Week 17 | The Third Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Isaiah 44:6-8: Fear not, nor be afraid
Psalm 86:11-17: Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth
Matthew 13:24-43: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field
Colossians 3:11-17: Love binds everything together in perfect harmony
The context of the story of The Weeds is the same as the story of the Sower, the Seeds, and the Soil. This story is often called the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, or the Wheat and the Weeds. Interestingly, it is only one of three stories that Jesus gives an explanation to. In that explanation, Jesus tells who the actors are. In this particular story, Jesus portrays himself as the farmer; which makes sense when you see the context of the story as a whole.
NOTE: The idea that Jesus changing the farmer to himself in this story instead of God is moot; in that Jesus is God and so the story still makes sense.
The Lesson: This story has intense meaning. It is a story that answers questions that humans have been dealing with since the beginning of our time. The story is not simply about how a farmer is to deal with weeds in his fields; in reality no farmer today would let the weeds continue to grow.
Weeds tend to choke out the good things that you want to grow. Any garner who got behind on their weed pulling would know that what Jesus was saying should not be the practice in real life. It would be as other things Jesus has said in stories…absurd.
If weeds grew with the wheat until harvest, there would be no good seed for the next harvest, and the ground would be rife with weeds and weed roots for the next harvest as well.
So, what then is the meaning of the story? What is the question being asked and answered?
The question is: What do you do with evil?
The answer is: Let it be, endure it, do nothing.
This story is teaching us that for the time being, the preferred response to evil is to do nothing. Like the Farmer says to the workers who asked if they should go and pull the weeds: “No, you’ll hurt the wheat if you do” (NLT), in the ESV, it is translated “No, lest you root up the wheat along with them.” The Farmer continues saying, let them both grow together until the harvest.
Evil and good are to grow together until the harvest, (the end of the world) and it is then when the Farmer, (God) will send the harvesters (angels) to sort out the weeds, burn them, and put the harvested wheat in the barn.
When Jesus told this story, the listeners knew that there was a weed that grew with wheat. That weed is named Tare. When the plants first began growing there was no way to tell if the plant was wheat or tare. As the plants grew, the wheat would grow its head. Unfortunately, the tare would grow a similar head, causing it to be rather difficult to tell just by looking at the plant whether the plant was wheat or tare.
Applying this principle to the good and evil of the story, then what Jesus is saying is that it is difficult to tell a good person apart from an evil person. If it is difficult to tell the difference between a good and evil person then it would be very difficult to take any action against evil in favor of good.
Even though the story teaches us a specific story about good versus evil, there are several lessons that we can learn when we look at the story and apply them to our lives and the world we live in today.
Many have applied this story to the church saying that you cannot tell the heart of the people in the church, there are good people and evil people and if you try to kick out the evil ones then some of the good people will get hurt and leave also.
Others apply it to the world as a whole…which is what Jesus did. Applying this story to the whole world is harder to agree with than the safe idea of applying it to the church.
Here are some things to think about:
Good and Evil exist in this world alongside each other, Good and Evil exist side by side in the church, in the world, in the workplace, and even in each individual.
If each individual has good and evil inherent in them, what does this parable say about God? About the Devil? About how we should treat others that are evil?
If Good and Evil exist side by side in the church, then what does that say to the world about the church?
Let them both grow up together:
When the Farmer says let them grow together, he is using a word that is used 156 times in the Scriptures. The usage that we remember most is found in the Lord’s Prayer. Aphes in Greek means to forgive, to let, permit, to suffer. Jesus used the same word in this story. When Jesus said let them grow, he was using the word the same way he did when he said “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”
The difficult idea: “The Holy Spirit inspires the writer to write a sentence that to the reader would have said, the malice, the evil, the badness that is manifest in the real world and in the lives of real people is not to be dealt with by attacking or abolishing the things or person in whom it dwells; rather it is to be dealt with only by aphesis, by letting it be.”
The Harvest is to be harvested by the Farmer and his Harvesters, not by us.
The Takeaway: The intended outcome of this parable is to know the Kingdom of God is growing, and you cannot stop it; you cannot understand it, and there will be a harvest…so what are you going to do about it? Nothing but forgive.
Father, hallowed be your name
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive our sins,
as we forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.