Weeds and Wheat
July 17, 2005
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
The Parable of the Weeds
24Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
28" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
29" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "
The Parable of the Weeds Explained
36Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."
37He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
40"As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning. Today’s Gospel reading is a tough one. I need you to help pray me through this one, because I have never preached on this particular Gospel before. But I think it’s important that we grapple with it, that we learn from it, and that we grow through it in the Lord. The topic is “Weeds and Wheat.” We’re going to look at how we can all be bringers of wheat, of the good blessings of God to the earth and each other.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells a parable. In good ground, a master had sown good seed. But something went wrong. In the night, enemies came and put seeds of weeds in the ground. When the seedlings first came up, you couldn’t tell which were the wheat and which were the weeds. But as the plants grew, it was clear that one was the bitter, mildly abrasive, almost poisonous weed and the other was the grain of wheat.
Servants went to the master and said, “Master, what shall we do about this? Shall we pull out the weed?”
The master said, “No, because if you try to pull out the weed, you’ll also pull out the wheat. Let them grow together, and when harvest time comes, we’ll sort everything out. The weeds will be bundled and thrown into the fire, and the wheat will be gathered into my barn.”
We go on to read in the Gospel that the apostles weren’t quite clear why Jesus told that story and what it all meant. Jesus gave an explanation. Look at verse 41: “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin.” That’s the one section I’d like you to think about with me.
Now, dear Christian friend, as we look at this together, what are we to make of this passage? The traditional interpretation is that Jesus is talking about good people and bad people, and that the passage means that at the end of time Jesus will gather together all the bad people and banish them to hell. He’ll gather all the good people and bring them to heaven. That is the traditional interpretation of this scripture. I’m not going to argue with that, but I am going to say that there may be another way to look at this passage of Holy Scripture. Here it is:
Why did Jesus tell this story? Why did He tell this parable? Was it to issue a judgment, or could it be that Jesus was trying to encourage His listeners, you and me? I see in this parable a message of great encouragement from the Lord Jesus. Remember last week we talked about the parable of the sower and the seed? The sower went forth and spread seed in different places. Some just bounced off, some took a little root and faded, and some got snatched away by birds. Some seed fell on good ground and bore wheat, a hundred and sixty and thirty times. Good ground is what Jesus was talking about last week. And my friend, that’s you. I know you are!
I think that this parable is linked to that one, because I think that Jesus was going on to say that even good ground has problems. Even people who are striving to be faithful to the Lord, even people who have the roots of Jesus’s Word going deep into their hearts have problems. They have, yes, the wheat of God’s goodness growing in them. But we also have weeds. Isn’t it true? I know that it’s true for me. We are both wheat and weeds. And Jesus could recognize that and understand it. His message for us was, “Do not let that trouble you. If you try to root out all the weeds at once you may root out the good stuff, too.” So Jesus was saying, “I accept you as you are. Wheat and weeds – let them grow together, and I will bring about a day when I, the gardener, Jesus, will harvest it all, take all those weeds that are in you and me and bind them up and throw them into the fire of forgiveness and purification. And I will take the wheat that you bring and make it be our true identity, through Jesus Christ.”
And so, my friends, as you go forth into this week, I pray that you would go forth with a great deal of courage, knowing that the great Gardener is taking the weeds out of our garden. I was preaching a sermon many years ago in a previous church, when I looked at the bulletin and realized that something had gone wrong. The hymn that we were supposed to sing was “I Need Thee Every Hour.” But instead, it read, “I Weed Thee Every Hour.” But that’s exactly what we need God to do for us. We need God to pull out the weeds that are in our hearts so that the wheat can grow.
What are the weeds, for you and me? I think they generally fall into two categories – fear and regret. Fear and regret are the weeds that grow up right alongside the wheat. They can choke out the good wheat. But God, the Gardener, can harvest it all and separate out those weeds. Fear can freeze us up, taking away the energy for all the good things we are supposed to do. I remember when I’d only been ordained a couple of weeks and I was on a church staff as music director. I got a call late at night. The mother of the assistant minister had passed away. The senior minister was away. I’d been called to visit the family. I was scared. I didn’t want to go. I’d never done anything like that before. I didn’t know what to say or how to help. I was full of fear. That weed was taking me over.
I got to the car and prayed to the Lord: “O Lord, I am so unprepared. I do not know what to do. I am so not ready to do this.” I pulled up to the front door and turned off the engine, and it was like a voice speaking to me. “Young man, I am fully aware of how not ready you are to do this, but you are the only minister I have open all night, so you just go in and talk to these folks.” I laughed out loud. I went in and talked to the family, and there was a blessing all around.
Let God pull the fear weed out of you.
And the other weed we need to pull out is regret. “If only I had done this, if only I had done that, then I could do good things.” But, my dear friend, God, the Good Gardener, can help pull that weed out for you, too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to myself, “Oh, if only I had visited this person one more time. If only I had made that call.” So many regrets can get in the way of doing good things.
I have a prayer for you this week, that you would let the Great Gardener pull those weeds from your garden and not let fear or regret stand in your way. Allow God to let the wheat grow, because He has wonderful good things for you to do. Let God, the Great Gardener, do this for you, won’t you? Because, He loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2005 Anthony J. Godlefski