Sunday July 19th 2020
Pastor Galen Zook
Matthew 13:24-30; Romans 8:12-25
Good Seeds and Weeds
In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who went out and sowed good seeds in his fields.
Now these were not just any old seeds that he found laying around, or bought off the rack at Home Depot.
These were most likely preciously guarded seeds that he had hand-selected rom the best of the last harvest season’s crops, and they had been painstakingly stored and preserved all winter. He had chosen these particular seeds because he knew they would grow best in the particular type of soil and climate where he would be planting them. The farmer knew exactly which varieties of heirloom plants would grow best in his fields. He had chosen the best location for planting, a field that had optimal drainage and sunlight. He had lovingly tilled and cultivated the soil, and selected the best day and time of the year for optimal planting.
But one night, after he had planted the seeds, while everyone was sleeping, an enemy — most likely a rival farmer who had some sort of bone to pick with our good farmer, came and sowed bad seeds among the good seeds in our good farmer’s field.
Now this seems like an odd and malicious thing to do, and having grown up in the city, I have absolutely no idea whether this is the type of thing that actually happens among farmers or not! But Jesus’s parables were always told to get a point across, and so whether or not this was a commonplace occurrence, there’s a particular lesson that Jesus wanted to teach us through this story.
Wait Until Harvest
Sure enough, the good seeds that the farmer planted did indeed sprout up and grow. But so did the bad seeds that the enemy farmer planted, producing weeds interspersed among the wheat.
When the workers who went out to check on the crops saw all of the weeds growing up among the wheat, they asked the farmer if they should pull up the weeds. But the farmer cautioned them from doing so, asking that they wait until harvest time. The farmer made the case that if they pull up the weeds now, they may accidentally uproot the good wheat as well, whereas if they wait until harvest it would be easier to separate out the weeds from the wheat.
The Parable Explained
Often we don’t get an explanation of what Jesus’s parables meant. But our Gospel writer Matthew was gracious enough to include Jesus’s interpretation of what this parable meant.
Jesus told his disciples that the farmer in the story stands for the Son of Man (in other words, Jesus himself). “The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:38a) — in other words, Jesus’s followers. “The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are the angels” (Matt. 13:38b-39).
Jesus went on to explain that this parable is a picture of what will take place “at the end of the age” (Matt. 13:40). “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 blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:41-43).
Good vs. Evil
Now, most of us don’t like to think about the final judgment, and so we may be tempted to shy away from this parable. But in doing so we miss some incredibly important teachings about God and the nature of evil and suffering in this world.
In this parable we see that there is an enemy who is actively working to bring about destruction and chaos in our world. This enemy is sometimes called “satan” or “the devil,” and his goal is to thwart the good will of God in this world.
We also see in this parable the goodness of Jesus, who the Bible says was filled “with the Holy Spirit and power, and…he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:38).
Now sure, there are a lot of horrendous things that happen in the world by people who claim the name of Christ. But those who do so are not following Christ. They are not being led by the Holy Spirit, as we talked about last week, but instead by the Enemy, and their own fleshly desires.
Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?
Some of the questions that rise to the surface when we talk about the goodness of God or of Jesus, is “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” “If we believe that there will be a final judgment day, why is Jesus taking so long to return?” and “Why doesn’t Jesus step in and intervene now?”
We especially ask these questions in light of the injustices that are happening all around us, and the pain and suffering that so many are experiencing in our world and in our city today.
The answer to these questions is that we don’t always know. We don’t know why sometimes God allows evil and suffering to go unchecked, why God doesn’t always bring judgment immediately and why Jesus doesn’t return and put an end to all destruction and violence.
Perhaps it is God’s grace. Perhaps God is allowing a little more time for the evildoers to wake up, to turn and repent.
Perhaps it’s the reality that there’s evil inside each and every one of us, that if God were to wipe out all the evildoers from the earth right now, there would not be any of us left.
Even we Christians — those of us who claim the name of Christ, who faithfully attend church and read the Bible and pray — even we have evil and fleshly desires inside of us. And so often we deviate from the path and do the things that we ought not to do.
A Piece of Our Own Heart
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said it best when he said,
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
Although every movie, TV show and cartoon has a very clear separation between the good guys and the bad guys, the heroes and the villains, we know that is not always the case in real life. Even our heroes have flaws and make mistakes, and there is at least a glimmer of goodness in even the worst of sinners.
We Christians we know that best — that’s why we’re here! We don’t come to church because we’re perfect or because we have it all together, but rather because we, more than anyone, know that we are sinful, fallen people who are in need of God’s saving grace.
Sure, we’ve “put to death the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13) as Paul says in Romans chapter 8, and we are seeking to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom. 8:14). We’ve been adopted into the family of God, and have been made “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), but not because we’re perfect or righteous in and of ourselves, but rather through the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross and the saving grace that God extends towards all who believe.
And so we live in a world where there is both wheat and weeds. We live in a world where there is good and evil, and it’s not just “out there,” but also in here. We live in a world that, the Apostle Paul says, is “longing for the revealing of the children of God” (Rom. 8:19), a creation that is waiting to “be set free from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:21). Paul says that “not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 823).
And so, along with the rest of Creation, we wait. We wait, as Paul says, for the “glory [that is] about to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). Or as Jesus says, for the day when “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).
Longing. Groaning inwardly. Waiting for the glory. Sounds appropriate for life in a world filled with joys and sorrows, goodness and evil, weeds and wheat.
Wait, and Work
But while we wait, we also work.
I don’t think it’s a mistake that between Jesus’s parable and the interpretation, Jesus tells two other parables — one about a man who planted a mustard seed that grew to become such a large tree that birds came and perched in its branches. And another parable, about a woman who mixed yeast into a huge batch of dough, and kept working the dough until the yeast had made its way all throughout the dough.
As we wait and pray for the end of the age, when Jesus will return to make all things new, we also work to bring about God’s Kingdom here on this earth. We till the soil, scatter the seeds, proclaim the Gospel through word and deed, shed light on injustice, preach righteousness and peace, feed the hungry, invite our friends and neighbors to church, care for the sick, advocate for the poor, teach and take care of children, welcome the foreigners care for the environment, and seek to bring God glory in everything that we say and do.
We do not know when the end will come, when Jesus will return. We do not always know why God allows bad things to happen. But let us seek to be faithful, and let us look to Jesus for our salvation and our strength. Let us pray and work until he returns. Let us seek to be faithful to the tasks set before us, even as we look forward to that final day when Jesus returns. And on that day, may we too be among “the righteous [who] will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:43).