“THE WEEDS AND THE WHEAT” MATTHEW 13:24-30
“”WHAT AWAY TO RUN A FARM”
Life can be messy. And I’m not talking about changing babies dirty nappies. Things in life are not always clear cut. They are not always black-white. Life is so often a variety of shades of grey. Evil flourishes alongside good. Good and bad can be intermingled.
And most of us don’t like that. We prefer things to be clear cut- black and white. We like things to be neatly divided-clearly separated. We aren’t comfortable with ambiguity. We like things to be straight forward. We like things to be in neat tidy categories such as “good and bad”-“evil and righteous”- “worthy and unworthy” etc.
This parable tells us that life in general and life in the church in particular isn’t always like that. It tells us that God has his own way of dealing with things. He has his own time schedule. It tells us that Judgement is God’s concern, not ours.
In this parable we find that the Master postpones Judgement. He refuses what seems to be a reasonable request from the servants who want to separate the wheat from the weeds and pull out the weeds.
Here we have a parable that deals with an issue that has concerned believers down the centuries. For centuries believers have struggled with the apparent slowness of God to act-to bring judgement on evil doers- wicked-unbelievers who mock God-God’s apparent slowness to tidy things up. There was an occasion when Jesus had to refuse the disciples who wanted him to bring down fire on a Samaritan city that refused to give Jesus and the disciples food. In fact Jesus rebuked the disciples for their attitude.
This parable deal with human impatience over God’s amazing and exasperating patience –forbearance.
A minister who spent 20 years counselling clergy-especially clergy who had suffered burn-out-depression said, “From my experience I have discovered that some people should never have gone into ministry-especially if they have been a professional photographer-printer-engineer. That also goes for people who are perfectionists.
If you are the sort of person who has a need to have everything in focus- if you like people to stand neat and tidy and still like in a photo, you are going to be miserable in the church because people just won’t stay in place-being neat and tidy. They will get out of focus. They will disappoint you-they will let you down- they won’t always co-operate. Church is a lousy place for people who like everything to be neat-tidy-well organised. People are hardly ever like that.
As I said before life in the church can be messy-saints+sinners sit in the same pew-row of chairs-right next to each other and who can tell who is who.
But it goes deeper than that. Each one of us is both saint+sinner at the same time. We are saint because we have the Spirit of God living in us and because we have been redeemed by Jesus-made members of the Kingdom. But at the same time we are sinners because we still have our sinful nature that struggles for control. Romans 7 “the good that I want to do I don’t and the evil I don’t want to do I do” The Russian author, Solzhenistsyn who wrote the book, “the Gulag archipelago” said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being”. That is similar to what St Paul said in Romans 7.
Read parable. What kind of farmer is this man? Wouldn’t it make sense to get rid of the weeds before they grew and matured By leaving the weeds grow could result in the wheat being choked. He might get a bumper harvest but it would be of weeds not of wheat. Today any farmer worth his salt would get out with his spray equipment and spray the weeds before they could do too much damage.
The weed mentioned by Jesus was called “bearded darnel”. And in the early stage of growth was almost impossible to distinguish from the wheat. They looked so similar. The roots of the weed would get intertwined with the roots of the wheat. So of you tried to pull out the weeds you would be likely to uproot the wheat.
The best way to deal with the problem was to wait until harvest time. The harvest grain would be spread out on a table and sorted by hand. Although the seed of the darnell was similar in size and shape to the grains of wheat, it was a different colour. The farmer would employ women who would carefully and painstakingly separate the grain from the seeds of weed.
What does this parable mean for us today? What is God teaching us here?
God is teaching us an important truth about the nature of the church. There have always been people who wanted to have a “pure church”-a church consisting of the ‘spiritual elite”-“a holy huddle”- an exclusive church for the pure and holy.
Interestingly enough this was an issue for the early church. In the days when the Roman Empire was persecuting the church, many Christians renounced their faith under the pressure of persecution-threats. But later some of those who had renounced their faith wanted to come back into the church. This caused a great deal of discussion. There were some who said that if people had renounced their faith, they could not be accepted back into the church. There were others who argued that if these people confessed their failure-their sin at giving up their faith, then they could be forgiven and accepted back into the church. The latter view prevailed. And that was the right-Biblical decision. There is no such thing as a pure church on earth. We are members of the “Holy Christian church” as the Apostle’s creed says. But that is not because we are intrinsically holy, but because Jesus shed his “holy and precious blood” for us. Although we are sinful humans, God regards us as holy because of what Jesus has done for us.
Jesus told this parable to correct his disciples misunderstanding of the Kingdom of God. The disciples expected that the Kingdom would come explosively-totally –in all its fullness.
Jesus understood the Kingdom more like this and this is what the New Testament teaches. Show diagram.
The Kingdom of God had indeed come to earth with the coming of Jesus. But the old age had not been eliminated. The weeds still grow together with the wheat. Only at the end of the age at Christ’s Second Coming will evil be destroyed and the Kingdom come with all its fullness.
The parable does 2 things.
- It warns against expecting perfection this side of Judgement day. It warns against being legalistic-judgemental-self righteous. Would you accept King David into your church? An Adulterer-murderer-bigamist-a failure as a father-dysfunctional family?
- It is an assurance that despite the ambiguity of our present experience- despite the messiness-disfunction-disorder-failure we often see in the visible church today- and in our own personal lives at times- the Kingdom of God is at work and will ultimately triumph. The church can not fail despite the weaknesses and failings of its human members- because it is God’s church. And that is why we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “THY KINGDOME COME”.
Pastor Haydn Blaess.