The text is our Lord’s parable about the weeds that have sprung up among the wheat.
This is the second of two parables that Jesus puts before “the crowds” that is also followed by an explanation to His “disciples.” The first was the one we heard last Sunday which was also about the sowing of seed. A “sower who went out to sow.” He sowed seed everywhere and some seed failed to produce much of anything and some produced impressive crops.
Privately, to His disciples, Jesus explains that the ‘seed’ is the Word of God, and the reason that the Word sometimes produces its harvest of faith and good works and sometimes does not is because there are forces at work in this world that are opposed to THE WORD – forces that want to see it fail – like an airborne virus that attaches itself to the heart and interferes with the work of the Word to produce FAITH and the FRUITS OF FAITH in a person.
So, the parable of the WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT is the natural sequel to the parable of THE SOWER. Where did those airborne particles come from? And what is to be done about it?
“Jesus put another parable before [the crowds] saying, ‘THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN MAY BE COMPARED to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.”
The picture of a man, or should we say ‘THE’ MAN, sowing good seed in HIS FIELD takes us back to the beginning when the Lord God sowed His Word over HIS FIELD. And the Word produced its crop “and God saw all that He made and behold it was VERY GOOD.” (Gen. 1:2). It was ALL GOOD and NO WEEDS.
So, why is there evil in the world? Why are there viruses and diseases and disasters and injustice and murders? Why do babies die and why are there bad people who terrorize innocent people. And where did this evil come from? Why is there so much anger and despair and unhappiness and discontentment and where did it come from? Where did that ‘bad seed’ come from if God didn’t plant it?
“And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?” Or as we usually hear it and say it ourselves, ‘If God created the world and there is evil in the world, did God create the world with evil in it?’
And with that, we realize that the bad seed has been sown even in the heart of THE SERVANTS OF THE MASTER – because there is a note of BLAME in their voice. They’re not so sure about Him. They wonder, did God really say…? The point here, as C.S. Lewis famously puts it, is that it is man who has put God on trial. It is man who is asking the questions that God must give an acceptable answer to.
But He sets the crowds straight. “An enemy has done this.” To His disciples, Jesus says, “the weeds are the sons of the evil one AND THE ONE WHO SOWED THEM IS THE DEVIL.” And there we go right back to the beginning again. The most terrible night of the world was that night sometime after the 7th day of creation when the ENEMY OF GOD snuck into God’s ‘very good’ creation and planted his BAD SEED in the heart of the Adam and Eve.
And the field was contaminated with a virus that, to this day, continues to spread. And every single person ever conceived is infected with it. And no mask can prevent the spread of it.
But being dutiful servants and wanting to clean up the mess in aisle #4, they say, “Do you want us to go and gather them?” They’re activists aren’t they? They never saw a problem that they didn’t want to try to fix. They organize a rally and the cry goes out, ‘man your weed-whackers.’ If they had swords they would have cut off as many ears as they could.
The BIG QUESTION for them is, ‘what’s to be done about the problem of evil in the world?’ And the BIG ANSWER for them is, ‘let’s weed it out.’
But the master’s response is so radically different from theirs, and ours, that it not only catches us by surprise, but it offends us. He tells them to put their weed-whackers and swords away. Man’s ways are not God’s ways. “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
To the crowds, the message is – “things are going to be different, but for now, this is “what the Kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” The day will come when the “kingdom of heaven” will look a lot different than this. But for now, this is what it looks like – a field weeds all mixed and mingled together with the wheat.
Which DOESN’T MEAN that the Lord is not at work in HIS FIELD – which is THE WORLD. Privately with His disciples, our Lord cuts through all the allegory. “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is THE WORLD and the good seed is THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE KINGDOM.”
The SON OF MAN is still seeding His world with His “SONS AND DAUGHTERS” – His holy people, His holy Christian church – planting His holy Seed in their ears and watering it with His baptism and fertilizing it with His own body and blood. And He keeps sowing His holy seed EVERYWHERE – among the good and the bad, the wicked and the righteous, the believers and the unbelievers.
And some ignore it and some refuse it. And some fall away and some get eaten up by the cares of this world. And some just plain forget who they are. But some “bear fruit and yield, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” And “this is what the Kingdom of heaven may be compared to.”
I know that it feels as though the wheat is being overrun by the weeds – and the “sons and daughters of the kingdom” are being overcome by the “sons and the daughters of the evil one.” And for the “sons and daughters of the kingdom,” it can be terribly confusing, and frustrating and infuriating. And often there is suffering involved.
But this is what the ‘kingdom of heaven may be compared to…” This is the way that our Lord is ruling His world – FOR NOW. Rather than putting His foot down, He keeps sowing His “sons and daughters” onto His world. And He’ll continue to do so right up until the last split second before time stops, and the angels come and the separation happens in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. And it’s to the fire with the one and to the barn with the other. And every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is who he says He is – to the glory of God the Father.
It is His “good seed” – His sons and daughters – His holy, Christian church that He scatters out onto ‘all nations.” They may not have much success in uprooting the evil and corruption and the bigotry and prejudice from the politics and government institutions and the social fabric in which we live.
But if this is where they focus their attention – they are sure to fail – because it’s not by governments or politics or institutions or the social structures of the day that God has chosen to root out evil and make all things good again. It is through His “good seed” – the “sons and daughters of the kingdom,” each one carrying out his calling and vocation in this world “as to the Lord.” And “the gates of hell itself will not prevail against it.”
It is in the “sons and daughters of the kingdom,” that this world hears and sees – AND HOPEFULLY BELIEVES – that the only hope it has is Jesus Christ. To a world in which good and evil are all twisted and knotted up together – the message is to be proclaimed that only Jesus can and will separate the two – just as He separated the light from darkness in the beginning.
How often have we heard the lament, or expressed it ourselves, ‘WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO?’ But the “sons and daughters of the kingdom” who know they that the “kingdom of heaven” has come and is among us and is at work in this world reply, ‘we know what this world is coming to. On the Last Day, our Lord is going to’ “send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers,’ and throw them into the fiery furnace…and the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.”
And isn’t it right there where each and every one of us comes FULL STOP. Because we know that the ‘bad seed’ has taken root in our heart too. Even we who are the “sons and daughters of the kingdom” are all tangled up with evil.
A man named Vaclav Havel who was president of Czechoslovakia and then the Czech Republic in the 1970s and 80s protested against the evils of the Communist government and served several prison sentences for it. Listen to what he said about what he learned about himself. “The line between good and evil did not run clearly between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ but through each person. No one was simply a victim; everyone was in some measure co-responsible…” “No one was able to escape,” what he calls, “THE DAILY NECESSITY OF SMALL BETRAYALS.”
The Russian author Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, another protester against an evil regime, said, “If it were only so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere 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?” (Both quotes from “The Crucifixion.” Fleming Rutledge. p.143)
No wonder then, that for all of our best intentions and efforts at weeding out the weeds from the wheat, we’re destined to do MORE HARM THAN GOOD. WE’VE ALL GOT THE VIRUS TOO. And our vision is clouded, our judgment is faulty. WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT ‘GOOD’ IS.
And once again, that brings us back to the beginning, when God sowed ONE GOOD SEED on top of which, the evil one could not sow his evil seed. “I will put enmity between you and the woman; between your SEED and hers; and he will bruise your head and you will bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15).
And one day in a tiny village, in a nameless house, while almost no one was looking, that precious SEED OF THE WOMAN poked its head into this world. And on the cross He was sorely bruised. And it looked as though evil had overcome Him. But on the 3rd day, He crushed the head of the evil one. “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed, alleluia.”
Only He who IS “GOOD” – and in whom there is no “EVIL” – knows what IS GOOD. Only He who IS GOOD – and in whom there is no EVIL – can separate the good from the bad. Only He can wield that “two-edged sword, that pierces even to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, discerning even the thoughts and intentions of the heart” – and separate the good from the evil in even such a tangled mess as our own heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
The one thing right with this world – is that the Sower of the Good Seed has been crucified and raised to life. And He has sent His Holy Spirit into the world to continue to sow His good seed into the hearts of the “sons and daughters of the kingdom.” AND IT WILL CONTINUE TO PRODUCE ITS CROP – AND THE WEEDS WILL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.
This is what the Kingdom of Heaven “compares to.” “He who has ears, let him hear.”