I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book The Parables Then and Now by Archibald Hunter. In his comments on today’s parable, there’s one quote that has stuck in my mind, he wrote: There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us, to talk about the rest of us. The world looked on in wonder and amazement as the Arab spring rolled out and toppled corrupt presidents and dictators in the Arab speaking world. From Tunisia through Libya to Yemen they fell like dominos. The people who protested on the streets of Cairo were hailed as heroes and liberators: but in the midst of their jubilation, we heard of a female reporter being raped and beaten as she tried to cover the story on the streets. Like our parable for reflection in Matthews’s gospel today, the world is full of bad weeds but so is Christine’s allotment plot in Cambridge at the moment, though that’s outside the scope of our sermon this morning.
A few years ago in America amidst the devastation of hurricane Katrina, heroes were born. The emergency services or first responders as the Americans like to call them and the military rescued people from rooftops of submerged houses and cars, Churches opened their doors and allowed their spaces of worship to be used as shelters, distribution points and meeting places. Well wishers travelled thousands of miles to New Orleans with food and medical assistance for the victims. Yet in the midst of all this, we heard of massive looting by some evil individuals, heartless people with no morals…weeds among wheat.
Rapists among the heroes, looters among helpless victims of natural disasters, child traffickers among those who build orphanages to protect the children of poor third world countries from exploitation, self righteous hypocrites among genuine followers of Christ: weeds among the wheat. Why does God allow the devil to plant bad seeds in his fields of wheat? Evil people, criminals and pathetic people who look on without lifting a finger while evil happens in the communities where they live? Why doesn’t God force everyone to believe and to honour him and one another? Way back in the Garden of Eden why didn’t God hit the delete button and snuff out Adam and Eve the moment they sinned and start all over again? In the parable Jesus tells today, even the servants don’t quite know what to do. Should we pull out the weeds, they ask. Oh aye, I am in total agreement with the servants in this parable. I just want to get rid of all the evil in the world. I’m not sure where to draw the line with this, but there are some obvious people who deserve to be uprooted first: warmongers, terrorists, paedophiles, child traffickers, drug dealers, rapist and thieves, the list is quite long. Oh, and while we are at it, let’s get rid of all the religious hypocrites as well. But Jesus quickly cautions us: No, no, no, you’ll uproot the wheat as well if you uproot the weeds. The weed Jesus is talking about here is the darnel grass also known as tare grass commonly found in most Asian, Europeans and Middle East countries. The seeds can be poisonous and in its early stages it’s quite difficult to differentiate it from wheat. Its only when it starts to ripen that you can tell it apart.
Jesus identified the fact that we have an enemy who works against God’s kingdom and purposes. We co-exist with all kinds of evil people and to make hasty and unfounded judgments about them and try to uproot them would damage us as well. The reason for this is that we are tainted with sin just as much and as such we are hardly in a position to judge without first taking the log out of our own eyes[Mathew 7:5] Yes indeed, it hardly becomes any of us, to talk about the rest of us. How do we know who is righteous and who isn’t? Our flawed judgment is likely to pull up the wheat with the weeds. Besides, all of us deserve to be uprooted and thrown into the fire anyway if we take the Apostle Paul seriously in his letter to the Romans when he says: For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. But in God’s grace He allows both the wheat and weed to grow together until the harvest. Then, as he says: I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn [Mathew 13:30]. This burning of the weeds gives a whole new slant on smoking weed. Of course the lesson of this parable is not to say that God wants to burn the weeds meaning those who don’t know Christ, oh no! The intention of the parable is to show that God will allow plenty of time before He judges the world. The Lord isn’t really being slow about His promise as some people might be tempted to think; absolutely not! He is simply exercising patience for our sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. It seems even weeds have a chance to be transformed: now that’s the kind of miracle Christine needs in her allotment! Jesus is saying that the only hope for an evil world is to be found in a Holy God and so his advice to us is: Let the wheat and weeds both grow together. Leave judgement to God for he knows all and sees all….ours is simply to obey. Jesus most beloved disciple, St John captures this eternal truth in this famous verse: God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone- both wheat and weed who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life[John 3:16]. Let him who has ears hear- Amen.