Bible Passage: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Pastor: Pastor Berg
Sermon Date: July 23, 2017
In A.D. 1095, following the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II gave a call to all Christians throughout Europe to reclaim the Holy Land, and especially Jerusalem, from the Muslims. What resulted was almost 200 years of military missions we know as the “Crusades.” Crusade comes from the Latin word for “cloth cross.” The Crusaders, as they became known, took the Christian cross as their symbol. They believed the symbol of the cross made them invincible against the Muslims. And while we can debate what really motivated many of the crusades, “true religion” was certainly one of them. In fact, Crusaders marched from Europe to the Holy Land under the battle cry of Deus Vult: It is God’s Will. They truly believed it was God’s Will to eradicate these heathen from the Holy Land.
This certainly isn’t the only example of Christians dealing violently with perceived unbelievers and heretics. Around the same time as the Crusades, the church instituted the Inquisition, which was also meant to eradicate heresy. People were given the opportunity to “repent” or be burned at the stake. Jan Huss, a contemporary reformer of Martin Luther, was burned at the stake for his unwillingness to recant. And we’re familiar with the bounty that Luther himself had on his head.
It seems that the church has missed the point of Jesus’ parable of the weeds far too often. In an attempt to create a Christian world, many Christians have taken into their own hands the judgment that is reserved for God. Jesus very plainly tells us that there are going to be weeds among the wheat. There are going to be believers mixed with unbelievers. So what is God’s plan for weed control? That’s the question we’d like to focus on this morning as we recognize that We Are Wheat Among the Weeds.
This was quite a long day for Jesus. This parable of the weeds is the second of four parables that Jesus told on this particular day. It has many similarities to the parable of the sower that you heard about last week. Both deal with sowing seed. Both classify the seed that the sower uses as good seed. Both are treated by Jesus with a gracious explanation for his disciples. What is interesting is that Jesus explains the parable of the sower immediately after speaking it, but with the parable of the weeds, he waits to explain it until after he’s shared the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the yeast and after he’s gone back into the house with his disciples. The details of the parable are not too hard to understand, especially after Jesus explains them. Just like last week, the farmer has sown good seed in his field. But his enemy came as a coward, in the dead of the night, and sowed weeds among the wheat. This particular weed looks just like wheat as it’s coming up. It’s not until the heads sprout that you can see the terrible difference. Jesus tells us very plainly that he, himself, is the sower. The field where he sowed his good seed is the world. The good seed are the believers. The weeds are unbelievers and the enemy is the devil.
So, now that we have the basic details of the parable, we need to ask ourselves, “what’s the point?” Why is Jesus sharing this parable with his disciples and ultimately us? “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus begins. What is the kingdom of heaven? Initially, you might think that the “kingdom of heaven” is exactly what is says it is, namely heaven. However, if that were true, then that would mean there are “weeds” or unbelievers in heaven and we know that can’t be the case. In this context and in other places, Matthew uses “the kingdom of heaven” as a parallel to Mark and Luke’s “the kingdom of God.” “The kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of heaven” refers to Christ’s rule in our hearts and lives. Jesus is talking about the life of the believer here in this world, how a believer will live out their life of faith in this world.
Our lives as believers are going to be like a field where there are weeds and wheat, believers and unbelievers. You can’t just look at a person in this world and know whether or not they are a believer or an unbeliever. You only know them by their fruit. Basically, Jesus is warning us that wherever the kingdom of heaven and believers prosper and flourish, the Devil is also going to be there sowing his seeds of discontent and destruction. The Devil, who already controls the unbelievers, is going to work through those “weeds” to try and choke the faith out of the wheat. Just like we heard last week, if we allow the weeds to take over, they will choke the fruit right out of the wheat. And far too often, isn’t that what we allow to happen? We allow ourselves to not only be in the world, but we become of the world. We value the things of this world more than the things of God. So here were left with a conundrum. The weeds are dangerous to the wheat. Logic says, “If the problem is the weeds, let’s get rid of the problem.” That’s what the servants in the parable thought too. They said about the weeds, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”
However, as is so often the case, what seems best and what we think is the best is not what God thinks and knows is best. The master replied, “No, because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.” How many potential believers do you think were killed because of the crusades? How many true believers gave up their faith under the pressure of the inquisitions? We’ll never know, but Jesus’ point is clear. If we try to eradicate the unbelievers in this world, inevitably we’re going to take some potential wheat with them. The master’s answer was emphatic and unmistakable. The only solution is to allow the weeds and wheat to grow together.
So how does that sit with you? Isn’t this the part of the parable that bothers you? Why is this fair? Why does the Lord allow them to have as smooth and as easy a life as us—sometimes smoother and easier? Why doesn’t God open up the sky or the ground and let those unbelievers know who his children really are and how much he loves them? But do you realize what those questions reveal about my heart and yours? Any hint of those kinds of questions seems to say that we believe we deserve God’s love more than they do, that we’ve somehow earned God’s love. Friends, that’s self-righteousness. And that self-righteousness is just as sinful as unbelief. Instead, think about why God doesn’t deal harshly with unbelievers in this world. Do you realize how uncomfortable that would make our lives? Think about what Noah and his family had to go through before the flood. Even though God spared them, their lives were no picnic before the flood. Just re-read the account in Genesis and see how much fun it would be! No, God allows the weeds to grow and flourish only so we, his wheat, can flourish. Just think about how many benefits that we receive from unbelievers in this world! How many of our public servants who provide protection for our peace and safety are unbelievers? How many of the people who grow the food we eat, make the clothes we wear, produce the entertainment that we enjoy are unbelievers? Gives a little different perspective to being in the world, but not of the world, doesn’t it?
We are always going to be Wheat Among the Weeds. There will always be unbelievers in the world and even disguised as believers in the church. We should never look for a perfect world or a perfect church on this side of heaven—we just won’t find it. We’ve also recognized that the Lord uses the weeds that exist for our good. The weeds help us recognize what the Truth really is. They test our faith. They cause us to grow in our faith and to depend more fully on our God. St. Paul said, “We know that in all things (even in the weeds of the world) God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” And finally, we should recognize that God gives even the weeds a time of grace. The weeds are just as deserving of God’s grace as we, the wheat are—which means not at all. We are just as sinful in our nature as the weeds. We are just as lacking in goodness as the weeds. The only difference between the weeds and us is the God-given gift of faith that resides in our hearts. Every moment of time that the lives of the weeds are spared is another moment to know Christ, the same Christ who through his perfect life and innocent death possesses power to transform weeds into wheat fit for the granary of heaven.
Yet, just because it’s not the job of the Church to carry out justice against the unbelievers does not mean that there isn’t justice coming. Justice is the Lord’s! Jesus promises that his Justice is coming as he closes out his parable. “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.”
There was no way that Jesus wanted his hearers to think that God’s grace amounted to indifference to sin. So he goes on here to let us know about the farmer’s ultimate plan. In the end, there would be recognition of the weeds. There would be separation. There would be destruction of those weeds. The plan was quite basic—store the wheat and destroy the weeds. The story is vivid enough that we can almost see a row of grain trucks on one side of the picture and a raging bonfire on the other. This is Jesus’ absolutely clear picture of the last judgment. There will be recognition and there will be separation and there will be destruction. Destruction by fire is mentioned alongside nearly every biblical reference to the last judgment. But just as strongly does the picture of the heavenly granary appear. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
So where does this leave us, as Wheat Among the Weeds? Jesus wants us to clearly recognize that weeds and wheat will exist together on this side of heaven. May this knowledge help us from becoming discouraged when it seems like the weeds are taking over. May it help us to recognize the difference and strive, with God’s help, to remain wheat. Jesus hasn’t given us the job of rooting the weeds out of this world. He knows who the weeds are. He will deal with them in judgment on his own schedule. What he does want us to be doing is proclaiming the Gospel—the Gospel that is powerful enough to change weeds into wheat. He wants us to look at unbelievers in the same way as Jesus did—recipients of the forgiveness he earned on the cross. And finally, Jesus wants us to be both fearfully and confidently prepared for Judgment Day. Right now, We Are Wheat Among the Weeds. When the harvest time finally comes, may we all be found in the Lord’s granary in heaven! Amen.