Summary: God patiently tolerates the presence of the weeds in His field rather than risk uprooting even a single stalk of wheat.
Lectionary 16 A
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43
This morning our Gospel text explores a very important issue that I think all of us have contemplated at one point or another. I know that I have sometimes wondered about this subject as I watched the evening news or listened to the radio or witnessed the events unfold in our community.
When was the last time you wondered why God permits evil in our world? Or why God permits bombings and terrorists and killings to occur? Or why God permits His church to be persecuted and to suffer? Or why God permits the devil to have his way among us?
Or on a more personal level, why does God leave us to be sinners when He has already declared us to be Saints in His church? Why does God give us new birth and new life in Baptism, but then still leaves the Old Adam (sin and death) in place?
Well thankfully our parable today of the wheat and weeds speaks to these questions, not with a direct answer to the problem of evil in our world, but with the indirect reply that premature judgment would be destructive to Christ’s work.
And as much as we would like to rid the world of evil and sin, the very act of weeding them out now would risk destroying our faith in Christ as well. And so the question that we are left to ponder is “Why does God tolerate evil in the world?” And the answer from the parable of the wheat and the weeds is this: “Because God wants every last grain of wheat in His barn and wants nothing that He has sown to be destroyed.”
Listen to this parable again in another form. “A farmer sowed good seed in his field. While he and his workers slept during the night, his enemy slipped into the field under the cover of darkness and sowed weeds.”
Unfortunately the weeds looked just like the wheat. So nobody realized what had happened until the seeds begin to sprout and the plants begin to bear fruit. And it was at this point the shocking truth was revealed. Weeds were growing among the wheat.
The servants could not believe their eyes. And so they questioned their Master stating: “Master. Did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?”
And the Master responds: “An enemy has done this.”
So the servants propose a plan of action. “Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?” But the Master rejected their idea and instructed his servants to let everything grow together in one field so that when the harvest did come His reaper could sort them out and throw the weeds into the fire and put the wheat into the barn.”
And that is how it will be at the end of the age.
So how do we then interpret the parable and what does it all mean? And where should we focus our attention? Well, to begin with, we are told that God did not introduce evil into the world. His enemy did.
The enemy introduced sin, disease, and death into God’s good creation. The weeds are the enemies planting, not God’s. So what should we do about the weeds among the wheat?
In our text this morning, the workers were eager to do something about this problem. Concerned about what the weeds would do to their harvest, they came up with a plan to pull the weeds and rid the field of these weeds. The workers proposed to get rid of the weeds before the weeds could ruin what they had worked so hard to sow.
But the Master had a different course of action in mind. Catching the servants off guard the Master instructed His servants to let the weeds and wheat grow together until the harvest season had arrived.
Do nothing, the Master informed his servants, until it is time to gather up the fruits of the harvest and enjoy its benefits. But until then, both the weeds and the wheat are to receive the same treatment.
Now most of us, I think, would think that this is rather unfair. Why should the weeds get the same water and sunshine and the same compost and cultivating as the wheat? Why should we spend our time and energy on these weeds when we want nothing to do with them in the first place?
The disciples, in our Gospel, too were confused. Wanting to know why the weeds were not to be pulled, they asked Jesus to explain the meaning of the weeds in the field to them. After all why was it so wrong to pull the weeds and protect the wheat?
And the answer that Jesus provides surprises us all. For the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about the eradication of evil but about the cultivation of eternal life through Him. Therefore the weeds and all that is evil in our world is nothing more than a temporary annoyance and distraction to what God is doing in our world.