A Reality Show
This text is a reality show, not in the sense of a reality TV show but a show of reality. You don't, however, get the full picture apart from the five verses left out of the insert. These contain parables that compare the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed and yeast and the astounding truth that parables are all non-disciples get. One of the missing verses reads, Jesus "did not say anything to them without using a parable."
The reality shown in our text to non-disciples, to those outside the Church, is that the kingdom of heaven really is what they are seeing right now. The King of the Kingdom apparently is doing nothing to stop weeds from being sown overtop His wheat field. See how bizarre this is? When the servants ask their Lord incredulously, "Lord, surely you sowed good seed in your field, so where did the weeds come from," He knows right away where they came from: "An enemy did this." Yet, the Lord preaching the kingdom of heaven has come to earth does nothing to stop it being polluted, infected, infested with good for nothing weeds!
What farmer would be so careless? For that matter, what weekend gardener would be? Haven't you ever sown grass seed in your yard? You were real careful not to put that seed in your garden because that would be as destructive as any weed. Yet the King of heaven isn't as watchful as you? Look around you pedophile priests, preachers with prostitutes, and licentious Lutherans are regularly exposed as being in the same field as the sons of the kingdom.
You know what the proper thing to do with weeds is? Pull them up. That's what the servants propose to the Lord and the Greek shows that this is what they expect Him to do. After the Lord tells them an enemy did this, they say to Him [not ask], "Therefore [which is left out of the insert] You want us to go and pull them up." Any gardener that won't pull up weeds has no claim to that name or is just plain foolish.
But this is how the King of heaven explains His ministry to outsiders. They see His kingdom, as we sing, "by schism rent asunder by heresy distressed." They hear on NPR's "Morning Edition" this Tuesday "Christians" debating whether Adam and Eve were real people, and the King of Heaven doesn't strike down the unbeliever posing as a Christian who says they weren't. O the offense the King of heaven puts in the face of His hearers by saying, "Don't pull up the weeds let them grow together with the wheat." So the King of all heaven does what no earthly farmer or gardener would do. He allows unfaithful, unchristian, unbelief to grow undisturbed in His field and does nothing.
That's the reality the Lord shows to those outside of the Church, and then He piles on even more reasons, more excuses for unbelief to reject Him and His kingdom. You are not studying your Bibles closely enough if you don't see that if a person wanted to be saved by the Law, Jesus piled up Laws on them. If a person was offended by Jesus' person or work, Jesus only made Himself even more offensive to them. And when reason was offended by what Jesus did or said, He became even more unreasonable.
Again you miss this when you skip from verse 30 to 36. For in verses 31-33, Jesus tells the outsiders the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast which emphasize the littleness and the hiddenness of His kingdom now. To those who were always asking for wonders and signs, Jesus confounded them by saying the Kingdom of Heaven now was little and hidden. And what you have yet to realize is that their now is our now.
Contrary to "Onward Christian Soldiers" the Church doesn't move like a mighty army. We still don't see with these eyes a great tree where the birds of the air can find shelter. We still don't see with these eyes a thoroughly leavened bunch of dough. And we don't see Jesus reaching down with a Green Giant like hand to weed His field. Influential "Christians" publicly state they are Christian homosexuals, Christian abortionists, Christian evolutionists, Christians who deny the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection. Whole "Christian" churches believe, teach, and profess these things, and the King of heaven could weed them all out at once, yet He does nothing.
This is the only reality those outside the Church get to see. Jesus doesn't show them the reality at the end of the ages. He doesn't show them that beginnings aren't what count but endings are. What is happening now is not as important as what happens then. But there is more here than the lesson that the weeds are left for the sake of the wheat; those outside got that much, and there's even more here than it's not till the end of the ages that the King finally will sort everything out. There are lessons for now based on the reality those outside the church can see and can't see.
The first reality Jesus shows us is that planting churches based on personal holiness, repentance, or appeals for intense believing apparently work now. Read the emerging churches websites of any denomination or non-denomination and you will find the same thing. They're a church who takes the Bible's admonition to be holy, to repent, or to believe seriously. But this is really pulling up wheat with the weeds. When the Lord tells His servants don't pull up the weeds, He doesn't say as the insert translates "you may root up the wheat," but as RSV and the NKJV translate "you will root up the wheat." No "may" about it.
Haven't you ever heard preaching like that? Hearing holy living, repenting, or believing emphasized, you conclude, "It ain't me." All my righteousness is as filthy rags as Isaiah says. And my repenting is no better than St. Paul's who said the bad that he doesn't want to do is what he ended up doing. And as for my believing it never gets beyond the man in John who said he believed but still needed help with unbelief. Therefore, I must be a weed not wheat.
The Church is not planted by subjective holiness, repentance, or faith but by objective Gospel, objective means of grace that convey the Gospel. Sons of the Kingdom are produced by the King of Kings. Your personal holiness is filthy rags, but God the Father clothed His only Son in those rags and put His holy ones over you in your Baptism and on you by my Absolution. Your repentance is not good enough to pay for even one of your sins, but Jesus, after living a life with absolutely nothing to repent of, died for your sins, and that paid for not only your sins but a whole world's worth.
Your believing is always feeble, always fragile, but Jesus' is perfect. He believes your sins are paid for; He believes that God threw your sins behind His back as Isaiah says, and He believes they have sunk to the bottom of the ocean never to be seen by you or remembered by God as Micah says. So, as Luther said, rather than looking inside of yourself for a frail, feeble looking thing called faith, you see in your heart Jesus who promises He is there through your Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
But there's more than Gospel reality here; there's Law too. Jesus shows those inside the church that being left alone is not the same as being forgiven. Both weeds and wheat are left alone to grow for now but their ends are very different. Because the judging hand of God hasn't reached down and pulled you out of His field doesn't mean He's okay with you defending, excusing, or accepting your sins or sinfulness. Because you are growing and even flourishing in God's field doesn't mean you won't be weeded out at the end of the ages and thrown into hell's fiery furnace.
Only sons of the Kingdom are safe and will be saved. They don't say, "I am a thief, but I'm still a Christian." They don't say, "I'm an adulterer, but I'm still a Christian." They don't say, "I don't believe all of God's words, but I'm still a Christian." But neither do they claim their holiness, repentance, or faith is enough to gain them heaven. No only the holy life and innocent death of Jesus that comes to them in His Body and Blood poured on their bodies, preached into their ears, and put into their mouths gives them heaven.
Finally, Jesus shows those inside the Church that they aren't going crazy now. Evil is still growing; it's not waning. Jesus never said that this present age was anything but evil. Jesus shows us that evil grows now right up till the very end of the ages. Not only does Jesus tell us not to expect a rose garden; not only does Jesus tell us roses don't grow on stalks of clover; He tells us there are weeds in the wheat.
Jesus tells us this so we won't despair when we see the weeds, the evil growing and flourishing. This isn't to surprise us. Our King told us this would be the case right up till the end of the ages. Then the King will remove the sons of the evil one as easily as you do weeds after a nice rain. At the end of the ages it will be as clear to the angels doing the harvesting who is a son of the kingdom and who is a son of the evil one as thistles are to you in your lawn. And do note this. In the explanation to this parable, Jesus doesn't depict the sons of the kingdom being harvested. No at the end of the ages Jesus sends out angels only to weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.
The righteous aren't picked, gathered, or harvested. They are shown as shining like the sun safe in the kingdom of their Father. You see; this is reality. The weeds, the sons of the evil one, though they look impressive, strong, invincible aren't part of God's eternal reality. They are meant to be removed, and will be at the end of the ages. Furthermore, the only reason the weed aren't removed right now is for the sake of the wheat at the end of the ages. So the reality we see now that is offensive to so many serves a reality even more real because it's eternal. He who has ears let him hear this with joyful understanding. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost (20110814); Matthew 13: 24-30