21/7/02 6 p.m. Trinity 8/Proper 11 : Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Gardening programmes - Latin names. Never remember. Bad at Latin at school !
Lolium temulentum is known as bearded darnel. It is related to wheat and difficult to distinguish from wheat when the plants are young. The roots of the weed and wheat entangle themselves around each other. So if one is removed it damages the roots of the other. This is probably the weeds that were sown in the wheat field in Jesus' parable.
As we look at the passage we will answer three questions: What does this tell us about Jesus ? What does this tell us about the devil ? What does this tell us about the Christian life ?
What does this tell us about Jesus ?
Jesus sows the seed and directs the harvest. He is the source of life and the one who will judge if the plant is weed or wheat.
We see that he is patient and merciful. The servants are impatient and want to pull up what they think are the weeds as soon as they discover them. The master says wait. The weeds were difficult to distinguish from the wheat. Their roots were entwined. They could not be absolutely certain which was which. And pulling up some would damage the remaining plants.
The Bible says that Jesus has not returned yet because God is patient and is giving time for people to repent. This parable illustrates this. We may think that we are growing next to a weed, but they still have time to turn out as wheat ! This morning we looked at growing fruit and the different fruit that Paul showed before and after he became a Christian. Paul is an example of wheat that looked as if it was a weed at first. So we should not be discouraged when we see others who have not become Christians yet. There is still time for them, and we are called to keep praying for them , living the Christian life alongside them, and talking about our faith when we have the opportunity.
This parable also shows that what, first of all, appears to be wheat is really a weed. Earlier in this Chapter Matthew records the parable of the soils. Some seed fell on rocky ground where there was little soil. So the plant sprang up quickly but had no root and withered. Other seed fell among thorns and, in time were choked.
Most of us here would, I think, be able to think of someone who has professed faith in Jesus, come to church for a while, even done something in the church. We shouldn't be fooled into thinking that a quick commitment and a short flurry of activity is, necessarily, the mark of a true Christian. The true Christian continues to grow. Persevering through difficult times. Being rooted in Jesus. Continuing to worship him, pray to him, study his word, serve him. There is no place in the Christian life for deciding that we have done enough for God. That we have grown enough. That life is difficult and we have other things that we put God and His church.
This parable is about the weeds and the wheat growing up side by side. The wheat continues to grow despite the weeds competing for water, nutrients and sunlight. This parable is saying, then, that Christians are not called to be separated from the difficulties and the pressures of the world. We are not called to become hermits and live in caves or on top of poles. We are to grow amongst hard hearts, competing pressures, apparent failures, physical, emotional and spiritual difficulties. Such growth will produce an abundant crop.
We should not be fooled into thinking that the Christian way is an easy road. The enemy in the parable was stealthy and malicious. He waited until everyone was asleep before sowing weeds that he knew would , initially, look like wheat. We are in a spiritual battle. But we are on the winning side. e.g. football side in Europe 2nd leg with strong lead.
As well as Jesus being patient and merciful we also see that he is just and, one day, he will judge people. The criteria for that judgement is whether we are sons of the evil one or sons of the kingdom. This is Matthew's Jewish term for sons of God.
Sons of the evil one might sound a dramatic, almost insulting term to use of someone who does not follow Jesus. But we should not let political correctness blind us to the fact that we will all be judged by our response to the revelation that we have received from God. For most people that revelation comes through Jesus. One day, at the right time, Jesus will return. He will judge everyone with complete justice. The living and the dead. He has the qualifications to judge everyone. He is perfect, and he knows everything.
When we think of those two qualities and we think of ourselves we can only draw one conclusion. That we are not qualified to judge and condemn anyone else. This does not mean that we should not be able to have a Christian opinion over what is and what is not acceptable behaviour. Yet we are to realise that we have been forgiven much, and we are called to forgive much in the light of the undeserved forgiveness we have received.
We may be tempted to be like the servants who wanted to uproot what appeared to be the weeds. Just as a farmer waits for the right time to harvest. He does his bit and allows God to do his. He prepares the ground, sows the seed, and lets God provide the rain and the sun. We need to do our bit by helping to prepare ground, to sow seeds. We also need to trust in Jesus and rely on him to help people respond and for the timing of the judgement, and the ability to judge
Those who truly know and follow Jesus will be transformed into his likeness, given perfect resurrection bodies. They will radiate perfection and joy at being with God in eternity. Those who have not hid their light in this life will shine for Jesus in glory. In heaven there will be no more sin or evildoers, verse 41. Things will be restored to the position before Adam sinned. Perfect fellowship with God, other people and the created order. No more death, mourning, sickness, or suffering. This is the certain hope that is ours in Jesus. It should encourage us to persevere in our walk with Jesus. It should encourage us to keep on witnessing in word and deed and praying for those who have not yet shown themselves as wheat.
As we see from the parable the alternative is grim. Jesus uses a picture of a fiery furnace with weeping and gnashing of teeth, verse 42. This conveys something of the punishment and anguish that is there for those who reject God's lordship. This shows the suffering that there will be for those who are banished from God's presence. We live in an age where we receive God's grace. His grace in supplying us with a harvest of food and drink, of families, health, relative prosperity, homes, cars, etc. There is also the grace of knowing and serving Jesus.
Yet we also live in a world where there is starvation, thirst, family breakdown, sickness, poverty, homelessness and so on. This is because sin is in the world. A world that has rejected God. The choice is ours and everyone else's.
Who do we follow ? God who loves us, has given us so much and wants to give us so much more. Or the evil one who is stealthy and malicious, selfish, a liar. He is defeated and has nothing to offer his followers but sin and suffering.
To summarise :
1) Let us concentrate on growing, rooted in Jesus, despite the difficulties around us.
2) We should not be discouraged. What we see as a weed may be budding wheat !
3) We should not judge, that is Jesus' job. He is better qualified than we are.
4) We can be encouraged to keep on shining for Jesus knowing that we will truly shine for him in heaven.