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  • Writer's pictureRev. Gerald (Jerry) Reiter, Emeritus

“Wheat and Weeds”

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Matthew 13:24-30,36-43

Many years ago, I was visiting with a young couple who were both college students. The fellow was studying business, and the girl was studying law. During the conversation, the fellow mentioned an ethics course. I said, “Oh, does your school teach a course in business ethics?” “No,” he said, “that’s her course in law. Business and ethics don’t go together.” “Is that right?” I asked, “I’ve been in business for 20 years and I never knew that!” He said, “Sometimes you have to do things that might not be quite right in order to get ahead.”

I said, “That upsets me as an American. You know, in Russia and China and other communist countries, they have doctors and plumbers, lawyers and farmers, secretaries and truck drivers – every occupation we have except one. And that’s a businessman – an entrepreneur. Because the government decides what will be made, and who will make it, and where and for how much it will be sold. And if the one occupation that our economic system has that theirs doesn’t, requires you to be unethical, well that just doesn’t seem right!”

“Well, what if your boss tells you to do something you know is wrong?” he asked. “How about explaining why you can’t do it – and suggesting an alternative?” I said. “You can’t do that – you have to do what you’re told – you have to do whatever’s necessary to get the job done!”

I said, “Now that upsets me as a Christian. You’ve got one more year of school; decide what you’re going to be – a businessman or a crook. If you’re going to be a businessman, then be a good one. And if you’re going to be a crook, be a good one! Get a nylon stocking to put over your head, get a gun, and hold up banks and trains like Jesse and Butch and Bonnie and Clyde. Don’t mix the two careers by being an unethical businessman!”

And I believe that’s true for anyone, whether you’re a carpenter or a nurse, an engineer or a teacher, a politician or a soldier, or ditch digger. Decide what you’re going to be!

But it isn’t so easy, is it? Like it or not, we live in the world. We’re told to be in the world but not of the world. We read that we who know Christ as Savior are children in the Kingdom of Heaven. But what kind of kingdom is this that we’re living in anyway?

The disciples had the same question, so Jesus told them a parable about His Kingdom. And fortunately for them, and for us, He explained it. Let’s take a look at His explanation and what it means for us.

First of all, Jesus identifies the Sower: “He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.’” Who is the “Son of Man?” Jesus is the “Son of Man.” The “Son of Man” was a title that Jesus used, referring to Himself. In fact, He used it more than any other title for Himself. He used that title because it identified Him as the one who lived among us, the perfect man, the second Adam. And it was also a Messianic title. Daniel called the Messiah the “Son of Man.” The Jewish leaders knew it was a Messianic title, too. Jesus, during His trial before the Sanhedrin said, “From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” And then the Sanhedrin all asked Him, “Are you then the Son of God?” He called Himself the “Son of Man,” and they asked Him if He was the “Son of God.” They knew that the “Son of Man” was a reference to the Messiah. The Sower, then, is Jesus Christ. He’s the farmer sowing the seed, and He’s sowing it in His field.

Secondly, Jesus identifies the field, and He says that the field is the world. The Lord is sowing seed in the world, which is His field. He’s the sovereign King of the Earth. So, the Lord says that He is sowing seed in the world that belongs to Him! He made the world, and He planted Adam and Eve in it. Even though Satan came along and messed it up, the world still belongs to Christ. He created it, and He will one day reclaim it!

Thirdly, the good seed is identified. Jesus said, “The good seed stands for the sons of the Kingdom.” This means that the Lord sows the children of the Kingdom in the world – all over the world. So, we are the children of the Kingdom – the subjects of our Lord Jesus Christ. And He has planted us in His world! This is a picture of the Church in the world. We’re not here by accident – we’ve been planted where the Lord wants us! We are not called to isolate ourselves from the world! We’ve been planted in the world for good reason! We’ve been placed in the world to be matured by the trouble that the world gives to Christians. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.”

We’ve also been placed in the world to influence it – to be a good influence for the weeds. Everybody who is “wheat” now was once a “weed”. We were all “bad seeds” before we were baptized or converted!

The Lord put us in the world to be matured by the pressure that it brings, and to influence the weeds into becoming wheat. That’s why Jesus said to His Father in John 17, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.”

Howard Hendricks tells the story of a friend of his who had just moved, and was very happy about his new neighborhood, “And,” he said, “I have good Christians living on both sides of me!” That’s too bad,” Hendricks said. “What do you mean, ‘That’s too bad’?” “I mean, you don’t have an opportunity to witness your faith to your neighbors. A good Christian like you should have moved between two heathens!”

We’re not supposed to be of the world, but we are supposed to be in the world!

Fourthly, the weeds and the enemy are identified. The weeds are the children of the “evil one” “and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.” Anybody who is not a child of the Kingdom is a child of the evil one. There are only two kinds of people in the world: children of the Kingdom and children of the Devil. If you’re not a child of the King by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, then Jesus says you’re a child of the “evil one.” I didn’t say it – Jesus did!

C.S. Lewis, the author of “Screwtape Letters” and a lot of other great books, wrote, “There is no neutral ground in the universe. Every square inch is claimed by God, and counter claimed by Satan.” “It follows that every person on the face of the Earth serves, worships, witnesses to, and supports the work of either God or Satan. These are the only options.”

We Christians find ourselves involved in a struggle, for both God and Satan want to control our lives. The presence of that struggle shouldn’t upset us – the absence of a struggle should! The struggle indicates that our faith in Christ as Savior and Lord is alive, and that we’re fighting a genuine warfare against the Satanic realm.

Martin Luther suggests that we think of ourselves as a horse, with someone sitting in the saddle to direct us. There are only two riders: God or Satan. The question is: “Who sits in the saddle of my life?”

The Lord sows believers in the world, and Satan oversows his own children in the world. So, the world is inhabited by both subjects of the King and subjects of the enemy, who is the Devil himself. In this parable, Jesus tells us the way things are going to be in the Kingdom. The Judases will be among the disciples. Both exist together, breathe the same air, eat the same food, drive the same streets, live in the same neighborhoods, work at the same factories, go to the same schools, visit the same doctors, enjoy the same recreation sites, live under the same sky, and enjoy the same sun. Both the just and the unjust receive rain in the world because they’ll live together until the end. And that brings us to the fifth identification.

“The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.” Jesus had to say that because the disciples were ready to put the sickle to the weeds. Sometimes we feel like doing the same thing! When we see the wickedness of the world, we can easily say, “God, why don’t you come down and wipe them out?!” In verse 28 of the parable the servants asked the owner, “Do you want us to go and pull (the weeds) up?” They were saying, “We can tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds. Do you want us to pull the weeds out of your field?” But the owner said, “No, because while you’re pulling the weeds, you’re liable to pull out some wheat too.”

I’ll probably be in trouble for telling you this, but once many years ago, when my parents came to visit us, they brought a bunch of plants to put around our house. While Carol was at the grocery store my mother and I planted them, and she told me that in a few weeks we’d have beautiful flowers. Well, a couple of days after my parents left, Carol decided to do a little gardening. Using her best judgment as to which were flowers and which were weeds, she systematically pulled up all the new flowers! 😊

And in our parable, Jesus is simply saying that if we go around trying to judge the world, we’re going to end up condemning Christians because we lack divine insight. God didn’t plant us in His world to judge it – it’s not our job to be pulling out the weeds of the world. God knows there are weeds that need time to become wheat. Our job is to grow next to the weeds and help them to become children of the Kingdom – followers and servants of Christ the King.

The angels will be called upon to be the reapers, not us. We’re to preach against the world’s sins, but we’re also to love the world’s sinners. We are not God’s executioners, but we are His witnesses. We are to be wheat in a world full of weeds.

I remember a young college girl who seemed to be floundering in her religion - searching for something she hadn’t found. I asked her what was wrong with the Christian faith she’d been raised in. She said her dad had told her that Christianity was okay for Sunday, but you can’t be a Christian on Monday morning. She kept searching and finally ended up in a cult of one of the Eastern religions. What a tragedy!

And Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” What does He mean? He means you’d better listen! You’d better pay attention! Everyone needs to look at themselves and ask, “Am I wheat and a child of the Kingdom? Or am I a weed and a child of the enemy?”

If you’re a child of the enemy, then listen. God is merciful and gracious and has given His Son that you might be in His Kingdom. But God’s judgment is inevitable and eternal.

If you’re a child of the Kingdom, then Jesus has a message for you too. You are to be used by God to influence the weeds near you to become wheat. Don’t condemn the world; that’s God’s business. Hat the sin but love the sinner.

May God help us to be wheat in the world and use us to lead weeds to Him for salvation.


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