6th Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 11) LSB #849
Text – Matthew 13:38b
The weeds are the sons of the evil one…
SONS OF THE EVIL ONE
During all the years I was growing up, from the age of 5 on, I spent hundreds of hours hoeing weeds out of the fields around Frankenmuth, MI. The farmers in that area grew a lot of sugar beets & navy beans. Those crops are planted in rows that are far apart compared to the fields of wheat. For that reason it was possible to remove the weeds without damaging the crop.
A field of wheat is another matter altogether. The rows & plants are sown so closely together that you can’t even get into the field without damaging the crop. If you tried hoeing out the weeds, you would certainly destroy the wheat right along with it.
In farming, that creates a dilemma. The weeds do cause damage to the wheat, but if you try & remove them, you destroy even more of the crop. After you’ve tried it once or twice, thattruth becomes obvious. The farmer learns that sometimes you have to leave well-enough alone,trusting our heavenly Father to protect the wheat, & to provide for the harvest.
In the parables of Matthew 13, Jesus makes the same point when it comes to our lives in this world. We see many distressing situations, from far away international events like the shoot down of a civilian plane by Russian terrorists, to very local or even personal events like drug addictions, broken marriages & neglected children.
When we see the tragic effects of evil at work in our world we’d like to tear it out by the root. However, evil lives within the very core of your heart & mine. That reality demonstrates how intertwined evil is with the good things of this earth. To uproot the malicious & criminal is certain to cut down the good as well.
And that is the point of this parable for those who do not yet trust in Jesus as Savior. Christ is already reigning over heaven & earth, even though on earth the church is not looking very dynamic or powerful. The weeds sown by the devil are real & dangerous. His lies are effective at deceiving people, including each of us in this room. Since the church is unable to prevent evil, we are tempted to give up, & to give in, to Satan’s temptations.
Still, this parable of Jesus, about the weeds & the wheat, is telling us what the reign of God on earth is going to look like for now. “So when the plants came up & bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.” This fallen & broken world is not the home for God’s glory, so don’t look to someone else; keep listening & inquiring after Jesus even in His apparent weakness.
As with last week’s parable & sermon, the ministry of Jesus was not growing in numbers, & yet against Him the resistance definitely was growing. Today also, Jesus is answering, for His disciples, the question of why, in spite of His ongoing words & miracles, so many people in Israel were not responding in faith & discipleship.
The vast majority of Christian churches across our nation are struggling as well. People seem indifferent, & callous even, to the work of inviting & calling their friends, neighbors & family to the rest that Jesus offers to those who are weary & heavy laden. The weeds, or the unbelievers, certainly appear to be much more effective in their call to a life apart from Christ.
“The field is the world, & the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, & the enemy who sowed them is the devil.”
Back in the day, when I was hoeing weeds out of sugar beets & navy beans, we used to jokingly ask the farmer, “Donny, are you sure you planted beats in this field, & not weeds?”
Now, we knew he planted good seed, but on some days we really wanted to question why the weeds were so thick. The same holds true in our lives as workers in God’s kingdom.
For those of us who do trust in Jesus as Savior, the way Jesus explains this parable is not so much about the weeds, or about today, tomorrow or the next day. For our Savior, His focus is on the Last Day, & the dramatic changes that will come along with it:
“The harvest is the close of the age, & the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered & burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send His angels, & they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin & all law-breakers, & throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping & gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
From what the four Gospels reveal, Jesus wasn’t much of a hellfire & brimstone preacher, yet the above explanation of His parable certainly paints a dramatic picture.
When Jesus told the parable of the sower, He ended it with the exact same words, “He who has ears, let him hear.” The sons of the evil one do not listen to the Word of God. And while we’re asking God, “Are You sure You planted wheat in this field, & not weeds?” Jesus certainly is also asking us a question, “Can you hear me now?”
Which side are you on? In this teaching by the Son of God, there are only two types of plants in this world – weeds & wheat. When the Last Day arrives, “…the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” & the causes of sin & all law-breakers will be thrown into the fiery furnace.
As unnerving as those words may be, they aren’t really scare tactics. They truly are just a statement of the facts. Because our heavenly Father’s plan is to draw us to Himself, through the love of His only-begotten Son, He could not come to us in power & might & glory. Such a display of majesty, in this life, always draws sinful human beings for the wrong reasons.
Like groupies who follow a rock star, our sinful nature loves fame & glory, but when that star’s moment in sun fades, so do the followers. That won’t do for rescuing people from the corrupted brokenness of this world, or from the hellfire of the next. The only thing able to draw us away from our self-centered core is an authentic demonstration of other-centered love.
That’s what our Savior gave to us on the cross of Mt. Calvary. To be authentic He could not submit to the devil’s temptation for earthly glory. To demonstrate an authentic love, Jesus had to live in, & endure, the same broken world that you & I live in. No shortcuts allowed. No skipping to the head of the line. No bypassing of the trials & tribulations regular people endure.
When you are in the trenches of life, doing battle against the injustice of this sinful world, who would you rather follow? Would it be a rock star who couldn’t care less what your name is? Or would it be a king who took off His crown, & put aside his bodyguards, in order to get down in the trenches with you?
Our saintly nature gladly follows Jesus. The trouble is our sinful nature is still dragging us down. Our saintly nature hears the call of Jesus, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Our sinful nature can’t help but notice the wealth, power & privilege that the roaring lion holds before us as he tempts us down the path to being devoured.
Which side are we on? The tragedy of sin is that each of us is born on the devil’s side. As King David wrote, “…in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5 ESV) The miracle of God’s love & forgiveness is that He called us out of the darkness & into His marvelous light.
Yes, God’s children are on His side too, & the tension between saint & sinner is heart-rending. Wheat & weeds, believers & unbelievers, live side by side in this world. We interact with each other, we grow, work & live in relationship with each other. Into the mix, Jesus issues a radical call to follow Him, even to the cross. It is that call which stirs up so much opposition, in spite of the power of Jesus Words & miracles.
Even though the seed may fall on good soil, that doesn’t mean that life is all good. The evil sons planted by Satan can be so intertwined with believers that to root out the evil would also destroy the child of God. Thus we endure hardship, & we persevere, for the sake of Christ all the while anticipating the harvest, & the eternal glory, that is to come. Difficult as it may be to see, God’s reign in this world is pushing you & me forward to that harvest.
The ongoing presence of sin & evil that shocks & at times shatters our Christians communities is just that: the presence of sin & evil. People who publically confess the Gospel also fight & quarrel with one another, too often with no just cause. Pastors & leaders are seduced by power & reputation which shows them to be great hypocrites.
We easily become disheartened & discouraged. Because of the tension between saint & sinner Lucifer tempts us to protect ourselves by the desire to withdraw from our Lord’s community. Yet the hope remains. The Day is coming. It will be the Son of Man’s Day & His angels will infallibly do the sorting. On that Day the wheat will not be harmed.
The doctrine of Hell is not for “driving” us or scaring us into heaven, but it is a reality all of us will consider one day. We might consider it with thankfulness in that we’re not going there. Or, we might consider it for another reason.
Because of the tension between saints & sinners on the outside, & then the sinful & saintly nature on the inside, it’s important for us to hear the words of St. Paul, “…I consider thatthe sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.”
God’s children also wait with eager longing for that day when all the stress & tension will be permanently removed from our lives, along with sin & suffering & sorrow. Until then, St. Paul also writes, God’s:
“…Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” As Jesus said, “He who has ears, let him hear.” It is important for us to hear Christ’s words of warning, yet it is just as important for us to hear His Words of healing, mercy & forgiveness, “…because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
The sons of the evil one have been planted in our lives by the devil, but the Word of God has been planted in our hearts by God’s Holy Spirit. May we recognize that eternal truth & cling to the promises of our Savior no matter what the struggle is that we face. The Last Day is on its way. Our heavenly Father may seem to be slow, but He never fails. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet