Weed and Wheat

Matthew 13:12-30,36-43

For the ancient people depending on agriculture, and even for modern farmers – weeds are still a problem. More than just an unsightly nuisance, weeds cost the farmer. They cut down on productivity. They choke the crops you want to grow. They are invaders that don’t belong in the field – and so something must be done about them!

Jesus has much to teach in his parable of the weeds. Like all parables of Jesus, the earthly story leads us into the heavenly meaning. For Jesus isn’t really talking about weeds and farmers and harvests. He’s talking about life in the kingdom – how to understand what we see, and what we can expect in the future.

We just heard, last week, the parable of the sower – in which the seed, or the word of God, is cast onto all sorts of soil – hard, rocky, thorny, and good. And so we saw that God’s word is rejected by many for a variety of reasons, but that when it hits that good soil, when it is received in faith, it produces an abundant harvest.

As soon as Jesus finishes explaining that parable, he tells this one, about the weeds. And there are some common elements. For one, the seed stands, here too, for the word of God. And the wheat, the good crop of those seeds, for those people of faith who have heard the Gospel and believe in Jesus Christ. The sons of the kingdom. Great. So what about the weeds?

They are sown by the enemy. And this can only be the Devil himself. Yes, the Old Satanic Foe, the Father of Lies. He comes with a different seed – a different word. And he sows it into every little nook and cranny he can. He sows false teachings. He sows troubles and persecution. He sows doubt and temptation. He generally causes whatever mischief, trouble and grief he thinks he can get away with.

And those who are born of his seed are the weeds. The faithless, the ungodly, the evil ones. Those who reject the Gospel and the work of Christ for them. And thus, they have no place in the kingdom.

Now, knowing the farmer is wise and good, naturally the servants wonder, “why is he tolerating all these weeds?” And it’s a similar question asked by God’s people throughout the ages. Why did God do it this way? Why didn’t he do it another way? Why doesn’t he do it my way? Why do the wicked prosper? Why do bad things happen to good people? Is God really just? Is he really all-powerful and all loving? Can you really believe what he says?

The answer that Jesus provides surprises us all. For the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about the eradication of evil but about the cultivation of eternal life through Him. Therefore the weeds and all that is evil in our world is nothing more than a temporary annoyance and distraction to what God is doing in our world.

God’s focus and attention is on the wheat, and not on the weeds. God does not want to lose even a single stalk of wheat due to our efforts to rid the world of the weeds. And that is why God patiently tolerates the presence of the weeds in His field rather than risk uprooting a single stalk of wheat. And as much as we would like to rid the world of evil and sin, the very act of weeding them out would risk destroying our faith in Christ as well. And so the question that we are left to ponder is “Why does God tolerate evil in the world?” And the answer from the parable of the wheat and the weeds is this: “Because God wants every last grain of wheat in His barn and wants nothing that He has sown to be destroyed.”

For you see the passion of the farmer for his wheat represents God’s passion in Christ to save us. So why does God tolerate all the evil in the world? It is so you and I might come to fruitful faith in Christ Jesus and be raised from the dead clinging to Christ for our salvation.

Evil is a part of our world and sin is so deeply entrenched in our lives that to eliminate sin and evil would mean our destruction. We would all be cut down by our attempts to rid the weeds in our lives. All of us who have been baptized are both Saint and Sinners and we could not pull up the Sinner without uprooting the Saint.

Life in this field can be chaotic. But Jesus is the wise farmer. He knows what he’s doing. In the parable, the farmer explains that he doesn’t want to endanger the good crops when he pulls the weeds, but that he’ll sort it all out at harvest time. Our Lord knows what’s what and who’s who. And he has a plan for dealing with the weeds.

There will be a day of harvest. But it’s in the future. All of our readings today have that forward-looking angle. In Isaiah, the Lord who is the First and the Last declares what is to come. And in Romans, Paul reminds us that the sufferings of this present time aren’t worth comparing to the glory to be revealed. In other words, God makes it clear that with him, in Christ, there is hope for the future. No matter how full of weeds and thorns the ground around you. He will sort it all out in the end.

That was his promise, long ago, when the enemy first came to sow his disastrous seed in the Garden. After Eve and Adam believed that false word and trusted the enemy, after they ate the forbidden fruit, God came to the garden to sort it out. And he told Adam that thorns would infest the ground – an outward sign of the corruption of creation that Adam’s sin had brought. Life would be tough. Weeds were a-coming.

But before God even got that far, he already promised a Savior. The seed of the woman, which would crush the head of the serpent. That seed is the Living Word, the Son of Man and the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, who, in the wilderness, didn’t fall for the deceptive seed of the Devil, but set him straight by correctly applying the word. Jesus, who spread the seed of his Gospel to all sorts of people – turning weeds into wheat and bringing a harvest of faith where there was none.

Yes, Jesus, who wore a crown of thorns as he completed the work of salvation. Who died on the tree of the cross to graft us into himself the True Vine, and make us thrive, connected to him forever.

The Lord who has done all this – for you – certainly can handle the weeds. So don’t think that he’s forgotten you – when the prickly weeds invade your little corner of the field. Remember he has a plan, and he will bring in his harvest in due time.

And don’t think it’s your job to pluck the weeds out. The Lord, the farmer, is the judge of what plant are for saving and what plants are for casting into the fire. He will send his angels to sort the good from the bad.

The parable of the weeds reminds us that in the kingdom of God – things don’t always look perfect. There are liars and troublemakers and there is discord and sometimes disaster. But the farmer is wise, and patient, and knows his plan. And he will reap a harvest in the end, sorting it all out.

So trust the Lord – trust him to forgive your sins, trust him that you would grow in the field of his kingdom, nourished by the word, thriving under the Son. Trust that the Spirit will strengthen you in faith and holy living. And don’t fear the weeds – the lies of Satan, or the fruits thereof. For the harvest is coming, and with it, great joy for us and all the people of Jesus Christ.

Rejoice and be glad because the message of today’s parable is that there is to be no sorting the Sinner and the Saint before the end of the age, and that if we try to sort the weeds from the wheat we will damage the harvest. Therefore the church is not given the task of eliminating sin from the world but told to go and apply Christ’s death and resurrection to the lives of sinners.

This message from Tom Chryst and Paul Zwarnich  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

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