Sermon on Matthew 13:24–30, 36-43 for Pentecost 7 (Pr 11), July 16, 17 & 19, 2020
- A Christian writer I follow recently made this observation: “Every time I look at social media or watch news programs two thoughts cross my mind: The good news is that we still believe in sin and it still really bothers us. The bad news is that the sin that bothers us most is not our own, but other peoples. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
- Our view, our judgment of the sins of others is the point behind Jesus’ parable of the weeds in the wheat. (I think the King James Version called it the parable of the wheat and the tares.) How should we deal with evil in the world? The writer said we still believe in sin and it bothers us. So what do we do about it?
I. Our human judgment is short-sighted, biased, and blind to self.
- In Jesus’ parable he talks about a field in which good seed has been planted, and then an enemy comes and plants weeds. And later Jesus explains that the field is the world. The good seed is the sons of the kingdom, the weeds are the sons of the Evil One. In the parable, the servants come to the master and ask, ‘Do you want us to go and gather up the weeds?’ Translated to reality, the question is, ‘Should we strive to rid the world of evil and those who do evil?’ That seems to be our world’s solution. If you do something the world judges as evil, the world wants to erase you. If you’re still living, “You’ll never work in this town again!” If you’re a TV star, watch your shows get removed from Netflix and from broadcast TV. There was a man in Germany about eighty years ago who had his own idea of who was evil, and he had his plan. He called it “the final solution,” and he killed millions, trying to rid his land of evil. That was Hitler. Mao and Stalin did the same things. They rounded up, imprisoned and killed those they thought were evil. Among them were teachers, writers, doctors and scientists. Our human judgment is short-sighted.
- That fits with what the master tells his servants, “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because when you gather up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat along with them.’” There is a problem with human judgment—our human judgment. We can’t read hearts. On the farm where I grew up, we didn’t have wheat, we had oats. We also had some weeds. Some people called it “crabgrass” some called it “quackgrass,” I think it was about the same thing. At an early stage, say in mid-to-late May when the oats come up, oats look like a thick blade of grass. About that same time, guess what crabgrass looks like—a thick blade of grass. If you were to pull the weeds out at that time, you would likely pull up a lot of oats because they look so much alike. To our human eyes, especially within the church, it is easy to mistake someone with a weak faith for someone with no faith. In the world where people are judging without any biblical guidance, they don’t even have a consistent standard of good and evil. To the people of the world, good and evil are defined on a whim. (Sometimes good is called evil and evil is called good.) Human judgment can be very biased.
- Think again of what my writer said: “The bad news is that the sin that bothers us most is not our own, but other peoples’.” We are blind to our own sin. When John the Baptist was preparing the way for the Lord, preparing a royal highway for the Messiah, how did he approach evil? Advent was six months ago, so it may take some work remembering John’s main sermon theme. “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!” (Matthew 3:2) This was a theme that Jesus repeated, too (Matthew 4:17). If you want to root out evil, start in your own heart and life. Be a Christian friend and in love and humility encourage and correct others with that same call, “Repent.” That’s how to deal with evil.
II. God’s judgment is right, righteous and final.
- In his second letter, Peter says, “The Lord isnot slow to do what he promised, as some consider slowness. Instead, he is patient for your sakes, not wanting anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). That’s the reality of what the master in the parable says, “Let both [the weeds and wheat] grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First, gather up the weeds, bind them in bundles, and burn them. Then, gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” God’s judgment will come in its time. If you want God’s judgment now, where should he start? Probably with those who are supposed to know right and wrong from his commands and will. In your own life, have there been times when more weeds have been growing than wheat? Times you entertained evil—were fascinated by evil, or were not growing spiritually, not really growing in understanding and living God’s Word? Another thing my writer said: “It is a soul-shrinking, self-righteousness expanding practice to spend your time listening to those who spend their time pointing out the shortcomings, wrongs, and sins of everybody else while never confessing their own.” When we confess our own sins—not just liturgically, in a service, but when we pause at the end of the day and say, “Forgive us our trespasses…” and then think of our own failures, we are aware of God’s grace to us. He does not give us what we deserve when we deserve it. He is just, but not immediate in his justice. He is gracious. He always has been. He always will be. Because he searches the heart, his judgment is right. He is not fooled by all the false fronts and veneers we try to put over our lives. His judgment is righteous—based on his holy standard of right and wrong—not on the whim of the day.
- God’s judgment is also final. The servants in the parable who said, “Shall we pull up the weeds?” were thinking of a final judgment. We already talked about the parallel of that in reality. When people try to rid the world of evil in a final way, it is the worst kind of disaster. Jesus describes his final judgment: “Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will pull out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and those who continue to break the law. The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.” Last week we heard “Let God be God.” “Let go and let God.” The lesson here is “Let God be God in his judgment.” He wants all to be saved. He make the rain fall and the crops grow for the evil and the good and gives all daily bread. When you see evil in the world, remember God’s grace. That’s why he lets it stand. That’s why he has given you as much time as he has. He is gracious to all. Judgment will come in his time. Meanwhile, live your life in a joyful repentance, celebrating God’s grace every day. Live your life in eagerness—not eager to root out evil—evil will always be in the world, but eagerness to carry out God’s good in your own life—and to let your light shine, to draw others to God’s light, to repentance, and to joy and hope.
Matthew 13:24–30, 36-43 (EHV)
Jesus presented another parable to the crowd: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while people were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26When the plants sprouted and produced heads of grain, the weeds also appeared. 27The servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?’ 28He said to them, ‘An enemy did this.’ The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and gather up the weeds?’ 29‘No,’ he answered, ‘because when you gather up the weeds, you might pull up the wheat along with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “First, gather up the weeds, bind them in bundles, and burn them. Then, gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” … 36Then Jesus sent the people away and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37He answered them, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world. The good seeds are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the Evil One. 39The enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the world. The reapers are angels. 40Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will pull out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and those who continue to break the law. 42The angels will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear.