The Sermon for Sunday, July 23rd, 2023, the Seventh Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Psalm 86; Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Matthew 13:24-30, 34-43
The Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 34-43
Marsha Gubser wrote this about weeding her garden:
I dragged my teenage son Matt outside to help me pull weeds one sunny morning, even though he snickers when he catches me talking to my plants.
“Be careful; the weeds are so thick here you could easily uproot a flower,” I told him. “If you do, stick it back in the ground and tell it you’re sorry.”
My son sighed. “Mom,” he said, “I just weed the plants. I don’t counsel them.”
– Marsha Gubser, “Lite Fare,” Christian Reader, July – August 2000
THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE TARES
Weeding is a frequent and necessary activity of every gardener, and in today’s Gospel, the servants of the householder are very eager to weed out the darnel from the wheat as soon as possible. Darnel (Lolium temulentum) was actually poisonous, looked like wheat in the early stages of growth, and its root systems would quickly become tangled with those of the wheat. Uprooting the darnel would also easily uproot some of the wheat. Of course, darnel could be such a problem to the wheat farmer in the ancient Near East, that Roman law prohibited sowing darnel in someone else’s field.
Realistic though the story was in its ancient agricultural context, the story forms the basis of a spiritual allegory about God’s kingdom and the kingdom of Satan. It is an allegory, though called a parable, because each element in the story represents something else, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself explains the meaning of each element of the allegory privately to His disciples.
The kingdom of heaven is the subject of the allegory, whose main point is to show that God allows the children of the kingdom and the children of the wicked one, that is, Satan, to co-exist in the world until its end. Those whose lives are evil are allowed to continue to exist, and wickedness and sin are permitted until the end of the world. Then, like harvesters, the angels are sent out by the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, and they gather out of God’s kingdom all things that offend and all who lead sinful lives, and cast all these into a furnace of fire, or hell. Then all who are righteous are gathered in God’s kingdom where they shine as the sun, living forever in the fellowship of the Blessed Trinity and all the angels and saints.
Why is this Parable important?
- It is important in that it emphasizes the patience and forbearance of God, who allows sinful people to continue in their sin to the end of their lives and He allows such people to continue to exist until the end of the world. This truth is confirmed in the final chapter of the Book of Revelation, where the Lord declares:
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
(Rev. 22:11-13, KJV)
2. The Parable also shows clearly that God allows free will, and lets people choose which way of life to follow until the day on which the Lord Jesus Christ comes again. St. Jerome confirmed this in his interpretation of this parable when he wrote:
For room for repentance is left, and we are warned that we should not hastily cut off a brother, since one who is to-day corrupted with an erroneous dogma, may grow wiser tomorrow, and begin to defend the truth; wherefore it is added, Lest in gathering together the tares ye root out the wheat also.
This patience of God contrasts starkly with those extremists who want the world purified immediately. Even in the history of Christianity, there have been leaders who have tried to reconstruct society as just and pure by imposing strict laws in government. But the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares tells us that evil and sin will continue, and God allows them to continue, until the end. Otherwise, the story would go something like this: as the wheat grows to harvest, somehow the tares start dying off, until only the wheat is left standing, ready for harvest. Experience of the world, of sin, and of ourselves, informs us this is not the case. Evil grows robustly everywhere, especially in the minds and wills of people who do not love the Lord and his word.
3. Another insight we derive from this Parable is the need for the children of the kingdom of God to be patient to the end. They live side by side with the children of Satan. There is no fence in between, and there are no fence-sitters. Everyone belongs either to God’s kingdom or to Satan’s. Therefore, we need to be patient with ourselves, since God is patient with us, as we grow towards the maturity of the harvest, and we need to be patient with everyone else in God’s kingdom, as God matures them. We also need to be patient with the children of Satan, as they harass and mistreat us. We must be patient, because we believe that in the end God will set things straight, since he will reward everyone according to his work, or his deeds.
4. This parable shows us that God’s justice and righteousness triumphs, and that once the children of the Evil One have been removed, God’s righteous children will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matthew 13:43).
When the angels gather out of God’s kingdom every cause of offence and everyone who practices lawlessness and cast them all into the furnace of fire, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, it results in a new beginning, a new heaven and earth for God’s children. Imagine if, after this life, you were walking around on a new earth, and someone came up to you and said, “I just can’t forgive you for the way you treated me in our previous life on earth.” What if you had to keep hearing that from people in the next life?
On the contrary, the kingdom of God is a kingdom in which all sins have been forgiven, and all injustices are removed, and everyone is in full communion both with God the blessed Trinity and with all God’s children. Those who have persistently refused to repent and have continued mistreating and exploiting others, will simply not be in God’s kingdom, but will themselves suffer everlasting torment, described in this Parable as “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (v. 42). For if they were in heaven, they would be causing hurt and sorrow to the children of God.
What must we do, then, as God’s children, while we wait for the coming of God’s kingdom? We must love God wholeheartedly (Matt. 22:37-38; Deut. 6:5), and others as ourselves (Matt. 22:39; Lev. 19:18), being patient with them and with ourselves. But while we exercise patience with ourselves, we must take care not to allow evil to grow in the field of our life, but renew our minds daily with God’s word (Romans 12:2), trusting God that at the close of this age, when the Lord Jesus Christ comes again, He will set all things straight, and create a new world for all His children.