Friday, February 17, 2017

Parable of the Weeds

My yard normally starts turning green before most others in town.  I don’t spray and seldom put anything on it.  So, in late February or maybe March, my yard is turning green.  It’s mostly weeds mind you, but it’s green.

I have walked this church parking lot with my jug of Round Up probably 50 times in the last 10 years.  Why?  Because in the hottest of days on pavement that you would not walk on barefooted, weeds find a small crack, grow, and sometimes thrive if not brought to justice by fast moving fishing line or chemically induced death.

Were I preaching in Colorado or Oregon, I might have a typo on the Facebook post a week before the sermon.  It would just be a missing letter.  The notice would read:  “Join us this Sunday to see what Jesus said about weed.”  That might put a few extra in the pews.

Of course the following week, I might have Colorado farmers protesting in the parking lot when the literalists planted marijuana seeds in their wheat fields.

The parable of the weeds is interesting.  It came at about the same time that Jesus delivered the parable of the sower.  Both of these parables he explained to his disciples after he gave them to the crowd.  Think about the dynamic at work here.

Jesus spoke to the crowd.  The crowd then had time to discuss the parable and Jesus had time to explain it to his disciples.  That means that the disciples were likely in the boat with him, at least as he was speaking to the crowd.

For Hebrew families that often spent much time in the Synagogue, discussing what the rabbi said, was probably a common thing.  Today we demand a constant influx of information.  We want audio, visual, and in some cases the ability to interact.

Two thousand years ago, the interaction was probably taking place, but in small groups.  Some of those groups may have been families.  We don’t know exactly how the teaching and parables that Jesus delivered were received and discussed, but think about the power of that dynamic.

You hear the morning’s message or perhaps messages and then you discuss them the rest of the day.  A certain hymn strikes a chord in your spirit and you have to share it with the people with whom you spend the rest of the day.
Most modern workshops have some lecture and demonstration and then small group activities.  Some people just love a good lecture but most learn better with small group discussion or activities.

Jesus teaches the crowd and then he spends some more time just talking with those closest to him in the boat or later in the house which he had left earlier that day.  Was the crowd just sitting there dumbfounded waiting for the next teaching?  I doubt it.

Parables seem to naturally evoke follow on discussion.

I think the parable struck a chord and evoked many, many discussions while the crowd was gathered or while they were on their various ways home.

So, what do we have in this parable?
·     The Sower or the Farmer is the Son of Man.  Yes, Jesus is talking about himself.  He sowed good seed.
·     The field is the world.
·     The seeds here are those who have received the Kingdom of God.
·     The weeds are the sons of the evil one.
·     The evil one is the devil.
·     The harvest comes at the end of the age.
·     Angels are the harvesters.
·     The weeds do get plucked out and thrown in the fire.  That won’t be a good day to be a weed in any parable.
·     That leaves the wheat for harvest and what a fantastic and wonderful harvest it will be.  The righteous will shine like the sun.

There is the parable in basic Kiplinger or PowerPoint format.  Again, we have a parable told by Jesus followed by his own explanation.  Do we need further explanation?

Have you ever wondered why?  If not, check to see if you have a pulse.  We ask that simple question all the time. 

Why was that the answer to my prayer?
Why didn’t I get an answer to my prayer?
Why did she have to die?
Why did he get cancer?
Why does March Madness continue into April?
Why do bad things happened to good people?
Why doesn’t God pluck the weeds up sooner, like now?

The answer to that question and the other why questions lies in the answer to two other questions.

First, do you believe there is a God?  By God, I mean an all-powerful being that brought everything into existence.  I am talking about a sovereign being over and above all things through which there is nothing in this world or in this universe that he did not bring into existence.  Do you believe in God?

Considering the target audience here, I would expect an overwhelming number of yes answers to that question.

Second, do you believe that God is a God of love.  

Specifically, do you believe that he loves you and will never stop loving you?

I would expect most Christians to answer in the affirmative; however, I know that many still wrestle with God’s love and their circumstances being dynamic.  But the truth is that God’s love is steadfast.  He never stops loving us!

So the answer to why didn’t God answer that prayer or why was this the answer or why must the weeds be allowed to grow with the crop until harvest is that God loves us and will never stop loving us.

Some folks will not like that answer.  It doesn’t square with my question.  Well, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the fact that some don’t like that answer.  Jesus answered a whole bunch of questions with something that did not fit into expectations. 

Sometimes we think that we can frame our questions so that God can only answer us in one or two ways.  Good luck with that.  Sure, that’s going to work.

God is love.  God loves us.  He will never stop loving us. That’s the answer.

But it doesn’t make sense.  Think about it.  When God told the people whom he had delivered from bondage in Egypt to go into the land he was giving them, he told them not to make any treaties with the people in the land.

If they don’t die in battle or run away, don’t make treaties with them.  Why?  Your sons will marry the good-looking gals, have kids, and before you know it they will all be worshipping some false god.

God’s instructions seemed brutal, but simple.  Don’t have anything to do with them.  Smash their altars and other religions symbols.  These people will lead you away from the one true god and you will prostitute yourselves with images of wood and stone.

God was directing some segregation.  He didn’t want any weeds in his wheat then.

Paul counseled that bad company corrupts good character.  Don’t hang out with people of bad moral character.  Share the gospel with them but don’t become who they are.  Your mission is to lead them to Christ not let them lead you away from him.

Paul is stern in his admonishment.

But Jesus says that God will let the wheat and the weeds grow up together.  He does note that some of the wheat might be lost when you pulled up the weeds.  He does offer some facts in mitigation here.  God’s desire is that none perish.

He didn’t say that he would not pluck up the weeds, he just said, “Not now.”  Everything can grow until harvest.

The weeds grow in judgment.  We grow in grace.

There are casualties in every war.  This is good and bad, good and evil, disciples of Jesus and disciples of evil.  But, if we were careful—if God was careful—we could minimize those casualties.  Right?

Jesus won the victory at Calvary.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  Do I really have to follow him through all of these weeds?

The wrestling match going on inside of me between my old self (who wants to be in charge again) and my new self is enough challenge without having to live in the midst of evil.  Why do we have to wait?

God will never stop loving you.  But we want God to pluck up all the weeds that the evil one planted. 

He will.  When it is time for the harvest.  God loves you.

From the time sin entered the world until the time when God will send his angels to pluck up anything and anyone that causes sin or does evil, there will be sin and evil and people doing evil in the world.

We must believe that God is sovereign.  He is just.  His timing is perfect.  He is a holy God.  He detests sin and rebellion and everything that turns people from him.

But more than all of these things that we seem to readily comprehend, God is love.  His love for us is everlasting.  So as we grow and the weeds grow on the same earth together, know that God loves you and will never stop loving you.

There is evil in the world.  The Evil One is still at work. People do evil things.  Sin seems to continue unchecked in vast parts of the world, some of them too close to home for our liking; and God will never stop loving you.

While the comparison seems to fit awkwardly with this parable, we do have a commission to take the gospel to the entire world.  This parable doesn’t say that we can turn a weed into wheat, but the point of this parable is not all inclusive and does not discount what we have been commissioned to do and what we have learned from the entire biblical witness that we have.

It is a parable of the end of the age and between now and then, evil will be in the world.  Every generation from now until the end of the age will have to contend with evil in the world.  There is no worldly formula that gets rid of evil.

Listen to Jesus explain this parable once more.

The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. 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 their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

If your heart and your mind is inclined to receive the word of God—the truth—then receive this parable as Jesus gave it to us.  Have ears to hear.

God will remove sin and evil from our dwelling place in his time.  So, we must trust that he is sovereign and holy and just and that he knows precisely what he is doing.  More than that, we must know that God loves us.  In the middle of this weed infested world, God loves us.

God will never stop loving us.  We are called to love one another.  We scatter seed everywhere that we go.  We grow in God’s grace fully trusting that he will never leave or forsake us even when we can’t tell if there are weeds in the wheat field or just a little wheat in a field full of weeds.

Maybe, if we are faithful to our commission, there won’t be quite as many weeds for the harvesters to pluck at the end of the age; but our walk, our race, our earthly journey will have some weeds.

We who have answered the call to follow Jesus will accept that fact, we will know with certainty that God loves us and will never stop loving us, and we will focus on our mission and commission and being God’s love in this world and not the weeds and obstacles planted in our path.

If you have ears, then hear and understand.  This is the way that Jesus said it will be.  This is the world into which we have been sent with God’s love.

Whether we like it or not is irrelevant.  God loves us.  He has sent us into this world full of weeds with love and good news.

We live lives of love and proclaim the gospel as long as we live or until the harvest, whichever comes first.


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