the wheat and the weeds: the sermon I wrote for today
About a month or so ago, I began to notice some weeds growing in my backyard. Although
I knew I had to do something about them, I waited to take some action. I knew the day was
coming that I would have to pull out my gallon sprayer of Roundup, cover my face, put on my
gloves and spray the entire 7 feet of dirt that makes up our back yard.
Finally, the day came. I suited up, got the sprayer and began to spray everything green that
wasn’t in a pot. I sprayed every square inch of open area. As I came around toward the outer
wall of the house, I ended up spraying before I looked, and hit a tomato plant. A day later, along
with all of the weeds, the plant began to die.
In the Gospel portion for today, Jesus tells us about the Judgment Day through a parable about
a field of weeds and wheat. He also explains the parable to the disciples.
We know who the landowner is, the enemy is, and even who the servants are.
The fire is hell, and the Storage barn is heaven. The looming question in the back of our minds is “are we the wheat or the weeds?” And we must keep in mind that the wheat comes from “good seed”. This means the weeds come from “bad seed”.
The first time we read about a place where plants grow is in in the book of Genesis. Adam
and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. As the story goes, the serpent comes and tempts Eve.
She convinced Adam to eat the fruit of a tree God told them not to eat from. Once God found
out about it, He curses the serpent, the woman, and the ground (which would have thorns and
thistles). God pronounces judgment for Adam’s sin, all people will die (Romans 5:12,
But, in the midst of these curses, God gives a promise of ultimate judgment of the serpent by a seed of the woman. This judgment is a gospel promise to us. He tells the serpent in Genesis
”And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
From now on, there will be hostility or hatred between the two seeds. Sometimes, they grew up in the same family. The wheat and weed show up in the next chapter of Genesis, where the Bible tells us about Cain and Abel. As we read on, we come across Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his
brothers, Moses and Pharoah, and eventually Jesus and the religious leaders of His day.
In fact, the book of Matthew is full of the conflicts between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day. This would certainly comfort those Christians in the early church who were meeting up with opposition from religious leaders in the cities they lived in. And so, the good seed continued to grow next to the bad seed.
Of course You probably have heard the phrase “bad seed” before. It usually refers to someone
who behaves badly. They are born to “good parents” but end up in trouble for the bad things
they do. They can be found doing time in the principal’s office or in a “time out corner” at home.
Over time, if they are left to continue their pattern, they may end up “doing time” in prison
because they have never changed. Once this happens, we call them unredeemable: we give
up on them.
Time and time again, the bad seed grows up with the good, attempting to dominate, kill or
destroy the good. Because if the bad seed kills the good, the serpent wins.
For us this may seem like some distant cosmic struggle. We understand what a bad seed like
Cain looks like. He’s mean, dangerous, and hateful. He’s the guy who ends up in jail, and even
his own family wants it that way. He’s a mistake of genetics. He’s the child who we don’t talk
about. We’re ashamed of him.
We would rather talk about the good child who has achieved so much, lived in obedience and
respect with his parents and has “turned out so well”. He’s the one we’re proud of. We might
say, “It’s hard to imagine that he came from the same parents as the other brother”.
When Jesus was talking about wheat and weeds, His audience included people from many
different walks of life and the religious leaders of the day. These leaders might have
considered themselves the “good seed” since they were following God’s law to the letter.
Certainly, they lived according to God’s commands and would be rewarded for their efforts.
As a result of all of their Law-keeping, and their sinful self-righteousness, they became judgmental.
They didn’t see that their drive to make themselves right before God, and the demand that their
fellow Jews do the same, burdened the people. People who already felt defeated by the occupation of
The Pharisees believed their “Law-keeping” would bring back a time of God’s favor to Israel. They were going to “save themselves”. But this adherence to rules to manipulate God made them compassionless towards others. Jesus later address a Pharisee with these words in Matthew chapter 22, 37‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38“This is the great and foremost commandment. 39“The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ 40“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Christ was saying that their law-keeping was actually the rejection of God in favor of their own self-righteousness. Fallen Adam is brought back to life in the form of a religious zealot.
We can be judgmental at times, too. We read about people in the paper or watch them on t.v., and think to ourselves, what an idiot! Why are they doing that? Or we talk to our spouse judgmentally, criticizing them when they’ve had a hard enough day already. Or maybe we sit in judgment of other people whose kids don’t seem to be behaving on a particular day, assuming it’s because they’re bad parents.
It’s easy to believe that “we’re right and they’re wrong”. That we’re somehow objective. The truth is that you and I can see other people’s sin, but are often blind to our own. But it is for this reason that God has given the Law, so that we could rightly see ourselves in light of God’s Holy Perfection.
And this Holy God judges judgment. If you ever want to know which is worse, gross sin or judgment, read 1 Corinthians were there is gross sin, and compare it to Galatians, where Paul tears apart the Judaisers.
Christ has some very direct words for the Pharisees, as well. Instead of bringing back a time of God’s favor, the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were piling up evidence at a trial where they would be judged, “for our God is an all-consuming fire”.
They felt that they didn’t need Jesus. They might have said to themselves, “God, I’ve done everything I was supposed to do. Why aren’t you holding up your part of the bargain? I’ve been a good, obedient child. Why don’t you rescue us?”
But this was a patent denial of God. He is the one who declared at the beginning of the Ten Commandments, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” He alone is the saving God, He alone is the savior. And God will not share His Glory with anyone.
Jesus is the perfectly obedient child who has sacrificed His life for ours. And if He has not spared His own life for us, will He not listen to us when we face these trials of life?
Or, we might find ourselves in a second category: We tried all the religious stuff. We tried to live morally good lives, but things still haven’t gone the way we wanted or needed. Instead of beautiful flowers, we have a pile of manure.
Maybe your retirement plan has gone down the drain. Maybe your health is failing. Maybe you can’t provide for your family. Or perhaps you beat yourself up for real or imaginary sins that happened in the past, and the guilt is eating you alive..
But how can weedy sinners like you and I become wheat? How can a dandelion seed bear
roses? If we all are born of the seed of Adam, how can we stand before the judgment throne?
We realize that we have failed at reaching the goal of saving our
situations. We come to understand that righteousness is much more than attendance and effort.
It is the requirement to live a perfect, sinless life. And we can’t call on purgatory to save us,
either. Christ leaves no room for that in the parable.
The hope of being good is met with the Law of God which states, “Be holy for I am holy”. This is not a request, but a requirement. God demands perfect obedience. In light of this, we wilt in hopelessness and despair.
Many of the people gathered around Jesus to hear the answers. They were crushed under
the weight of the religious requirements. They were occupied by a cruel foreign
country. They were poor and lacked hope. They were the powerless people of society. Some were sick. They were people who felt the weight of judgment in their current situations.
They needed someone sympathetic to their plight to save them. And He does. The divine gardener who created Eden was there speaking to them
He is the seed that God was speaking of in Genesis 3:15. He is the sower from the parable before this one. He is the living water who gives us to drink. He is the miraculous bread in the desert who feeds us at His table. He was the only good seed ever to be born
He suffered for our sake. The serpent spoke into men’s ears saying “crucify, crucify”. He was executed on a cross outside of Jerusalem. He was buried like a seed in a garden tomb. His resurrection is the sprouting of new eternal life.
Jesus Christ has applied this death and resurrection to us, too. The wrath that we deserved God the Father has poured out on His only Son (“it pleased the Father to crush Him” Our judgment day has already past because His judgment day was the only one we would face as we we were buried with Christ in our baptism.
And now, when we sin, we can confess our sins, “And God who is faithful and Just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”He promise to be with us on that great day, “Lo, I am with you always to the end of the age”
He has ended the reign of the devil, death and sin through his death and resurrection. Unlike Adam, Christ’s work goes both forward and backward in time. This Jesus is the eternal firstfruit who justifies the ungodly. He has redeemed the unredeemable. We can now loudly proclaim, “Our God is a Justifying God”
To Him be the Glory forever and ever,