OUR HEAVENLY GARDENER HAS A PLAN
Sermon on Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
This morning’s gospel is another in the series of Jesus’ parables, Parables are occasional, they are intended to address something specific so, Jesus spoke these parables to teach, encourage, console, or even correct his hearers (and us by extension) as needed.
Thus, when we hear this parable we catch the sense of the question Jesus is addressing: why is there evil in the world and why doesn’t God just clean it up, sooner rather than later?
This is understandable—who hasn’t taken a look at their own life, or perhaps at the goings on in the world around them and wondered, “Why do terrible things to happen to good people—people who are trying to live God pleasing lives?”
It’s not a new question. Jesus’ first followers likely wondered something similar—they saw it not only in their own lives but in Jesus’ as well. On one side they suffered under the Roman occupiers for being Jews. On the other, they were persecuted by certain of the Jews who thought they were betraying the faith because of Jesus’ teaching and healings. It felt like they were getting it from all sides, and all for just trying to be faithful God.
So Jesus tells this parable, of someone who sows good seed in his field, but then an enemy comes in under the cover of night and sows weeds among the wheat. The solution proposed by the faithful and well-meaning servants is to go through the field and pull up the weeds—sounds reasonable enough, right? But the owner says no, because doing so would also harm the wheat. Likely Jesus had in mind a particular weed, bearded darnel which is botanically close to wheat and looks very similar to it when the plants are young, so one might end up uprooting wheat instead of weeds by mistake. Further, the darnel has a strong and deep root system, which if pulled up at the wrong time would also uproot the young wheat as well.
In the interest of protecting the wheat, the farmer says to wait until the harvest, when the wheat is grown and mature—then the weeds will be pulled and burned to prevent them causing further damage, while the wheat will be harvested and gathered to the barn.
Anyone in the audience who heard this would probably have nodded in agreement—even if it isn’t the quickest solution, it does sound like the best way to protect the wheat given the circumstances.
Later, the disciples ask Jesus directly what the parable meant—best to avoid any kind of misunderstanding or misinterpretation, so they go to the source.
Jesus’ explanation has an apocalyptic edge. Apocalyptic in that it belongs to that unique category of literature found in Scripture, which is addressed to and best understood by people in dire, literally life and death circumstances. People under persecution or going through severe trials and tribulations have very simple needs. They tend not to require a lot of deep philosophical or theological explanations, they simply want to be reminded that God has a plan and that they haven’t been forgotten.
Jesus’ explanation does just that. The good seed or wheat are the children of the kingdom, those who by the grace of God are faithful. The weeds are the children of the evil one and the one who sowed them through the field i.e. the world, is the devil.
Jesus assures the disciples this will not continue indefinitely. Note that in the parable while the weeds don’t overcome what the Son of Man has sown. So too God preserves His children in this world. There will be a day of reckoning when the weeds and wheat will be separated and dealt with accordingly, and while that day is not now, God knows when and will bring it to pass.
Should you find yourself asking questions like, “so why was the enemy allowed to sow the weeds”, or “God should know the difference between ‘weeds and wheat’ the faithful and evil, so why not just do it now?” then this parable might not be meant for you at this time—because if it was, you wouldn’t be asking such questions.
This parable isn’t so much about explaining “why” but “who”. Everyone who hears this parable knows by personal experience there is evil in the world, and even the best explanations of the details concerning ‘why’ aren’t going to change much.
But knowing ‘who’ can. Knowing that you haven’t been forgotten by God despite all evidence to the contrary is a particular blessing. Knowing that God will not permit trials to go on endlessly gives hope. Hearing the promise of ‘shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father’ speaks of God’s ultimate plan for His children.
No it doesn’t solve the problems or make the suffering magically go away, but it does give some perspective, a glimpse of hope, a reminder that the overwhelming circumstance threatening to crush you is not the last word—that belongs to God and His word is salvation and life. He spoke that word to us in our baptism and repeats it to us regularly through the Word and Holy Communion, which encourage and strengthen our faith and help us persevere no matter what we face.
The Bible doesn’t tell us why we suffer but instead what God does about it
God’s Son Jesus becomes the Good Seed sown in the field of God’s world. He lives a life of total obedience to His heavenly Father even unto death on a cross for the sins of the world. That’s what God does about evil. God suffers in human flesh to take away the sin of the world. He lets evil do its worst, and then He kicks down the door of hell and sets the prisoners free! Thereafter, the gates of hell shall not prevail against God’s holy people, who are baptized into His death and resurrection!
Baptism is how the Good Seed Jesus is sown into our lives through no effort or merit of our own. After all, what field ever prepared itself or asked the sower to sow it? The Eucharist is His faithful re-sowing of the Good Seed as we come, beggars every one of us, no longer naïve to the evil around us or the evil in us. For Christ’s sake, we are forgiven and set free by the One who brings the kingdom to us in Word and Sacrament.
Yes, we are both saints and sinners, marked with the cross of Christ and sealed with the Holy Spirit and, at the same time, dwelling in mortal bodies that are prone to wander like the first parents that began this earthly rebellion. For this reason, Luther says our whole life is lived under God’s call to repentance. The wages of sin is still death. We live under God’s judgment that also progressively dispossesses us of the foolish idea that evil is something we can by our own efforts eradicate!
Having had Jesus the Good Seed sown into our lives through the washing of Holy Baptism, we can never ever be completely hoodwinked by the wicked old thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10). Yes, he won’t quit trying to sew bad seed in our hearts and minds. Yes, he won’t stop trying to dishearten us when evil is done to us. It does break our heart when somebody we admire fails miserably to practice what he or she preaches. It does break our heart when we discover the truth about ourselves that we, too, are not the people God created us to be…and we often willingly are led into temptation. But, as Jesus clearly warns, discipline meted out by all too willing judges can miss the point that the judges themselves stand under the same judgment!
Jesus is God’s answer to the unholy trio – sin, death, and Satan. And so we turn again and again with empty hands to the only One who can do something about the evil in us and others. As someone once wrote, grace is getting what we don’t deserve, and mercy is not getting what we do deserve. We love Jesus, because, for His sake, God forgives us sinners who do the very evil that God hates. We love Jesus, because, when we breathe our last, God will cover all the baptized with the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. In the interim, we are called to remember Paul’s many pastoral admonitions…like not willfully joining Christ’s members to sinful acts…for it is now no longer we who live but Christ who lives in us. When we fail, as we repeatedly do, we confess our sin and ask for what we do not deserve – the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. All of which God does, because He loves us more than His own life.
In the interim we can immerse ourselves in Word and Sacrament, and our Christian fellowship where we can be strengthened in our new life in Christ and where we can encourage one another to “yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.”
While we might desire that God bring it to pass according to our time table, Jesus’ parable reminds us that He who spoke His word is faithful and will act in the fullness of time, not because of some arbitrary schedule but because it is ultimately for our best and until then will keep and preserve those who belong to Him.
Which often is enough when we find ourselves in those situations. This shouldn’t be too surprising that the One who created us, who knows us the best and loves us the most knows what it is we most deeply and desperately need—Him.
This message by Rev. Brad Everett is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at [email protected]