To read the scriptures Matthew 13: 24-30,36-43 click here and Romans 8:12-25 here.
Jesus says, “Let anyone with ears listen!” (v43)
Which is especially meaningful to us since it’s corn season.
Last week we began our study of Jesus’ parables in Matthew 13 about the kingdom of heaven. In last week’s parable the seeds were God’s word. In this week’s parable, the seeds are people. Some turn out to be wheat, and others turn out to be weeds.
Last week during the children’s sermon, the kids planted seeds in this pot. This week we have some sprouts, but it’s too soon to tell which plants are which. They have to keep growing for awhile before we’ll be able to tell, just like in the parable.
The parable begins, “The kingdom of heaven is like a farmer…” (v24)
- · In the explanation in verse 37, Jesus tells us that the farmer is the Son of Man, which means that the farmer is Jesus.
- · The good seeds are the children of the kingdom of God.
- · The farmer’s solution to the problem of weeds is to let them grow together and sort things out at the harvest, which means that God will do the sorting at the end of time.
When Jesus was telling this parable, he was speaking to a crowd of people. Looking out over them, maybe he wondered which ones would turn out to be wheat and which would turn out to be weeds. Or maybe he already knew. The more I’ve pondered this parable, though, the more I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all weeds.
So what makes a weed a weed?
Someone once said that “a weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.”
To be fair, another definition of a weed is that it is “a plant that is growing in the wrong place.”
Growing up in the city, my definition of a weed is any plant that is growing in the gaps in the pavement.
Those definitions are pretty broad. Whether a weed is good or bad is really a matter of perspective. Consider the dandelion. When I was a kid, I liked to blow on them when they were in the white, fluffy seed-ball stage. We used to bring the flowers to my mom as loving gifts. Meanwhile my dad was desperately pulling them up, and spraying herbicide on the lawn to try to get rid of them for good. We definitely had different perspectives on dandelions.
Sorting out wheat from weeds got me to thinking about Harry Potter. Maybe you’ve read the books or seen the movies. The theater in Hutchinson has been showing the entire series over the summer. In the first story, Harry Potter discovers he’s a wizard and goes off to wizarding school. The first thing that happens when new kids arrive at the school in a huddled mass is they get sorted by the sorting hat into groups, sort of like getting chosen for sororities and fraternities. The magic talking hat will determine whether they will be part of the house of Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Gryffindor, or Ravenclaw. While the hat is on each head, it makes an assessment about where each student “belongs.”
We’re never told exactly what the assessment is based on, but there is some suggestion that Slytherin is the house for bad people because those students are so often at odds with Harry, and also because the main villain of the series, Lord Voldemort, was in the house of Slytherin. But . . . so was one of the most famous wizards of all time, Merlin.
So you can’t judge someone by the house they’re in, any more than you can judge someone by the church they’re in.
Jesus tells us in another of his sermons, the Sermon on the Mount, not to judge one another (Matt. 7) and points out that our problem is that we don’t see each other very clearly. Our sins cloud our vision. The reason the master in the parable tells the servants to let the weeds keep on growing is that they won’t be able to see which plants are weeds and which are wheat. The message for us is the same. We can’t tell. Only God truly knows what’s in our hearts. And God’s criteria for judging is different than ours.
There was a father who coached a little league team of eight-year-olds. A few of the kids were really good players, but there were some of the kids who just couldn’t quite get the hang of the game. They went the whole season without winning a single game. In the last inning of the last game, they were doing better than usual. They were only down by one run. And one little boy who had never been able to hit the ball or catch it came up to bat. He surprised them all by hitting a single.
There were already two outs, but now there was hope. The next batter up was the team slugger. Maybe they might actually have a chance at a win. The slugger hit the ball. As the boy who’d hit the single was running to second base, he saw the ball coming towards him. Not so certain of baseball’s rules, he caught it.
The final out. Game over. The team lost.
But quickly the coach told his team to cheer anyway, and the boy beamed. It never occurred to him that he had lost the game for his team. All he knew was he had hit the ball and caught it, both for the first time.
Later the boy’s parents thanked the coach for making the boy’s first time to play in a game a success.
Some might point out that the team lost the game, and didn’t win a single game all season. Or we could say that they all got to share that boy’s joy.
Which way sounds more like the kingdom of heaven? Last week, we talked about how the kingdom of heaven is wherever God’s will is done, and how God’s purposes are about turning hearts to him. That means that the kingdom of heaven isn’t about winning games or making money or having the best stuff or the best job title, but instead it’s about caring about people and building relationships.
Learning that God’s top priority is people was a big “aha” moment for me. One of my favorite things that I heard someone say about me years ago is that I get things done. I always had a big list of things to accomplish. I got assigned lots of work because I always got it done. In fact, that was a huge source of pride for me. I was very productive. I wasn’t very patient with people, though. People get in the way of productivity. So you can imagine my surprise when I was reading one day in the Rick Warren’s book The Purpose Driven Life and I discovered I had my priorities upside down. The chapter was titled, “What Matters Most.” I dove into reading that chapter eagerly, anxious to find answers to that question. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I know I wasn’t expecting it to say, “What matters most is people – learning to love God and people.”
The thing is, and you might already know this, people aren’t always all that lovable. When you heard this parable about the wheat and the weeds, maybe you were thinking of some people that are challenging to love, and thinking, “That person is definitely a weed.”
But really, when it comes right down to it, we’re all weeds.
In chapter 3 of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul makes it pretty clear that we’re all in the same boat. He says,
“There is no one who is living right. Not even one. All of us fall short of the glorious life God wants us to live. There is no difference between us and anyone else in that regard.”
We’re all weeds. We all need the salvation and forgiveness that Jesus worked for us on the cross. We all need God’s grace and forgiveness.
Which is why we’re so bad at making judgments about who is or isn’t a Christian or a good person. It’s just not always easy to tell. And we tend to judge using the wrong criteria.
There was a schoolteacher named Jody who decided one day to use her summer off to travel across the country and see some of the sights that she taught about. She set out alone in her truck, towing a trailer. One afternoon as she was stuck in rush hour traffic passing through a city, her truck stopped running. Hot, tired, and exasperated she prayed, “God, send me an angel.”
About 5 minutes later a man drove up on a huge Harley. He had long black hair, a long beard, and heavily tattooed arms. He barely glanced at Jody as he hopped off his bike and went to work on her truck. Keeping an eye on the traffic, he flagged down a larger truck and they towed Jody’s truck off the freeway and on to a side street where the biker continued to work on fixing the problem. Jody was too dumbfounded to say much, and especially intimidated by the words “Hells Angels” on the back of the man’s leather vest. When he was finished and the truck was running again, she managed a timid, “Thank you.” Noticing her look of fear, the man chuckled and said, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Then he hopped on his bike and rode off.
We can’t tell what people are like from the outside. That’s why we are to be patient and let the weeds and wheat grow together for now. There will come a day at the end of time when God will separate the weeds from the wheat. Knowing Jesus and his love is what Paul talks about in Romans 3 as what makes the difference.
For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. (Romans 3:23-24)
That’s grace. Grace is how weeds become wheat. Grace is exciting. Grace is why we’re here. Grace allows us to look forward to our glorious future and to enjoy the blessings of today.
Grace is allowing that we don’t all look or act the same, and that’s ok.
Grace is the Holy Spirit at work in us, helping us to be made new from the inside out, helping us to find new ways to express our thanks to God, and to tell others about grace.
This is why I really love the message version of our reading from Romans for today and what it says this about living a grace-filled life:
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. (v15-16)
Who we really are is weeds turned into wheat, children of God through faith in Jesus, looking forward to what God’s going to do next in this great adventure.
We live in the midst of the tension between what is now and what is to come.
We wait with joyful anticipation for God to work in us and around us.
We watch for signs of God’s kingdom coming.
We see signs of God’s work whenever we see the work of the Holy Spirit in us and the people around us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
During the children’s sermon last week we planted seeds. We didn’t plant them in nice little rows. All different kinds of seeds are mixed up together in the pot. Some of them have started to grow, but I don’t know whether these are the flowers or the mustard or the carrots.
It’s going to look kind of messy. Growth is like that. But out of the chaos we’ll get the beauty of flowers and vegetables. If I’d just done it by myself, it would have come out differently, but that would have missed the point that all the kids got to participate.
We all get to participate, in different ways, in making God’s kingdom of grace a reality here on earth.
Let us continually be looking for ways to share the same grace that God has given each one of us.
 Psalm 139, Psalm 44:21, 1 Kings 8:39
 Jeffrey Zaslow, “Tell Me All About It,” 1990, http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/g/grace.htm
 Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002)
 My paraphrase of Rick Warren’s words in The Purpose Driven Life, p125.
 Romans 3, Krabbe paraphrase with a little borrowing from the Message version.