Weeds & Wheat

Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43

As we continue in chapter 13 of the Book of Matthew we encounter another of Jesus’s parables. Today’s parable Jesus calls the “Weeds and the Wheat.” In today’s parable, Jesus is using a typical Jewish mode of communication. He is using language and symbols associated with Jewish apocalyptic literature. He uses lots of imagery such as fire, angels, final judgment with weeds and stuff being thrown into the fire. For many of us modern readers today, we find this literature difficult to understand because we did not grow up with a Jewish background or with an understanding of apocalyptic imagery. So I will do my best to sort out what Jesus was saying. In doing so, hopefully we will recognize Jesus’ warning and teachings about God’s act of final justice 

in order to set things right in the world. 

When we do, we then realize that, according to Jesus, 

if we choose not to go along with God’s purposes, 

that would be a poor choice, 

because the consequences would be really serious. 

According to Jesus, the consequence is hell. 

Tough stuff.

Okay, who’s uncomfortable? 

I am. 

Before I go into this parable, I would like to share a short story of my own, to frame the way I believe we should approach this. I suspect those of you who have had little children or have them now, will be able to relate to my story. Growing up, as little girls, Lydia and Emily were always outside, in the mud, catching frogs, climbing trees and getting into something. That part hasn’t changed much. 

However, when they were little they would inevitably end up getting slivers, or splinters in their fingers. Which for any person can be painful. But for tiny little fingers it was a frightening experience. Because Mom’s way of fixing the pain was to get out a sewing needle and a pair of tweezers. If they weren’t screaming before the tools arrived, they would begin screaming at the sight of them. It would sound something like, 

“NO, Stop! You’re going to hurt me! Owww!” 

I care for my children and want them to be out of pain. I’m holding the finger and trying to keep the hand steady saying something like, 

“Just stay still.” 

Even before I even picked up the tweezers I would hear, 

“Stop! You’re hurting me.”

Is there anyone in the room who can relate?

Now at this moment should the window be open and should someone possibly be passing by, consider what they might think? I’m inside holding my child, trying to keep her from pain and she’s screaming, 

“You are hurting me Mom!”

They’re probably wondering what sort of parent is this mom? They are bound to misinterpret everything that is happening. But, if they were to come into the house, and see what was happening and hear the story?  All of a sudden the story makes sense. The whole idea of pulling out a sliver hurts and my child thinks it is horrible, when in fact it is a good thing. 

Okay, we just read a parable that Jesus shared, but you notice, we read it out of context. 

We didn’t read the parable before it, or the twelve chapters before it, although we have been reading them slowly. This is a common problem we have. We read isolated stories of Jesus in little tid bits and so we are bound to encounter them out of context. 

So, what sounds to us as harsh, terrifying and horrible… 

I promise you…

Come into the house,

Hear the whole story. 

We have a savior, Jesus, who loves all of humanity and is committed to His good world, enough so that He is committed to getting rid of evil and removing it, 

like a nasty thorn, 

from His good world. 

He does this as an act of mercy and grace. So, you need to be patient and come inside to hear the entire story.  

Here’s why I am asking you to be patient and wait to hear the entire story. 

Because I can imagine that most of you heard this story and what you think Christians believe and what the story of the Bible is, probably goes something like this:

God created humans and He placed us on planet earth to live out our lives. Then humans sinned, which causes life on earth to have its good times and bad times. 

At this point, 

what most people think Christians believe 

is sort of a guilt complex thing, 

because everyone sins whcih is totally horrible. 

So Jesus comes onto the scene to tell us that He is really great and we are really horrible. 

But if we have correct beliefs about Jesus, and do more good things than bad things, then things are going to go well for you. But if you do more bad than good and have incorrect beliefs about Jesus, well, bad news, you have chosen poorly. 

Most people believe Christians also believe that when you die, if you have correct beliefs about Jesus and have done more good than bad, your destiny is heaven. 

And heaven in the popular imagination is understood to be disembodied non-physical bliss, all your dreams come true, clouds and angels singing. 

The opposite is true for those who die and don’t have the correct beliefs about Jesus and have done more bad than good, they will go to hell. 

A subterranean end game, that involves God’s not listening and they are tortured forever and ever. 

Does this sound familiar? Would you agree that most people believe that is what Christians believe and what the Bible teaches?

If you were to ask  your neighbor what they think Christians believe, I think you would get some sort of story like this. This story has been a long time in the making, especially in American Christianity. 

I am not going to elaborate on how the story developed, but I do want to share that upon studying the Bible, it is a story I have problems with and I believe the Bible has problems with it. 

It’s like you are standing outside the window listening to Emily scream, “Don’t hurt me.” It is so full of half truths, and things taken out of context that I think it is important to stop, step in, and let’s hear the whole story. 

That is something we have been trying to do as we read through the Gospel according to Matthew. Let’s think back for a moment. Thus far in our reading, on any given day, what would we have heard Jesus saying? 

I assure you it wasn’t, “Are you going to heaven or hell?”

Since chapter 4:17,  Jesus has been telling those who were willing to listen, 

“Repent!  ….so that you don’t go to hell?” 

NO, He said, 

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”

In the same chapter, 4, verse 23, we read what Jesus did while He was on earth, 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”

Stop! It’s the Good News!

The Gospel!

What is the good news about the kingdom? 

That it is HERE! & NOW!

According to Jesus, He had brought heaven to earth. 

Heaven wasn’t some kind of end game that you get to when you die. For Jesus, heaven was a reality that was in Him and in Himself. 

Which opens up the whole story the Bible is trying to tell us and what Jesus was trying to tell us. 

Just think about it for a minute. Let’s go back to the very first sentence in the Bible. Most of you know this or have heard it before, 

Genesis 1:1, 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and oh this is interesting, it doesn’t begin, 

“In the beginning God created the heavens and hell.”


“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” 

So let’s get this straight, the counterparts God created weren’t heaven and hell. The counterparts God created in the beginning was “heaven and earth.” 

It was God’s space and human’s space. 

There was a place “Eden” that God created where God and humans could dwell together in peace and harmony. Humans were to be caretakers of God’s creation. Heaven and earth were together at the beginning of the story. Unfortunately, it only lasted for two pages. Humans decided they wanted autonomy from God and they wanted to define good and evil for themselves, instead of trusting God’s definition of good and evil. 

Because humans were created in the image of God they were given dignity and so God allowed humans to push heaven out of earth. 

So the results of God giving humans the autonomy that they wanted? 

There has been a chasm between heaven and earth. Genesis 3 goes into detail of how humans push out heaven and bring in evil and destruction. 

Okay, so where does hell come in? 

Well to start out, based on Genesis, hell has no place in God’s good world. It wasn’t a place God created in the beginning, it comes into the picture later as a destruction of what God had planned. God does not want hell for His world. Humans were the ones who unleashed evil into the world. 

You will also recognize that like heaven, Jesus reveals that hell is not only a future reality, but also a present reality, something humans do and unleash. 

Let’s jump ahead to Matthew 23:15, it reads, 

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” 

Now if Jesus thought hell was just a future reality, then that statement would make no sense whatsoever. Because He wasn’t describing what the Pharisees were going to do in the future. He was describing what they were doing right then. So what were they doing, what is Jesus targeting in this verse? What does He call them? 

Hypocrites, full of religious pride and hypocrisy. For Jesus, when people act with religious pride and hypocrisy, it is not that it is just sin, Jesus claims they are unleashing hell in God’s good world. 

For Jesus, hell is something that religious prideful people unleash in God’s good world. 

It didn’t stop with Jesus. His disciples continued to teach about the concept of hell on earth. Look at James, chapter 3, verses 6 and 9 

 “6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

“9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

There is not one of us in this room that hasn’t experienced the power of the tongue. Whether it be our own tongue or the tongue of someone around us, we all comprehend the idea that one minute the tongue can be used to praise the Lord, singing hymns in church and the next moment used to degrade and humiliate someone, as you are driving in the car, at home or at work. 

Think about it, when we gossip, and tear down another person’s dignity and worth with our words, according to James, we are unleashing the fire of hell. Now if hell were only a place after death, again this statement would not make sense. 

What is hell? Jesus and James are telling us, and there are many other examples, that when we allow our sin, our selfishness and our evil to overcome what is good in God’s world we have created hell. 

That’s bad news in the story of the Bible. 

So what’s the Good News?

According to Jesus, the Kingdom of Heaven, in the person of Jesus is here!

The whole mission of Jesus is 

to confront hell and 

get hell out of His world. 

That’s the story of the Bible. That is the Good News!

The Kingdom of God is here, 

in order to get the hell out of God’s good world, 

and to get the hell out of you. 

Now, you’ve stepped into the living room and you’ve heard the whole story and you realize, hell fits into the story as God’s mercy. 

Think about it, God could just walk away and let us unleash evil forever and ever. 

I could leave the sliver in Emily’s hand. 

But no, in God’s mercy He will not allow human evil to go unchecked. He came down from heaven to deal with it. 

Heaven and hell are alive today. 

Not in their total capacity but enough for us to realize and to make choices. 

Follow the Savior, accept His free gift of eternal life and allow God to help you get hell out of your life. 

Or succumb to the devil, reject hope and live life your way. 

Today, for those of us who are willing, Jesus left us with an activity that we could do that would remind us of His love and sacrifice of grace. When we participate in this sacrament we are recognizing Jesus’ ability to get hell out of our lives and let the kingdom of heaven reside. 

Let us give thanks. 

Lord’s Supper