Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 11 months ago

The Weeds and the Wheat (Matt 13:24-43)

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Christian McArthur

Well, American Christians are infatuated with eschatology now already. I need to apologize for two things. One, over generalizations are just not helpful, so sorry for overgeneralizing to one of the things that I've learned in seminary while while studying eschatology, is never to use the word eschatology in a sermon. So for that I apologize. I've not graduated yet. Please don't turn me in. So what does eschatology mean and why are we so concerned about it? Well, simply put, eschatology is the study of the last things, what happens in the end. You might be wondering, why couldn't you have just said that I went to seminary to learn words like eschatology? But moving on, one of the particular aspects of the last things, of the end times of eschatology that is a particular interest, I think, especially in America it seems, is figuring out the specifics of when Christ will return and how the final judgment will take place. And do a quick Google search you'll find this all over the place, that the people are really int rested in figuring out how this is going to happen. Two Thousand and ten there was a pole of of Christians in America and and forty percent of them believed that Christ would return before two thousand and fifty, so almost half. I would imagine if you did that pole again in a post covid world, people would assume much, much sooner. And you're seeing this as you read blogs and articles that that what we see around us seems to be the end of the age. We really want to figure out if that's true. Well, it just so happens that we are not the only group that is interested in the end times. Fact, the end is certainly in mind for Jesus's listeners in the first century, particularly his his Jewish listeners. They are specifically concerned with when the Messiah comes, when the Savior of Israel comes. How will this judgment go down? How quick is it going to happen? Because we really want this Messiah to rid the world of our enemies, specifically anyone who's not part of the nation of Israel, and in this we want to finally be lifted to this place of global prominence and power. The Israelites had endured the presence of gentiles and the land for a long time. Now they are under the thumb of the Romans. Their eschatology is hopeful and they hope that God will rid rid the land of these enemies, these unclean gentiles, these Romans that have been against them. They're concerned about the end times, like so many of us are concerned about the end times. But as we've seen, as we've walked through some of these parables, Jesus comes and often times does not meet up with the expectations of his of his listener, does he? I mean he's coming. He's announcing the Kingdom of Heaven. We heard about that a few weeks ago looking at the SOWER. But people are quickly confused as to why Jesus, the Messiah, if he is really the Messiah, does not seem overly concerned about bringing about final judgment. Why is this? Well, I think it is this confusion, at least in part, that Jesus is speaking...

...into with this parable that we are looking at this evening. Why isn't he establishing the Kingdom of God? Or, perhaps more accurately, why isn't he doing it in ways that people would expect and ways that we would expect if we were bringing in a kingdom? Well, Jesus answers these questions in the air by providing two very certain realities that we will look at this evening. One of these realities is there is a coming judgment when the son of Man will come and finally put an end to all evil. He will punish on Righteousness, He will vindicate the Righteous, and this is a very real reality that we see in this text. The other reality that we see is Jesus seems in no hurry to do it, and that's confusing for folks. And so will consider these two realities, both this pending judgment and this patient savior, and finally, briefly, will consider how this has US view this peculiar kingdom, the pending judgment, the patient savior and a peculiar kingdom. So let's consider the pending judgment. So our parable this evening comes right after Matthew's version of the parable of the sower that we looked at a few weeks ago. We looked at it from Marks Gospel, but Matthew covers that as well. When Jesus continues to use this agricultural imagery to explain the Kingdom of God to those who are listening. And Jesus begins and he tells US story worry of a man who sewed a good seed in his field. Well, like the parable of the summer, we have the benefit of getting Jesus explanation of what's going on here. And so he tells us this man who is sewing is the son of man, he is Jesus himself. He uses this common title for the Messiah that that Daniel uses in the prophetic writings, the son of man, and this son of man is sowing good seed into a field. And this field is, Jesus explains, is the world. The seed and it's subsequent growth represents the sons of the kingdom, Jesus says. And right from the start, where and parable form, seeing this doctrine of election, one that we can be squirmish about, ECS that we say, this beautiful song that Jackie Jackie requested, and just beautiful about this, this picture of God choosing his people before the Earth's foundations were laid and on and away Jesus is telling Aphesians one and parable form here, isn't he that that the son of man has so good seed, that he has chosen and he is bringing about the growth and he has these people in his hand from the very beginning and imparable form. We see this beautiful doctrine of election. But quickly we run into a problem, don't we? It seems that an enemy has come. He's infiltrated the field while the servants of the master are sleeping, and the enemy begins sewing what our ESV says weeds. Some translations say tears, other translations treat this and different ways, but it seems specifically like this plant is a plant called Darnal. And the thing about Darnal, it's well known in the first century, in fact is wellknown this day, is Darnald looked almost exactly like wheat until it started to flower. So it's very difficult...

...to tell what is what in the passage confirms this, doesn't it? It's not until the wheat is near ready for harvests that the servants even notice that it's there. But as soon as they notice they're concerned, as any good farmer would be. They go to the master. They said, didn't you put good field or good seed into the field? And if so, where do the weeds come from? The presence of Darnal, these these weeds, would be concerning for anyone who knew about farming wheat and and and and harvesting, because what would likely happen is as this donald grew and you didn't identify it, it would begin to entangle itself with the wheat, it would begin to choke out the root system and ultimately it would affect the harvest. So if you're concerned about the yield, you would want to swiftly take care of these weeds. This would be very important, as it is with these servants. They're in a hurry to get rid of these weeds. Well, in Jesus explanation, he lets us know that this Darnald, these weeds, represent the sons of the evil one, all causes of sin and all lawbreakers, he says. Well, this analogy fits, doesn't it? Evil in this world often seems like it is snuffing out and taking over that which is good. It's poison and it's prevalent, it seems in many ways to overtake all that it comes in contact with. Paul picks up a similar idea in First Corinthians fifteen. He says bad company ruins good morals. The presence of evil threats that which is good, and that scares us, and and it should. We're concerned about our culture. We're concerned about our children and those who are younger. We're concerned about ourselves. Will we be able to persevere in a culture that seems to be increasingly antithetical to the word of God? There is real evil and I think all of us are, in a way anxious to rid the world of this evil. Well, in Jesus explanation of the parable he too shows he is concerned about this and he says that he himself, through his angels, will take care of the evil. In the final judgment, Verse Thirty Nine, Jesus says the harvest is the end of the age and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of the age Jesus will send his own reapers, the angels, and do this work of separating that which is weed, that which is evil and that which is wheat, that which is good. And it's a pretty forceful picture of the end, isn't it? Just as the weeds are thrown into the fire, so all causes of sin and all lawbreakers will be thrown into a fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping, nashing of teeth imagery that Jesus uses elsewhere, that we build up these that we build these doctrines of eternal punishment,...

...of hell. Probably not like favorite memory versus for you. If they are, we should talk later. But they're all over the scripture, aren't they? They're disturbing images. Second, Thessalonian says that the UNRIGHTEOUS will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord, from the glory of his might. Jude says that the fires of Sodom and Gomora were just a foretaste of the judgments to come. John Revelation speaks of this lake of fiery soul for that Burns eternally, one that was created for the devil and his followers. Again, not favorite passages to read or preach on or think about, but true reality. A final judgment is coming. But there is good news. There's good news for us that are in Christ, because we need not fear this end as we look to Christ alone and rest in the promises sealed to us and and baptism, the forgiveness of sins. Union with Christ, we can look forward with great anticipation, not to judgment, but to the hope of glory, to the Resurrection, and that is a wonderful thing. But one of the problems we have with this infatuation with the end times, at least for those of us who are counted among God's elect sons of the kingdom, is that we can be in such a hurry to rid the world of this evil influence that we forget the true reality that is coming for those that are not in Christ. Horrible picture of Judgment. And then, our hurry to bring about the end, our attempts to identify what is good what is evil, we sometimes lack discernment, which brings about our second point, which will explain this idea of discernment a patient Savior. If we move back in the passage a bit and look at the parable itself, there's an interesting emphasis. The Servant of the masters come to him. They offer to take care of the weeds, and rightly so. They don't want these weeds affecting the harvest. They're concerned about what is good. Well, we, like these servants, often have a rational impulse to rid the world of of evil, of these weeds. But the problem with our efforts to do this, the problem with these servants, those who offer to go out and root out the weeds, is they are not discerning nor patient enough. What do we mean by this? Well, it's interesting how the master responds to the servants, isn't it? Servants in Verse Twenty Eight say, Do you want us to go out and gather up the weeds? He Says No, Lesston, gathering the weeds, you root up the wheat along with them. This is interesting, isn't it? These servants are so concerned with the weeds that they run the risk of calling what God sees as good evil. They run the risk of wrongly identifying what they are getting rid of. Me Think about this in the Jewish context that we're speaking into. A Jew hearing...

...this would assume, and some of them rightly so, that they are good seed. Well, what would bad seed be? Gentiles, the Romans easy enough to identify. And yet think about if one of these Jews was responsible for for labeling the winners and the losers, the weeds and the Wheat, the Gospel would not go out to all nations. They would not properly identify that what sometimes looks like weeds as actually God's precious wheat. All these people to the ends of the earth that Jesus came to die for that still look a lot like weeds. We too, like to identify the winners and losers, don't we? We like to point at things and label them as evil, and I think this impulses often right, but I think oftentimes our metrics for how we label things are not so right. Sometimes it is simple as how someone looks, how someone thinks, God forbid, how they vote. We see that in our country, don't we were able to label things just based on affiliations. But Jesus loves to take what looks evil and make it good, because he is patient, because he is kind, because he is long suffering. In the case of this moment in history, during the telling of this parable Jesus has in mind opening up the good news to the kingdom, to the ends of the Earth, to gentiles like you and like me, to all tongues, tribes and nations. And for us here today, he has in mind people who look, thank and yes, even sometimes vote differently than we do, people that we would quickly label as weeds. That God has beautiful things in mind for. It is good news that we don't choose the winners and losers, isn't it? But that God and eternity past has chosen the winners and losers in his son, not based on what we look like, but based on what his son looks like and in history. Jesus is patient to us as we all go through our weed phases. And Second Peter Peter wrights. He's writing to folks that are concerned about this final judgment and he says this. He says do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises, as some count slowness, but he is patient toward you. Why does that matter? Because he is not wishing that anyone should perish, but that all should we reach repentance. Peter will go on to say count the patience of the Lord as Salvation. How beautiful is that? Count the patience of the Lord as Salvation. Jesus is patient. He is a patient gardener awaiting the full number of his elect to come to harvest. Yes,...

...he is fully aware of the final judgment. He's the one that will bring it to pass, but his concern at this time is that none of his would be lost. He is awaiting the salvation even now. I some that we know, some that we pray for, or some that might be our children or our parents or friends, people that have not even been born yet, and he's holding off on final judgment even now so that they might come to repentance. Jesus is willing to wait, and it's not just good news for those that are still coming to repentance, but it's good news for us, because we did not always look like wheat. Some of you can point to a specific time in your life where it was very evident that you did not look like wheat and had someone come through to collect the wheat and the weeds, you would have been yanked up. Some of you have had the great privilege of being born into a Christian family, being baptized as a covenant child. You can't remember its time when you weren't wheat, but there was a time and Jesus was patient, waiting for you to be born that he might bring you into his kingdom. Our master is patient, not willing that any might perish, but they we might fly hour that we might produce good fruit. Two very real realities. Final judgment is coming and our saviors patient. Well, question does remain for us. What do we do now and this evil world? How do we know we will not be overcome by evil? How do we know that these weeds will not choke us out, will not choke out the faith of our our children and our family? What do we do with one foot in the Kingdom of Heaven and one foot and the Kingdom of this earth? How can we know that we are safe, that this kingdom is actually coming to pass? Well, briefly, this evening, I want to consider how Jesus answers this. We don't oftentimes put the parable of the mustard seed in the parable of the leaven right after this and include it as part of this, but there's a reason it's right after it, and I would argue that Jesus is perhaps answering this question. He's aware that this parable would not fully satisfy his listener, a listener that is eager to rid themselves of the evil in this world, a listener who expects the Messiah to come and make every thing okay. And now, if this parable, it seems like Jesus is far more interested in having them endure evil than eliminate it? Jesus knows this question is in the air. How does he answer it? He says, well, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, really small, insignificant, and though you don't see it growing, it will one day fill the earth. He uses this picture from Daniel of this tree where we're all the birds can nest in it, where the beasts of the field can find shade in it. He says, if that doesn't make sense to you, that the Kingdom of Heaven is like this...

...little bit of leaven that you can't even see in your hand and a woman puts it into some bath goods and you don't see it happening, but this loaf will be full of this leaven. Growth of this kingdom looks small, though it will one day be a mighty tree and a fully leaven loaf. That day is probably a ways off. For now we do have to endure evil in this world, but we can know that he is establishing his kingdom, and I think the way that we can know it even more clear than those who are first hearing this, is that we can see that is often this very evil in the world that God uses to bring about his good he is a God who uses evil. He's a God who leaves His throne, in all that seems godly, to take on our humanity, our suffering and order to allow the greatest injustice and world history to stare him in the face, to put a crown of thorn on his head and to nail him to the cross, to endure defeat from evil so that you don't have to. He allows himself to be plucked out, so that we might see fruitfulness. That is a peculiar victory and a peculiar kingdom. And if, this evening, you buy into that mysterious message, then you can rest assure that is you continue to hold fast to that mysterious message of Christ and him crucified, that he who started a good work and you will be faithful to complete it, even as we let live in this present darkness, and rest asshored also that the ways that he is completing this good work often look peculiar as well. They look ordinary, ordinary means of grace that he gives us to build our faith. They don't look powerful, they don't look grand as we would think of them. And yet in the Gospel preach through the mouth of a sinner, bread and wine, things that look ordinary, even foolish. He gives us himself that we might be preserved, that you might enjoy everlasting life as a member of his harvest. Rest asshored this evening, brothers and sisters, that the master does not sleep. His servants might, but he does not sleep. He knows your struggles, he knows your life, your worries, your frailties, and he comes to us even in this night to give of himself through word and Sacrament, that we might be strength in both body and soul to life everlasting, that we, as the parable says, may shine like the sun in the Kingdom of our father let's pray together.

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