If you weren’t convinced last week, you will be today. Jesus would not make a good farmer. Last week we heard that the sower lets seed fall on all kinds of soil. What a waste. This week we hear that Jesus would allow weeds and wheat to grow together…not separating them until harvest…lest the weeds uproot the wheat too.
No farmer or gardener would let weeds grow with what they planted; first the weeds would either choke the plant and take its nutrients…or second, even worse, the weeds would spread the bad seed and make it even harder the next year. Have you ever heard of such a foolhardy farmer?
Jesus skips past the agronomy to make theology. And while he was a better carpenter than farmer, we can rest assured that he was an even better Messiah. We could even say that he wrote the book on that. (pause)
We remember the setting for this story, Jesus is sitting in a boat in the middle of a lake, surrounded by a sea of people. Jesus has turned his boat into a pulpit to address the people who wished to know more about the kingdom of heaven. And to talk about heaven, Jesus talks about things from earth, perhaps a hint for us all.
The Kingdom of heaven is like 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.
The sower sows good seed into his field.
I wonder if this story doesn’t harken back to another story, and this field to a garden, one where “God made humankind, male and female he created them, in the image of God he created them, and saw that it was very good.”
As we know from that original story, even good seed cannot keep away bad apples. Sin enters like weeds among wheat. Evil is sown amongst what was created good. (pause)
But notice that the presence of evil isn’t Jesus’ concern. After all, evil has no power. There is no threat to the seeds from the beginning to the end of this story. No hard ground where birds snatch away seed…no shallow ground where seeds take no root…no ground that is choked by thorns. From start to finish, the seed does not face peril. The seed grows up and bears grain even though the surrounding weeds threaten to choke the wheat, the wheat emerges.
Jesus isn’t concerned about the presence of evil. Jesus is more concerned about the actions his servants will take in response to evil, hastily deciding what is wheat and what is a weed. What is good and what is bad. (pause)
If you know your weeds, the ones Jesus talks about is officially:
(LO-lee-um tem-yoo-LEN-tum) Lolium temulentum. Darnel is its common name. Fake wheat is its nickname. It is a plant that is “related to wheat, looks like wheat, hides out in wheat, but is poisonous in the end, causing blindness and even death if too many of its small black seeds turn up in the bread dough.” (BBT)
This fake wheat is what was sown and no farmer worth his weight in hay would stand to let it grow. But I reckon that this story isn’t about farming, but a garden…a garden that was sown by God with good seed where life was sustained until an enemy came along and planted bad seed, sprouting doubt and misplaced faith. Did God really say? (pause)
I reckon Jesus is going all the way with this story and telling all who have ears to hear that it is he who will once and for all uproot evil. He will reverse the effects of the apple tree by hanging upon one, taking all sin, death, shame and evil into himself, into the grave and leaving it there. (pause)
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…And the servants of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Shall we go and gather the weeds?” 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. Then the angels will collect the weeds, bind them into bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Let us notice that the story does not say that the kingdom of heaven is like the barn the wheat is gathered into, safe and secure from all alarms. Though it is certainly where we are heading and we could certainly conclude that the barn is a place that Jesus prepares for us.
This kingdom of heaven is in letting them grow together. Again, Jesus, not a good farmer, but a good Messiah. Let them grow together, he says, permit them, allow them, forgive them. The word Matthew uses at its root means forgive. The heart of the kingdom of heaven is forgiveness…Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. (pause)
The kingdom of heaven is not like the barn, Jesus says, but it is in allowing weeds and wheat to grow together until the harvest. And of course this isn’t the annual autumnal event, but the one at the end of the age when what is good will remain and what is evil will perish. (pause) There are things to be judged. There are things that will come to an end. There will be no more evil, no more heartache, no more tears, no more death. And to that I say Amen.
But for now, the kingdom is breaking open amongst us. And this kingdom of heaven can be compared to people growing up and living in this world where evil surrounds them, but they continue to grow in their way and do not pluck up or destroy on another. You see, there is not so much clarity between what is good and bad, blessed and cursed, right and wrong, wheat and weed. They all seem to resemble one another. They all seem to be both sometimes. Only the angels, at the end, will be able to make the right judgment. Only God can judge. Only God can judge. And thanks be to God, in Christ Jesus you…are…good.
Let anyone who has ears, hear.
+ Robert Farrar Capon, Parables of the Kingdom
+ Barbara Brown Taylor, Seeds from Heaven