“God’s Prerogative”

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

July 19, 2020

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

Rush United Methodist Church

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

Prayer.

I look out at my brown, arid, un-watered lawn,

Speckled like a mine field with

Iron weeds, dandelions, and unknown variants of thistles.

It almost appears that the Lord has given me divine insight into

Matthew’s Gospel parable of the Wheat and the Weeds.

Sometimes a parable is just a parable,

But not today.

Jesus is planting seeds today, that,

For the observant,

Results in abundant harvest,

Spanning time, culture, and place,

Generation, after generation, after generation.

A few thoughts.

This parable of Jesus, and its explanation,

Is only found in the Gospel of Matthew.

Unlike most other narratives of Jesus and his teachings,

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds

Isn’t paralleled in Mark, Luke, or John.  

Matthew remembers and records this parable of Jesus

Because of their unique setting, circumstances, and audience.

The world’s superpower occupation government, Rome,

Had crushed the Jewish uprising a decade or two prior to its writing,

Hurling the few survivors to every corner of the world

In what is known as the diaspora.

In Matthew’s setting,

The tax thirsty, violent, oppressive occupation of Rome

Were the weeds sown by a cosmic enemy.

The destroyed Temple-centric Judaism further confirmed for Matthew

That corrupt, greedy, power thirsty organized religion

Were also weeds sown by an enemy sowing evil.

Matthew’s primary audience was the first Century Church;

One or two generations removed from the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

They eagerly anticipated the promised return of Jesus,

Which, they believed, as we do today, when Christ returns

It would usher in a time of Divine judgment.

Divine judgment is a unique characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew.

If God’s judgment makes you uncomfortable,

Hold on to your horse,

Because this bronco of Gospel judgment is going to give you a ride for your money

Right up through November.

Matthew today surveys the landscape,

Sees the weeds, Rome and organized religion, sown by the enemy, who Jesus names, “the devil”. (13:39)

At the same time, he sees the Church as a field of grain,

A beautiful field of grain,

Newly sown by the hand of a benevolent, responsible Creator.

The sower sows with an expectation of harvest.

The first gem we find today

Is this enduring truth for all disciples of Jesus:

That you and I have been created, planted, and nurtured by our Creator,

Who expects results out of us,

Who expects us to yield a harvest of grain and seed.

In my mind’s eye, and

In the tradition of Matthew’s Gospel,

I can imagine my future self

Standing before the Lord,

The God who created me,

Being asked the question, “How did you do?”

Judgment is like two farmers at the Grange comparing yields of their harvest.

“How did you do?”

It is the Lord’s prerogative to judge,

To ask of every Christian for accountability for our actions.

Think about it.

God doesn’t hold us accountable for the quantity of wealth we accumulate.

God does hold us accountable for how we’ve put that wealth to use to maximize the harvest.

Think about God’s judgment.

God doesn’t hold us accountable for our achievements, titles, degrees, or awards.

God does hold us accountable for how we’ve used our talent and experience to maximize the harvest.

God’s judgment isn’t a thumbs up or thumbs down

Effort to decide eternal disposition,

Between a molten hell or celestial heaven.

God’s judgment is being held accountable

For our time, talent, and treasures

To maximize the Lord’s harvest.

“How are you doing?”

Newly sprouted, immature grain, like young Christians, are vulnerable.

Roots aren’t established; they aren’t mature.

Better not tear up the newly planted field of grain to go after the weeds,

Jesus teaches.

Jesus warns of misleading new Christians in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew:

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

(18:6)

Focus every effort on growing the grain,

Maximizing the harvest.

Allowing the weeds to grow among us

Is the only way we are assured of

Our survival, ability to grow, and future ability to provide a harvest.

Allowing weeds sown by the enemy to grow

Is a courageous act of faith.

Yes, we live in a world where evil is alive and mortally dangerous.

Let none of us be naïve.

Yet, we believe to the depth of our marrow,

That the Lord is our final arbitrator.

Weeds that do not bear fruit or harvest,

The Lord will judge worthy of fire.

Trust in the Lord’s judgment.

Make way for the angels to cull the weeds,

Gather them up, and

Set them on fire.

Weeds are worthy only of destruction,

Nothing more, nothing less.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth? So be it.

God’s prerogative is to judge that which has been planted,

To hold us accountable for the harvest.

I’m not responsible for judgment; God is.

This frees me to focus on what is important:

Loving God, loving neighbors, inviting the world into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Being judgmental of another’s faith, spiritual development, or effectiveness

Is too heavy a burden to bear.

Drop that millstone.

Leave it up to God.

I know I struggle keeping my judgment in check,

Biting my lip and sitting on my hands.

How are you doing?

…..

Lastly, a question I’ve been mulling over a lot this week:

Does the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds give us a pass on confronting evil?

Jesus is pretty clear that we are to leave the weeds alone.

I’m not searching for a pity opinion that preaches well.

I’m searching for an observation that squares itself with the rest of the Gospel and Scripture.

The Apostle Paul ran up against this same question …

… are Christians to confront the evil of this world, sown by the devil?

Paul outlines a standard for Christian living and engagement

In his letter to the church in Rome:

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:9-21

Instead of judgment and condemnation

Christians are called to love

Until evil is destroyed,

Until evil is no more.

Love and make room for the wrath of God.

I commend to you, beloved, Romans 12:9-21.

Make it the focus of your prayers and devotions this coming week.

….

I love the fact that God holds me accountable.

I’m expected to do something about the faith that I’ve been given.

It’s a challenge I readily accept,

A goal I strive to achieve.

Christian faith expects each of us to speak and act with love and

To lead the world to Jesus.

The Lord sets the bar of expectation extremely high and

Holds every Christian accountable.

How are you doing?

Accountable faith is confirmation of the fact that

God’s grace may be free, but it isn’t cheap.

God’s grace,

Especially when held in the context of Divine judgment,

Is paid for by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

The price of God’s grace is the life of Jesus.

God’s grace,

When each of us comes before the Lord,

Is played out in mercy by our Divine Judge.

This is mercy: Your sins are forgiven by the blood of Christ.

This is mercy: Your salvation is assured because Jesus rose from the dead.

Being held accountable to our merciful God

Is a small price to pay for such a loving gift of amazing grace.

Amen.

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