Sustained To The End Of The Age

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Text:  Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Like last week’s parable of the farmer and the different types of soil, today’s parable is also an agricultural parable. (Now, keep in mind that parables take two different things or stories and lay them side by side to make a comparison and teach a main point.  Thus, a parable helps the listener understand unfamiliar spiritual truths by using everyday objects and everyday illustrations.)  Yes, this parable is another story dealing with seeds being planted in soil.  However, unlike last week, today’s parable entails two different farmers with two different types of seeds, and with two different agendas.  The farmer who owns the field and is the master of the land goes out and plants good seeds.  These good seeds are wheat.  During the evening though, an enemy comes to the same field and plants weeds into the midst of the good seeds.  These weed seeds are most certainly not wheat, but look very much like wheat; they are darnel.  The problem with darnel though is that it initially grows just like wheat thus it is deceiving in the way that it looks.  Only a very skillful farmer can immediately discern the difference.  Furthermore, the great problem is that darnel is absolutely worthless for it is a grass-like undergrowth.

This scheme of planting weeds among wheat is a long range plan of evil hatred.  It is a secret, cowardly, dishonorable, cruel, and an extreme expression of hatred.  These unfruitful seeds are planted and grow like wheat—that is until later on in the farming year in which it will become evident that these seeds planted by the enemy are not wheat but nasty weeds.  At this point of realization it is too late to uproot them, for if one were to uproot the weeds it would harm the wheat. 

Jesus explains this parable by saying that the field is the world, the farmer who plants the wheat is himself, and the devil is the enemy farmer that plants weeds.  As mentioned before, the evil one is indeed cruel, cowardly, dishonorable, and an extreme enemy who plants weeds at night.  Does this not accurately fit the sneaky, unpleasant, and conniving tactics of the evil one?  It also makes sense that Jesus would be the master farmer who sows seed that yields fruitful wheat.  As a result of the actions of the enemy, the field, which is the world we live in, is full of wheat and darnel.  The world we live in is full of believers (i.e., wheat) and unbelievers (i.e., darnel).  Indeed, the weeds are those who have rejected the kingdom of God.  The weeds represent those that are in opposition to God’s grace and are antagonistic to Christ, whereas the wheat are those who receive the Gospel, those who are rest in the forgiveness of sins accomplished by Jesus and given through the Word and Sacraments.

Up to this point this parable seems to make sense, the pieces seem to fit together quite nicely.  However there is a bit of a scandal in this parable, something that seems to go against our common sense way of thinking.  Otherwise stated, what we may find puzzling in today’s parable is that Jesus, the good farmer, does not immediately fight and uproot the weeds.  In fact, in the parable the servants of the farmer want to uproot the weeds and logically so.  I imagine their reaction to the weeds being something like this, “Good farmer, we are sorry for the evil that the enemy did to you, do you want us to go and pull up the weeds and make this right?  We are willing to take on the weeds, for we surely don’t want the enemy to get his way!  We want to address this most certain tragedy, thus please give us the go-ahead and we will uproot this darnel!”  Certainly, the comments of the servants make a lot of sense to us as Christians and they make a lot of sense according to the rules of commonsense. Yes, when we look around in our world what we see is a messy garden of both good and bad.  As a consequence, we want a cleaner garden.  We desire more wheat and less darnel.  We desire to return to the Garden of Eden where things were right and good and true.  Thus, as it is most understandable, these desires drive us to the temptation to go after weeds; to take things into our own hands.  We want to rush in and make changes to the field.  We want to purify things and make improvements around us: a little of roundup over there and some deep tilling over here.  Indeed, we are rightly repulsed by the weeds of life; however, we unfortunately err when we attempt to take the place of the creator and do what only He can do.  Yes, the good farmer in the parable forbids this uprooting request from His servants.  “The servants are most emphatically not to try to change the situation; that would be dangerously premature, and it is not their calling.”[1]  Indeed, “the reason the [farmer of the land] forbids them to pull up the weeds is because of the wheat.  [The servants] thought they could help the wheat by uprooting the weeds; but the [farmer] maintained that they would also uproot the wheat when they uprooted the weeds.”  Otherwise stated, our attempts to go after weeds can have deadly effects.  In our well-intentioned desire to weed out and make the garden (i.e., the world) more appealing or more pure, we can end up plucking out Christ Jesus, His Word, and His Sacraments.  Truly, in an effort to remove the weeds of the world what can end up happening is that the Word and Sacraments get plucked out of the church and out of God’s people too.  The good seed and the roots of the wheat are many times dispersed so much that uprooting weeds will also uproot the good seed.

Dear saints, to be brutally honest there is another reason why it is not our calling to uproot the weeds of the world and that is that we can become so focused on trying to root out the weeds of the world that we fail to realize the weeds of our very own flesh, the weeds of our old sinful nature.  We can become so distracted with the weeds of the world that we fail to recognize the very weeds that are planted right in our own lives and within our own church.  Yes, because we have this sinful nature until the day we die, we too have darnel weeds in our lives and within the church.  Also, keep in mind that you and I do not have the power to uproot our own sins for that is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word of God.  Therefore, if we cannot root out our own sin or even pay for our own sin, what makes us think that we can successfully uproot the weeds of the world?  Frankly put, the part of us that acts like darnel weeds, our sinful flesh, should terrify us a whole lot more than the weeds of the world.

Not only are we powerless to uproot our own sin and the sin of the world, “who today can properly distinguish between unbelievers who will remain unbelievers and unbelievers who will one day believe the word and become wheat?  Out of love for the wheat, Jesus forbids us to cut short anyone’s time of grace.”[2] 

Surely, the servants were to “leave the situation precisely as it [was] and let the two kinds of plants grow together until the harvest.  At that time, the master will tell someone else to collect the weeds out from the wheat.  Then the weeds will be bundled together and burned, while the wheat will be stored in the granary.”[3] 

So if we do not have the ability, or the calling, or the wisdom to uproot the weeds of the world what are we to do?  This is the wrong question for the parable does not lead us to a demand of what we must do, rather this parable leads us to the conclusion that good seeds planted in the midst of the world will be sustained to the end of the age.  In other words, relax; God is in control.  The Lord is the dominant gardener.  He is the chief farmer.  He is the master of the field. Rest and let Him work, for He is in complete control and has planted good seeds before in weeds.  Yes, God not only planted a good seed when you were baptized, but He planted another seed long before you.  You see, when Jesus Christ was born into this world, it was as if God planted a good seed into the midst of a weedy world.  Jesus was the fullness of God in Flesh.  He was perfectly good; He came into a world that was full of weeds and He planted Himself right in the midst of the weeds.  As a farmer-become good seed: He grew, He taught, He loved.  Jesus as the good seed was sprinkled everywhere and He was planted into people’s hearts by faith.  But all of this was not the ultimate planting of the Son of Man.  Pushing this even farther, Jesus was planted deeply into the soil of sin when He was nailed to a cross bearing the sin of humanity upon Himself, as if it was His own.  Even after His crucifixion on our behalf, “He was literally planted like a seed in the soil: ‘crucified, dead, and buried’. . . . [Yes,] at the cross Jesus, the Sower-become-seed, the wheat of our wheat, was made to be a weed in our place!  God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21).  And Jesus was treated as a [weed] when God forsook Him.  He suffered hell—our hell.  He, too, in a sense, was ‘gathered and burned in the fire.’  God spared not His own Son even this!”[4]  This good seed was planted into the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.  Then, this good seed burst forth, fully bloomed, fully alive, fully healthy, and fully powerful.  This Crucified and resurrected good seed is the seed that is given to many, the good seed given to you and me for the forgiveness of our sins. 

Baptized saints, God has worked in the midst of weeds, He is working in the midst of weeds, and He will continue to.  Let Him work!  Trust Him for He is good and He knows what He is doing.  Know that as you continually receive the Word and Sacraments that the Lord is weeding out, and burning the darnel of your sinful flesh, as well as continually planting the good seed of the Gospel into each and every one of you; the Gospel seed that you receive by faith. 

Baptized saints, the Lord is at work; His life-giving Word is constantly being sown.  People are being nourished, fed, and evangelized.  He is the Lord of the harvest.  

Baptized saints, know that the weeds of the world don’t and won’t last forever; evil indeed has an end for Jesus has promised that the weeds will be gathered and burned with fire.

Baptized saints, remember that Jesus will build His church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.  It is His church.  The Gospel will not and cannot be snuffed out.

Baptized saints, confess with confidence today and to the close of the age the truth that Jesus lives forever, that He is Lord, and that you have been rooted and built up in Him for the good seed of the Gospel has claimed you.  You are washed, fed, preserved, and embedded in Him.

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

[1] Jeffrey Gibbs, Matthew 11:2-20:34: Concordia Commentary Series (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2010), 696-697.

[2] Sermon Studies on the Gospel: Series A ed. Richard D. Balge  (Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1989), 262.

[3] Gibbs, Matthew 11:2-20:34: Concordia Commentary Series, 696-697.

[4] Francis C. Rossow, Gospel Handles: Finding New Connections in Biblical Texts (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2001), 53-54.

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