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“Good Seed, Weeds, and Your Ultimate Destiny”

July 2, 2017 Matthew 13:24-30,36-43


It’s now July, and full-on summer: a wonderful time to be out in the fields and gardens, amongst green growing things. Surprising things can happen in gardens. Here’s something I doubt you’ve experienced out in YOUR field or garden...

      Lauritz Melchoir, the great Wagnerian tenor, was sitting in the garden of his boarding school in Munich, practicing a song. He sang the line, "Come to me, my love, on the wings of light." At that exact moment, a woman literally dropped out of the sky and landed at his feet. Her name was Maria Hacker. She was a Bavarian actress who had been doing a stunt for a movie thriller. Part of her act was to parachute from a plane. The winds had changed and she landed far from her mark. Instead she landed in the garden of the music school. The couple decided this was more than coincidence; in a short time they were married!

      That’s not your usual garden occurrence, is it?! I usually spend several periods a week out in our garden, but it’s not waiting for actresses to drop out of the sky. I enjoy the beauty of the perennial flowers in our garden. But to be honest, that’s not the main reason I’m there. I’m out there to get some exercise by doing some weeding. It’s relatively easy to hoe the weeds that are in between the perennials. What’s trickier to deal with though are the weeds that grow right in amongst the flowers. In two places in particular, about the best I can do is to pull out the tops of the twitchgrass from amongst the daylilies and the ornamental sage, because to really root it out thoroughly would also wreck the flowers the weeds are in amongst.

      In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable in which a man’s enemy pulls a vicious prank, sowing weed seeds amongst a man’s wheat crop. The weeds are likely bearded darnel, which looks very similar to wheat and can only be distinguished when it’s mature, because the kernels are black. Mt 13:28f “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 root up the wheat with them.’”

      The field that started off so fine, full of good seed, was now a mess. There are several mysteries in this parable. We’re not told who the enemy was – we never find out; he or she never seems to be caught, or be punished. We’re not told what prompted the enemy to do this, whether it was some act of revenge or just to be mean, perhaps trying to gain some market advantage. The focus is on the difficulty of the outcome of the vandalism: the messy field. The impossibility of any quick solution. The helplessness of the landowner to do a single thing about it: he’s stuck. It’s an ugly situation that he just can’t fix.

      Isn’t that just like life? In many respects, our present state of society is a mess. Evil is ubiquitous, present throughout what started off as God’s very good creation. There are of course the more obvious cases of evil that stand out prominently. This past Monday, former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 25 years for the murder of eight former patients. The judge described her as “the shadow of death passing over them”.

      Most people would agree that what Wettlaufer did – killing elderly patients by injecting them with insulin – was outright evil. But we don’t have to go too far to venture into weedy areas where things are less clear-cut. Physician-assisted suicide is now legal in Canada: something that was completely against the law (and the Hippocratic Oath) until recently. Now physicians in Ontario are appealing the requirement they face in this jurisdiction to make an effective referral when a patient requests this procedure. Shouldn’t doctors whose consciences find killing patients wrong have the right not to participate in any form?

      Another example of the complexity of evil is the whole immigration issue. This weekend many places are flying the Canada-150 flag, celebrating our cultural diversity. Yet on social media there are grumblings about the federal government’s determination to welcome so many Syrian refugees. But wait – just exactly who is it that’s complaining? Most Canadians are themselves imports from various other countries, if you just go back far enough. My father’s folks got off the boat from Scotland in 1821. Where would we be if the aboriginal peoples had the same attitude towards immigrants as some of us have today? To the native people, this whole “Canada 150" idea is ironic. We need to acknowledge that racist thoughts can run through our hearts: somehow these evil notions, often unfounded and based on ignorance, have been sown by the enemy, and bear bad fruit.


Let’s park a little longer on this mystery of who the enemy is that sows the dastardly weeds. In vv37 on, alone in the house with His disciples, Jesus offers a one-to-one correspondence interpreting who the various players in his parable actually represent. Vv37-39A “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom.The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.” Evil ultimately stems back to evil forces around us: before Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, there was already a serpent, ready to pop some questions that would draw them away from God. Paul describes the forces warring against our good in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Contrary to a purely scientific naturalistic worldview, there ARE malevolent spiritual forces out there, eager to cause havoc and prompt humans to curse God.

      But, lest we be too quick to pin all blame on Satan and his demonic allies, let’s confess that our own actions can be pretty “weedy” at times. Are we ever unwittingly accomplices to Satan’s schemes? Do we always sow good seed, positive influences, helpful words, 100% of the time? What are some things that make Satan so diabolical, that set him apart as the ultimate enemy?

      He is a liar: that’s his native language (Jn 8:44). He is an accuser (Rev 12:10). In an oracle about the King of Tyre that has overtones pointing back to Satan in the Garden of Eden, the prophet Ezekiel declares in Ezek 28:2: "Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: "‘In the pride of your heart you say, "I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas." But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god.” Here we see pride, arrogance, presumption as root characteristics of the enemy. The serpent’s opening line to Eve in Genesis 3:1 shows he doubts God’s word – “Did God really say...?” And at the core of the first human temptation is a discontentment, an envy, an insatiable drive to compete and grasp in order to be ranked as high as and ‘like’ God: Gen 3:5 “You will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

      Am *I* the enemy? Well, stop and consider – am I ever a liar, telling little fibs? Do I ever accuse or slander others? Am I ever proud or arrogant? Do I ever doubt God’s word? And do I want to play God at least in my own life, be in control, call the shots free of any accountability? That sounds just like Satan!

      Walt Kelly of the comic strip Pogo on the first Earth Day back in April 22 1970 showed the little ‘possum with a burlap bag in one hand and pointy litter pick-up stick in the other, facing a sea of litter strewn over his swamp homeland. The caption is the now-famous line, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

      Truthfully, we have all been enemies of God at one time. Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...” We’re all guilty. We’ve all given God the finger, despising His glory. Romans 1:21-23,25 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images...They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator...”

      Because of the fall, in our Adamic nature, we are born with an innate wilfulness to turn away from God, to be His enemies. Rom 5:10 “...we were God’s enemies...” Col 1:21 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” Php 3:18f “...many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.Their mind is on earthly things.” And James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

      Small wonder we harvest so much grief and pain and relational trouble in our lives: like that enemy in Jesus’ parable, we too have been sowing weed seeds. Thoughts and actions that sprouted rebellion and discontent and wove themselves into a living hedge that walled us off from God.

      Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a Russian survivor of the Soviet prison camps. In The Gulag Archipelago he wrote of our complicity in this network of evil that pervades daily life, saying: “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”


What to do about this mess that enmeshes us? Jesus warns against any initiative we might have to form our own little spiritual vigilante groups and go around eliminating just what strikes us as evil in our own power, given our various ‘blind spots’ and how easy it is to become judgmental and hypocritical. Matthew 13:28B-30A - “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 root up the wheat with them.’”

      Paul directs the early church in 1Cor 4:5 - “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.At that time each will receive his praise from God.” The Lord has not authorized His followers to jump to conclusions and start doing His judging work ahead of time.

      The landowner instead proposes a different kind of solution: Mt 13:30B “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.”

      In the interpretation of this parable, Jesus pulls back the curtain in a remarkable way on what will happen at the end of time when He returns as sovereign almighty Judge. Vv40-43 “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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

      Note two things: the Grief of the Godless, and the Glory of the Redeemed. First, the GRIEF OF THE GODLESS. The ‘sons of the evil one’ (38), ‘all who do evil’ (41), will be thrown into a ‘fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth’. This isn’t the only passage in which Jesus declared the torments of hell.(Mk 9:43ff; Lk 16:23f) Matthew 25:41 has “eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels”. John the Baptist predicts the Messiah will (Matt.3:12) “burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire”. Rev 21:8 “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars— their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

      You DON’T wanna go there!

      So – what’s the alternative? How does one stop being a ‘son of the evil one’ and instead become ‘sons of the kingdom’ (v38), ‘righteous’ (v43)? God has made a way!

      Rom 5:8-10 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified [put ‘right’ with God] by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

      Jesus suffering and dying on the cross paid the price for our sins, grievous and many as they were, to be forgiven. When we accept and believe what God has done on our behalf, Jesus’ own righteousness becomes applied to us, covering our guilt, reconciling or reconnecting us to His holy Heavenly Father.

      God has a much happier ultimate destiny planned for the ‘sons of the kingdom’, those who receive His precious gift of forgiveness. They won’t burn in torment, weeping, gnashing their teeth; instead v43, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” That little old Christian sister in the nursing home, with a bit of drool on her chin, curled up on her bed in the fetal position, will be transformed with a new radiant spiritual body so glorious that, were you to see her in it now, you might be tempted to fall down and worship her!

      Daniel way back at the time of the Babylonian exile prophesied in Daniel 12:3, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Have you looked up at night lately into the sky and seen the beauty of the stars as they shine? The gorgeous red and blue of the Betelgeuse and Rigel at either end of the Orion constellation (look for the 3 stars in a line in his belt first)? Do you ever pinch yourself and say, “Someday I’m gonna shine like that – God’s promised me that in His word!”?

      Paul talked about our future in eternity this way, quoting Isaiah (64:4) - 1Cor 2:9 “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

      Jesus ends this section of His teaching with the words, Mt 13:43B “He who has ears, let him hear.” Not everybody’s going to pick up on this. Are you deaf? HEAR what God would say to you this morning: stop being a weed, that useless black-kerneled darnel that’s just a waste of good soil and air and water and sunshine. REPENT; open your ears. Turn to God before it’s too late – before you suddenly see the angelic harvesters on the horizon. 2Thess 1:7-9 “...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”


On this Canada Day weekend, I’d like to close with the example of a famous Canadian whose Christian faith influenced heavily her input into society. Nellie McClung was born on a small farm near Owen Sound in 1873. That was back before women had the right to vote. At 15, she was a country schoolteacher; she met her future mother-in-law, the wife of a Methodist minister, whose evangelical passion led her to be dedicated to the causes of temperance and women’s suffrage. She instigated Nellie’s writing career and public speaking career: Nellie read from her novel at an event for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Nellie later used her writing to advance feminist activism and social transformation. She saw shaping her readers’ imaginations as a religious duty.

      By 1914, McClung was giving speeches around the country in support of suffrage and temperance. In December that year, she became part of the Famous Five who brought the Persons Case to the British Privy Council in 1929 in which women were declared legally persons in Canada. (Can I get an ‘amen’?!) She served in a provincial legislature 1921-26, was the first female member of the CBC Board of Governors, and in 1938 was appointed to the Canadian delegation to the League of Nations (precursor of the United Nations).

      A couple of quotes in which her practical faith is evident... She believed God wishes our ‘loving service, freely given.’ She elaborates in her book My Religion, “It is not, ‘Chant my praises’; ‘Defend my theories’; ‘Kill my enemies.’ No, no – but a greater, better, lovelier task: ‘Feed my lambs.’”

      A forthright Christian, McClung held that [quote] “Christ was a true democrat. He made no discrimination between men and women. They were all human beings to Him, with souls to save and lives to live, and He applied to men and women the same rule of conduct.” [end quote] (source: Canada - Portraits of Faith, ed.Michael D.Clarke)

      Jesus knows YOU have a soul to save and a life to live. He is a fair judge: that’s not our job, to sort out evil’s weedy mess. Trust Him and become part of His kingdom today, so your life (like McClung’s) may yield a good harvest. Let’s pray.