7th Sunday after Pentecost
July 19, 2020
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
“Wheat or Weeds?”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us today is the Gospel lesson read from Matthew chapter 13 and the “Parable of the Weeds.”
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Now it’s time to play “Name that Hymn!” I will give you clues, and let’s see if you can name that hymn. Here we go. Clue #1 – This hymn was written in 1874, just 27 years after the LCMS’ formation, but this hymn has NEVER been in any of our church hymnals. Clue #2 – This hymn, being 146 years old, is still sung today even though it doesn’t mention God or Jesus. Clue #3 – The author of the text was known as the “Singing Evangelist of Indiana.” Clue #4 – This hymn is recognizable. It was sung on several episodes of “Little House on the Prairie.” Clue #5 – It has the following stanza: “Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness, sowing in the noon-tide and the dewy eve; waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping, we shall come rejoicing…”. You got it yet? It’s “Bringing in the Sheaves,” written by Knowles Shaw in 1874.
Wait. A hymn that doesn’t mention God or Jesus but people still sing it in church? Why? Because the hymn reminds us that the final harvest is coming – a separation of the wheat and weeds – a theme that Jesus also teaches in today’s Gospel lesson.
At first glance, this parable does not have encouraging news. The sower went out and sowed his seed, but the enemy came along and sowed weeds (“Tares” in KJV) among the wheat seeds. Not just weeds, but a noxious weed specifically identified as “bearded darnel,” a troublesome weed in wheat fields sometimes called “wheat’s evil twin.” The problem is that Darnel is indistinguishable from wheat while it is young. Only when it has grown and has put in roots will it stand out against the wheat. And yet, the presence of the darnel is not the end of the wheat. The wheat survives as it grows amid this poisonous weed. In the end, it is not the enemy but the sower who is “victorious” as the good crop is gathered in and the darnel is gathered separately to be destroyed.
Remember what I said last week? Parables are earthly stories with heavenly meanings and today Jesus again provides the heavenly meaning for this parable. I know that Jesus also explains this parable, but believe me. Jesus explaining parables is very rare! The sower who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man or Christ himself. The seed that he sows is the Word of God. The field that the seed is sown in is the world. The darnel or the weeds are the “sons of the evil one” as Jesus calls them. The enemy who sows the weeds is the devil. In other words, the devil sows his evil amid the good seeds or amid believers, and so evil then coexists amid the people of God’s kingdom. There are weeds among the wheat. There is evil mixed in with the good. I don’t have to work too hard to convince you of that.
The problem – the psychological itch that needs to be scratched – in this parable is the identical nature of wheat and weed. The problem was that the darnel – the weeds – were indistinguishable from the wheat. No one could tell them apart until it was almost too late. How is that any different from today’s church in which the evil coexist amid the righteous? The church of every age has had its share of weeds both within and outside of the church. The church on earth is not perfect – far from it, in fact – so how do we distinguish the wheat from the weeds?
How can the righteous be identified from the unrighteous if the people of God are afraid to speak up regarding their faith? How can the wheat be identified from the weeds if our behavior and choices make us look like weeds? How can church goers be identified from the lost when we are so silent in this world that is crying – begging – to have good news and we have that good news to give? When we sinfully fail to follow our Lord as we should, sinfully fail to serve him as he commands, sinfully stay silent, then we exhibit the traits of the weeds, and it’s the weeds who are destined to be destroyed in the final fire of judgment
Thanks be to God that the coming of His kingdom does not depend on us! Rather, it depends on Jesus Christ. It always has and always will. The coming of God’s kingdom depends on his obedience, not ours. Obedience that was fully and faithfully carried out on Calvary’s cross. Even though we stumble and screw up, we can still find confidence that the kingdom of God does and will prosper and advance because of Jesus Christ and for his sake. Jesus lived that perfect life where we cannot. While we remain silent, Jesus spoke up in the face of opposition. While we behave contrary to God’s Word, Jesus followed it perfectly. While we remain weak and fearful in our faith, Jesus remained strong until the bitter, painful end. It is because Jesus lived, died, and rose again for you so that you, the “wheat,” can coexist amid the evil weeds of this world without having it destroy you.
That is a truth we need to hear now more than ever. We have been and are surrounded by evil and its effects day after day. Concerns over COVID-19 are wearing everyone out. So many people we are close to are hurting, suffering, or trying to recover. The world is a very confused, violent, and dark place these days. But, the evil WILL NOT overtake us or consume us or destroy us. We will co-exist and we will endure and we will be the ripe harvest that our heavenly Father seeks when the day of judgment comes.
Now you know that Knowles Shaw wrote “Bringing in the Sheaves,” but do you know how Knowles Shaw died? He was killed suddenly in a train wreck outside of Dallas, Texas in 1878. He was only 43 years old. For some of us judgment day comes at the end of a long and fruitful life. For others, it comes suddenly and quickly as it did for Knowles Shaw. The harvest will come for all of us whether it is Christ returning in the next 24 hours or when we die. Since we don’t know when either event will happen, ask yourself…are you wheat or poisonous weed? When judgment day comes, for those with faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior, on that day they will also truly rejoice with the angels “bringing in the sheaves.”