(Sorry, no video, our volunteer Jack has stage 4 cancer and the pain was very severe and he was unable to attend. Please keep in prayer as he undergoes radiation this week.)
Text: Matthew 13:24-30,36-43; Romans 8:18-27 (Proper 11A)
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus doesn’t give us the greatest gardening advice here in the parable today. If you’ve gardened even a little bit you know the trouble of weeds. They are annoying, they ruin crops, they take up nutrients. Part of our rent payment during our last year of seminary was weeding the 1/2 acre garden of the landowner, and it is a constant battle here in the gardens and lawns. Gardens and lawns are meant to have nice clean rows, with only those plants which were planted or desired. Even better when the rows and sections are sharp and defined. Everything is to be uniform. In corn growing, sometimes the stalks of corn which grow higher than the others are purposely cut down. While they may produce crops, overgrown crops of every kind tend to be cut back or taken out.
We’ve really taken the art and sophistication out the process. Most of us probably buy various chemicals and products designed to target weeds. You can spray these chemical on the good plants and the bad, but they only kill the bad. We are not used to this idea of weeds completely overtaking a field or garden, they are easily treated. But consider when weeds could only be pulled. No sprays, no dusts. You’d be left with the choice of carefully pulling or leaving the weeds there. The risk was that the weeds would take nutrients and you’d have less of a crop or risk pulling the crop out with the weeds and having nothing. Jesus would not allow the weeds to be pulled for fear of losing some of the harvest. For “no one is able to snatch them out of His hand” (John 10:29) nor is anything “able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
You see, just as you do in your own gardens, the Lord only plants good seed. There is another who plants. Among all the people that are in this world – that are categorized and grouped and form cliques and get organized and join clubs and socialize and join forces economically and work together politically – Jesus will judge each human being not as a member of their group but as either wheat or weeds. Whether wealthy or impoverished, whether single or married, whether right-to-work minded or union-minded, whether Democrat or Republican, whether American or European or Asian – every human being that has ever lived or ever will live is either wheat or weed.
While we like to pretend there are more categories, this really is it. Wheat or weeds. The sobering part of Jesus’ world view is that the weeds will be intermingled with the wheat until the last day. Until the harvest comes the weeds will do what weeds do – grow and grow seeking to choke out the wheat from this world!
The ever-present sons of darkness make a concerted attack on the sons of light. Their deeds are well known. On the one hand, they preach and teach as though God does not exist. On the other, they claim offense at any notion of religion absolute truthfulness. They fabricate gods to fit their own lives, taking Scriptural words and misusing them. They proclaim that we should not judge, but what they really mean is not to point out sin. They claim to be pro-choice, but take to trail when the choice is life. They live with a complete disregard for the sons of light and therefore persecute them.
Weeds only care about one thing. Their own growth and survival. If it means killing out other plants, so be it. Fruit bearing crops have this phenomena in that they will grow and produce even in adverse circumstances, the fruit may be adjusted, perhaps not as much, perhaps not as big, but sometime that makes it more flavorful or sweet. Wheat and other crops do not aggressively kill other plants, weeds do.
Jesus therefore says to the servants, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (Matt. 13:30). Jesus’ chosen ones therefore are left to suffer with the weeds. His chosen harvest of wheat must deal with the sons of darkness who constantly and persistently assault them. The sons of darkness cover the world in their wickedness. They abound within the media and the internet. The sons of darkness walk up and down the streets of Carson City, Minden, Reno, and every city or town. The sons of darkness are present everywhere.
They are present. They are always in your midst. They cause pain and suffering. Yet, “…the sufferings of this present time however are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).
Jesus tells this parable, however, not to emphasize the struggles and sufferings of the wheat. He rather tells the parable to teach His disciples and His servants about what is not the goal of the church. Jesus doesn’t put His servants into the field in order to destroy and uproot the weeds. On the contrary, the wheat must grow with the weeds.
There is often an attack on the Christian church for participation in evil. Over the past decade a debate continues to arise concerning the role of Christians in battle of evil. Critics of Christianity often cite against the church the fact that Christians participated in the crusades. You Christians are killers just like Muslim extremists critics charge. This would certainly be true if the Crusades were justified. Yet, on the basis of this parable, we can know that the crusades were unjustified. The place of the church is not to uproot and destroy those who are unbelievers. We are not given to over-eager zealots who bring harm to others, even if they are just weeds.
In today’s political environment, there are also those who would make the United States a Christian nation. They would not use the violent force of the crusades, but they claim that United States is and ought to be a Christian nation. The conversion of any person to Christianity, however, does not belong to realm of politics or political force. We’ve been given to be good citizens. We’ve been given certain gifts and authority within the government, and certainly God’s Word has tremendous impact in the political realm. But we cannot make a Christian nation by our government and by our voting. They only way the wheat grows is to water and nourished. Baptized and fed. Fed properly. For you, that means Word and Sacrament.
Furthermore, notice in this parable that the wheat and weeds are not such as a result of their actions. Satan sowed the bad seed; the weeds are the offspring of Satan. Jesus sowed the good seed; Christians are the offspring of Christ. The wheat and weeds are the result of what has been done to them. Weeds will never produce a good crop of grain. Yet, good crops of grain can fail to produce or be choked out and die.
When we are tempted to make concessions to God’s Word, when we look at the ways of the world for our evangelism programs, when we measure only by the amount of crop and not the quality of the crop, we are really trying to control the field that is not ours. We feed the weeds thinking we have the power to make them wheat. Jesus directs them to leave the field, He’s planted the good seed, leave it that the wheat may still grow and produce as it was made to do. Satan has done his best to sow His weeds even among the church. Since the church remains in the world, it remains liable to assaults of Satan. He has worked His hardest to cause division in the church; to cause heresies and darkness to arise within the church as well as the world.
Yet, even among the weeds, the wheat remains. Why is this? Even though Satan has done his best to sow weeds of discord among the sons of light, the Good Seed has been sown. Jesus, the only remaining Good Seed sowed Himself into the fabric of humanity through the virgin’s womb. He sowed Himself not only into death-ridden humanity, but into death itself by entering the tomb. He, the true Good Seed, hanging from the cross entered into the fiery furnace for the weeds that are humanity according to their sinful nature.
When Jesus, the Good Seed was sown, the result is a harvest beyond number. Remember that the wheat and the weeds were not such by virtue of their deeds. Here’s the wonder of Christ’s death and resurrection. He turns weeds into crops of wheat. He takes what cannot produce fruit, that which only leading to death, and makes you alive as wheat. Even though you once walked in deeds of darkness, you are counted among the wheat who will enjoy eternal light.
As wheat, we groan in expectation of the harvest. How often have you prayed for relief from the weeds of this world. While the parable of the weeds among the wheat is a source of comfort for us since it demonstrates Jesus’ concern for His wheat, it is a greater comfort because of the promised eternal glory which we will share with Him. While the parable of the weeds is a source of comfort since it points out that we don’t have to change the world, it is a source of greater comfort since it explains that we will become the harvest of Christ on the last day. You are wheat because the Sower sowed good seed in you! He washed you! He feeds you! You, forgiven and redeemed saints, are the wheat and you will be gathered in that day and all sin removed. You, the ones declared righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.