Genesis 28:10-22; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Romans 8:12-25 – July 19, 2020
INTRODUCTION Genesis 28:10-19a In the verses just prior to ones I am about to read, we learn that Esau marries the daughter of Ishmael, the first son of Abraham born to Hagar, the Egyptian servant of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Not only did Jacob’s older brother not care for his birthright, giving it away for a bowl of beans, he marries the daughter of the son that Abraham was not supposed to have. NOW we know why Jacob is to be the line through which the Nation of Israel will come. Esau and Jacob have been at odds with each other ever since.
This morning we read about Jacob taking flight after having tricked his brother Esau into giving him the inheritance in exchange for a mess of pottage. As Jacob leaves to go to find a wife from his Uncle Laban, the brother of his mother Rebekah, he has a dream. Hear the word of God from Genesis 28;10-22
INTRODUCTION TO MATTHEW13:24-30; 36-43
This morning we come to another agricultural parable of Jesus. This week, Jesus teaches about the mystery of the existence of evil in our world. This is another parable that the disciples asked for an explanation. They really did not understand agriculture. Hear the word of God from Matthew 13:24-30 and 36-43.
Let us pray. Open our eyes to see your truth. Open our ears to hear your voice. Open our souls to sense your touch. Open our hearts to feel your love. Open our minds to receive your word.
Last week we talked about sowing seeds. This week we are talking about pulling weeds (or whether to do so or not). Every gardener knows that planting seeds is the easy part of having a successful garden. It is much more time consuming to weed that same garden. It is hard work. As someone has said, “When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.” There is a corollary to that truth: “To distinguish flowers from weeds, simply pull up everything. What grows back … is weeds.”
The meaning of Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the weeds becomes clearer when we look at the specific kind of weed, he talks about. There was a weed in Palestine called bearded darnel, which was a common curse of farmers. In its early stages it looked just like the wheat. Other translations call these weeds “tares.” Tares are “bearded darnel,” and they are mentioned only in Matt. 13:25-30. It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of ryegrass, the seeds of which are a strong poison. It was only after both had “headed out” or produced seeds up top that one could tell the difference between the two by their color. At harvest time, the bad, the bearded darnel, had to be separated from the good, the wheat. The problem with taking our hoe to the evil weeds of the world is that good and evil sometimes look so much alike. It only becomes clear later. 2)
Jesus told this simple parable to illustrate the truth about a Day of Judgment. It was designed to be familiar to people who depended on agriculture for a living.
Maybe it might be helpful to retell the parable for those who may not be familiar with agriculture.
Here is a “Revised Tampered Version” of this parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a programmer who started many processes on her computer. While everyone was sleeping, a hacker broke in and started some counterfeit jobs, which began using some of the CPU time. The programmer’s operators said, “Didn’t you start useful jobs on the computer? Where then did these counterfeits come from?” “A hacker did this,” she replied. The assistants asked her, “Do you want us to kill the jobs?” “No,” she answered,” because while you are killing them, some good processes might be interrupted by accident. Let them all go to completion. Then we will purge every counterfeit process from the disk and memory, and save the results of every good process onto permanent storage.” 1)
Jesus talks about a farmer who planted good wheat seed in a field. This farmer is deliberate and careful and determined to do everything he can to make sure he will have a good crop. Unlike the parable of the crazy sower we looked at last week, this is one shrewd sower. He planted his wheat in nothing BUT good ground. He was assured of a good crop. But under cover of night, an enemy came and planted weeds.
Now here’s where Jesus’ audience of farmers had to break into a laugh. Who PLANTS WEEDS? Try going to a nursery and asking if you could buy some weed seeds. Have you got any dandelions, any Johnson grass, any crabgrass, any chickweed, any mug wart, any “Gill Over the Ground?” I am serious, there is an actual weed named that!
In Jesus’ parable, the farm hands came to the farmer and asked, “Do you want us to pull the weeds?” “No,” said the farmer. “If you try, you might damage the grain in the process. Let the weeds alone. At harvest time we will separate the two. Let good and bad grow together.”
Locked inside this parable are four truths about the Day of Judgment.
1) First, we have an enemy and that enemy is real. In verse 39 Jesus tells us plainly that the enemy is the devil. Some modern Christians consider themselves too sophisticated to believe in a devil. Surely, we all know that there is no creature with horns a tail and a pitchfork. That is more from Milton’s Paradise Lost than the Bible. But in this parable Jesus himself, declares that there is an intelligent, active spiritual presence in this world that is opposing God and actively sowing weeds. In Satan’s campaign to oppose God, Satan tries to separate us from God and make this world a living hell. (I once saw a post on Facebook that needed to be spell checked. It said, “Hail Satin.” (If it was not a typo it must have been posted by someone who really LOVED silk)
Fans of country music well know the name of George Jones. Jones has had enough hit songs on his hundred or so albums to make the careers of ten singers. Sometime back George was nearly killed in an automobile accident. He was talking on his cell phone. When the news first came out, many of his fans probably assumed that George was off the wagon again because with his talent and genius came a dark side. Jones had a reputation for wild living and self-destructive behavior. In the past he struggled with a serious addiction to alcohol and drugs. His addictions were so severe that Jones would literally do anything to fuel his habit. One time, George was almost outwitted by his then-wife, Tammy Wynette. To keep him away from the local bar, Tammy took George’s car keys. But George’s determination won out. He hopped on his riding lawn mower and rode ten miles to the nearest bar.
Why otherwise good people allow themselves to get trapped in self-destructive patterns of behavior is beyond our understanding. Where does such behavior come from? Can we get off the hook by saying, “The devil made me do it?” 3)
2) The second truth declared is that God is patient. In Jesus’ parable, the farmer does not clean out the weeds. God is amazingly patient with us sinners.
When Dr. Harold Bosley was pastor of Christ Church in New York City, he preached a sermon entitled, “Shall We Be Patient with Evil?” He pointed out how during the Civil War everything was crystal clear on both sides, if you could judge by what was being said. He then told of an experience he had while visiting a museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania where there is a huge painting of Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg. In front of him was a mother with two small sons who were asking questions. “Who were the good guys and who were the bad guys?” one of the boys asked. The mother replied softly, “It is hard to tell.” The child asked why they were trying to kill each other. The mother patiently tried to explain about slavery and the other issues. “Did they have to fight?” the lad asked. Her answer was classic. “They thought so,” she said. Dr. Bosley pointed out: “There was in that reply the gentleness distilled in the interval of a hundred years.” Socrates once observed: “He who takes only a few things into account finds it easy to pronounce judgment.” Be patient! Wait until harvest time. 4
3) Third, it is God who judges in the end not us. The parable does not explain the origin or purpose of evil. It is considered a fact of our present existence. In our world good and bad live side by side. The parable promises that evil will be abolished at the harvest time when the kingdom of God fully comes but until then…. good and bad will be neighbors.
When Jesus said, “Judge not lest you be judged,” he is saying, “Don’t give up on someone.” Don’t you be the one to pass judgment or pass sentence on someone.” That is the job of the judge. No person is authorized to compose a list of those who are in and those who are out. For us to do so is not only be judgmental but also presumptuous on our part. It presumes that all weeds are destined to stay that way. It disallows for the possibility of transformation.
Like I pointed out last week, there once was a Pharisee named Saul who was a weed. He was bad. He held the coats of those who stoned Stephen so they could get a better wind up so they could throw harder. He imprisoned followers of Jesus. But then, Saul met the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul the weed, became Paul the wheat. What would have happened to the Christian Church if Saul had been pulled up before he met the risen Jesus?
What if I had been pulled before I met Jesus? I grew up a weed. I grew up a weed in the church. I grew up alongside wheat. They rubbed off on me until the day came that this little guy that grew up like a weed became a wheat. I went from a weedie to a wheatie. As we make our way around the world, we will meet a lot of people, some good, some bad. .and some in transition. Some of the people we meet are Weeds and some are Wheat. And some were Weedies on their way to becoming Wheaties–and we are not the ones to determine which is which.
Jesus loves us enough to come to us and call us to follow him as we are, but he loves us too much to leave us as we are. We are all having our lives changed. We are all being made into disciples. We are all being transformed by the love of Jesus Christ.
The parable of the Crazy Sower taught us that we are to sow the word of God wherever we go because we don’t have the capacity to judge what is going on in the hearts of those with whom we share God’s love. This parable of the Patient Farmer teaches us that in addition, we don’t have the ability to judge whether the people we meet are good wheat or bad weeds OR whether they are weeds like Saul who are in transition on their way to being changed to Paul.
4) The fourth thing this parable teaches us is the fact that the Judgment Day is coming. Real love forces choices between good and bad. Real love is a woman saying to an alcoholic husband, “I force you to choose between the bottle and me. Real love says, “I will not coddle that liquor which threatens to kill you.” Real loves take away the keys to the riding mower George Jones!)
Real love challenges idolatry and bigotry and hatred and greed. Real love reaches out to those in need no matter what side of what border they are. Real love tells the truth.
Prior to and during World War II, Jewish persons in Europe were told by the Nazis that if they boarded the trains provided for them, they would be resettled in comfortable, peaceful areas. But the truth was that the trains were headed for Auschwitz and other death camps. Some Jews who knew the truth tried to warn the others, but the majority hushed them up, saying, “That’s ridiculous. If you talk like that, you will terrorize people.”
Today many are being herded aboard trains of false promises. On one end of the spectrum is the train that promises a rapture that will take Christians out of the world before things get really bad like the Left Behind series of books. The other end of the spectrum is a train called universalism that promises that all persons are bound for heaven whether they wish it or not—that Hitler will live next door to Mother Teresa. Real love does not tell people what they want to hear; real love tells the truth. It does not pretend that a train to Auschwitz is a train to Club Med.
One day God will call all of us to accountability. God will ask, “Did you tell the people what they wanted to hear? Did you tell them what seemed rational to you? Or did you tell them the truth?” I want to be able to respond to God Almighty, “Yes, Lord, I told them the truth, the hard truth as well as the gentle truth that “God loved the world so much that he sent his only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Until then we are all growing in a field–wheat and weeds, side by side, good and bad. Some rubbing each other the wrong way… and some the right way. Until the end, we will continue to have pain and sorrow, suffering and shame. Until then we will have to be patient.
God is patient. We must also wait with patience. We cannot pull the weeds in our world. That is not our job. Good and bad will be neighbors. Through the power of the Holy Spirit though the grace of God can transform neighbors. It can transform weeds like Saul into wheat like Paul. The grace of God can even transform weeds like little Jimmy into wheat like Jim. Our job is to be good wheat and our job is to join the churches of the world in sharing the love of God so that as many weeds as possible can be transformed while we live next to each other, good and bad. Our job is to be more about planting wheat than pulling weeds. Our job is to have the patience to wait … like a … patient farmer.
Let us pray. We thank you, Lord Jesus that you do not deal harshly with us, uprooting the good with the evil. We pray that we will be agents of transformation in our world, that as we love you with all our heart minds soul and strength, that as we love our neighbors as ourselves, that we and our neighbors can be transformed into the wheat you desire us to be.
1) Michael P. Green
2) Wheat and Tares, by Todd Weir
3) ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., ChristianGlobe Illustrations, by King Duncan
4) ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc., Problems Beyond Our Power to Fix, by
Thomas Lane Butts