Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Date: Pentecost VI Proper 11 + 7/20/14
Last Sunday, in the parable of the sower, we learned that saving faith in God is always the result of God’s action in us from beginning to end. He comes to ears and hearts that are not closed to Him. He comes by means of His mighty spoken Word. This is of great comfort to us who know that faith and salvation is quite beyond our ability to conjure up or produce of ourselves but can only be received as a gift. We pray Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10).
Today Jesus follows up with another parable, a parable that addresses how life with that free gift of faith and salvation remains quite a struggle in a world that still lies in darkness and prefers being separate from God, actually continues to try to hide from God. It’s a parable addressing the antagonism toward His Church and roadblocks to the free living out of the Christian faith in this world. This is the “groaning inwardly” St. Paul spoke of today to be lived out in hope with patience (Rom 8:23-25).
You are the good seed, planted by “the Son of Man,” God Himself. I’ve planted good seed. I don’t know a lot about gardening but one thing I noticed is how certain weeds appear as the crop grows that, at the beginning, tend to look just like the good plants! Oh, you can tell, but you’ve got to be careful pulling them out. Jesus likens the growth and life of His Church and of each disciple to good seed of His own planting surrounded by weeds. “The weeds are the sons of the evil one,” He says.
What are the “sons of the evil one” today? What are the weeds? Some of them we can readily identify: everything and everyone who contradicts or denies the Word of God. That would include everything from the unbelief of atheism to the false belief of non-Christian religions but also to any false teaching even if it occurs within the Church herself. There are weeds, of course, of moral issues in the field of the world that contradict the Word of God. In our day those issues seem to be increasingly and always in the realm of sexual misconduct: the practice and so-called right of abortion, co-habitation without marriage, so-called civil unions or supposed marriage of homosexuals, even just the lack of propriety of behavior, manners or conversation on the television, in advertising or in the public square.
What are we to do when evil threatens but are not allowed to punish it on our own? One thing is to avoid it. The Proverb says, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight…. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil. Avoid it; do not go on it; turn away from it and pass on” (Prov 4:14-15). St. Paul warns the Roman Christians, “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them” (Romans 16:17). And he writes to the young pastor Timothy, “But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene” (2 Tim 2:15-17).
While we must bear witness against any and every evil we also must leave any judgment to God. Do not pull the weeds yourself, “lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.” It can be very tempting and very frustrating, to lash out at those who do us wrong. What seems to be obviously wrong or sinful to you may very well not appear to others. And what is God’s attitude toward spiritually blind, dead and hateful sinners? It is the same…as His attitude…toward you!
How many times have you been a weed? How many times have you sinned against someone else, especially your Christian brother or sister? And if you have ever been a weed you were, in Jesus’ words today, “sons of the evil one.” Jesus once said to the great apostle Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus called the apostle Judas Iscariot “the son of perdition” or “destruction” (John 17:12). So you see we also always remember God’s attitude toward us that it was and is “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). That’s why the judgment belongs to God. It is especially because, until that day, this is still a day full of grace, grace toward all sinners. We must always confess with St. Paul, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Tim 1:15).
Have you heard the echo of Jesus words today? “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:7-10).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:43-45).
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (Matt 7:1-3).
This day full of grace became possible when, on that day when the darkness of sin seemed to gather as a great storm, the sky and the earth trembling, bearing witness, Jesus, God’s beloved Son, was crucified, the sin of the whole world on His strong shoulders, taking all sin into the grave. That bloody death, that atoning death made possible now the grace and forgiveness won for every sinner. This fact is to not only change us but change the way we view the weeds! By His gracious Word and Spirit God turns weeds into His own good planting ready for the harvest of salvation.
Let us continually live in repentance and love toward God and neighbor, for the weeds are God’s concern, both you and others. But the promise is for you, the good seed, this judgment, “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”