be simple enough to gather them up into separate piles, bringing the good crop into the barn and sending the weeds to the fire.
The picture Jesus is painting here, as he mentions in his explanation, is that of the world. In the world, we have wheat and weeds, people who are “good” because God has made them good through Jesus, the sons of the kingdom as Jesus says. He goes on to say that the weeds are the sons of the evil one, that is, everything that causes sin and all who do evil. The weeds are everything in this world that fights against the well being of that wheat, including those people are bad because they have rejected God’s free forgiveness. Jesus’ point is that the “bad” plants didn’t come from him, who sows these seeds. They came from an enemy, God’s enemy in fact, the devil.
Satan has been God’s enemy nearly from the beginning. Created perfectly like the other angels, Satan quickly found himself unsatisfied with his position and gathered up a crew of angels who felt the same way and rebelled. Of course, rebellion against the almighty God is not a particularly wise thing to do and Satan lost, not only the battle but his position as well. God cast him out of heaven to hell where he will suffer for eternity for his sin. Satan is still very bitter about this and his goal is to get as many people to suffer for their sins as he is going to have to suffer.
He’s had some luck in that. He has sown weeds in the field of the world. There are people who don’t care about God or what he’s done for them. There are people who think your faith is futile and goofy and you should be mocked for it. There are people who are convinced that your faith is not only wrong, but it’s also dangerous, and they dedicate themselves to fighting it.
Perhaps our first reaction is, like those servants, shouldn’t the weeds just be pulled up? Why does God allow weeds and wheat to grow together? Once intertwined, removing the weeds is harmful for the wheat. God uses even those who reject his love for the good of his people. Maybe he allows them to bring some trial into your life so that you lean and depend on him more completely. Perhaps he uses the poisoned fruit that they produce to encourage you to bring forth fruit in keeping with your faith—living your life in such a way that it thanks God for what he’s done for you.
Ultimately, we are unfit to judge the weeds from the wheat. Confessions and actions may give heavy indications one way or another. But unlike zizanium and wheat whose differences are completely on the outside, the difference between believer and unbeliever is a matter of the heart. We can be deceived by weeds pretending to be wheat; we can misjudge wheat and mark is as a weed. We cannot judge the heart; we cannot know a person’s faith. So we leave those judgments for God and trust that, when the harvest comes, he will make the proper decisions.
That harvest will mean the end. At Judgment Day there are no more chances, there are no more options. The crop in the field has no more chance to grow once the sickle or the combine is taken to it. Its time in the field is gone and it moves onto the next stage. Jesus makes clear what happens to the wheat and the weeds: “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” This is less a warning and more a message of comfort for the wheat. At the last day, God is going to take everything that hurt us and get rid of it. Like weeds bound into a bundle and burned will be everything that ever tempted us to sin and rebel against God, everything that mocked us for our faith, and every last thing that ever brought us misery. There will be no pain or suffering or problems in heaven. There will only be joy in the eternal mansions of God’s storehouse.
Keep in mind, though, that being brought into the barn has nothing to do with us. We could have just as easily been marked as weeds and sent to the fire. But that’s the disaster Jesus came to prevent. At the risk of pushing Jesus’ picture to places where he didn’t intend it to go, Jesus’ blood shed on the cross is like fertilizer that fundamentally changes the plants it touches. We were weeds, we were sinners destined to the fires of hell. But Jesus came and rescued us. That we are brought into the barn is no testament to how good we are or our skills or abilities. When we find ourselves in God’s barn, it will always, only be because of God’s love for us. That undeserved love, that grace, rescued us from that hopeless situation so that, at the end of this age, we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of [our] Father.
While we are still wheat here, standing in the field, let’s surround ourselves with the things that will strengthen us. Let’s dive into God’s Word personally, as families, and as a family of believers in this congregation and let God enrich, nourish, and fertilize our faith. If we sense that Satan returns, trying to sell his lies of how wonderful it is to be a weed and isn’t our devotion to God silly and pointless, we send him packing. He’s no friend of ours; Jesus rightly and clearly labeled him our enemy as well as God’s enemy. His lies, though tempting, have no power over us. Our Savior has triumphed over his deception. We will dwell in the storehouse of our God forever. That gift is for everyone, even those we might deem to be against us, even the weeds among the wheat, so share it. You just might find that at the last day God has turned those you thought were weeds into wheat, fellow heirs of God’s kingdom! Praise God who tends to his field and ensures that, despite the problems around us, we all have exactly what we need! Amen