*rough draft, enjoy*
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
In Spain in 1480 the new King, Ferdinand II of Aragon, and Queen, Isabella I of Castile, got permission from the Pope to hold an inquisition. The purpose of this inquisition was to bring religious unity to the Kingdom. There were growing populations in the area of both Jews and Muslims. Since both the King and Queen were Catholic they thought an inquisition to convert these heretics would be the best way knew how which was through trials and torture. Thus the Spanish Inquisition was started.
You could be tried if you were accused of heresy. The Church had a very specific definition of heresy: A heretic publicly declared his beliefs (based upon what the Church considered inaccurate interpretations of the Bible) and refused to denounce them, even after being corrected by the authority. He also tried to teach his beliefs to other people. He had to be doing these things by his own free will, not under the influence of the devil.
Anyone see the problem with this idea? If the church or royalty did not like what a person was teaching others or if they held a different religion, they could be tortured, put in prison for the rest of their lives, or killed, or they could be converted to Catholicism. Now, hundreds of years later, we look back at the Spanish Inquisition as a dark time in Christian history.
There are other times that we look back and wonder what people were thinking when they did what they did in the name of God. The Crusades killed thousands of people in the name of God as they attempted to take over the holy land. In Germany, Hitler attempted to purify his country by systematically removing and killing million of Jews without even a hint of protest from Germany’s Confessing Church. We can go on and on.
This is even happening in today, actually this week. On Thursday former First Lady Betty Ford was laid to rest in Michigan. Members from Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas planned on picketing her funeral because she divorced her first husband and for her views on abortion. This is the same group that pickets funerals for soldiers and others. They are trying to rid the world of sin and false teachings.
What all these movements have in common is they are trying to weed. Let’s go to the parable and I’ll explain. In the parable we are the servants. Our master has sown seeds in his field and then our master’s enemy has sown weeds during the night. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ That is what all of these groups were doing. They notice evil in the world and they want to rid the world of it. They head into the field and start ripping up anything that looks like a weed. The Spanish Inquisition was attempting to convert Jews and Muslims in order to rid their field of the what they saw as false religions. Hitler was doing the same thing but in far more evil ways. Even Westboro Baptist Church, when they picket and spread their hate, they feel they are attempting to pull weeds among the wheat.
We would do the same thing. How many of us if one of our children were harmed by someone wouldn’t do everything in your power to bring that evil to justice? We would want to rid the world of that person and yank up that weed from among the wheat. But if we look at the parable what does the master tell us, the servant, to do. Let me read a couple of verses again, “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.30 Let 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.’” Did you catch what our job as the servants is? We are to do nothing. We are to let the weeds grow among the wheat.
Now in a moment of honesty, how many of you think that goes against what remember Jesus telling us to do? Raise your hand if this goes again what you thought Jesus asks us to do in the world? It does, it seems very weird. How do we read this in Chapter 13 and then read in Matthew’s gospel in chapter 25 that we are supposed to be looking out for the “least of these” in the world. What about all the talk about taking care of the poor, standing up to injustice, making sure we are taking care of the orphaned and widowed? It sounds like Jesus simply ask us to stand there as evil happens around us and do nothing?
To see if that is true we have to go to his explanation of the parable a little later on in the same chapter. There he explains that this is God’s ultimate plan for dealing with evil. This is God’s way of separating the good and the bad. This is not an everyday look at evil this is an eschatological way of looking at the problem of evil. Eschatological is a theological word which means those things concerned with the end of time. It is the study of ultimate destiny of humankind. This is a parable about how God will rid the world of evil at the end of the age. This is not a parable about what we are to do when it comes to injustices and evils of the present age. We are to speak up for the oppressed and voice our concern for those who have no voice and take care of the naked, hungry, thirst, poor, and lame. But what is our job when it comes to the end of time?
I think Martin Luther King, Jr. summed it up well when he said; “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” He is basically restating Romans 12:21, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
You see try as we might to pull weeds in this world the truth is the root of the weed will stay around. Like Martin Luther King said, “Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate.” The root of sin is still around but God does have a plan to uproot all the sinful weeds in this world, that is the Good News.
What is also interesting is that the weeds that Jesus is referring to actually do have a name. They are called the bearded darnel. It seems that these weeds look just like wheat until they mature completely. The also surround the roots of good plants and steal its nutrients, water and also make it impossible to uproot it without hurting the good wheat it is around. These bearded darnel are common in the middle east and there is an actual Roman Law that speaks to people doing what the ‘enemy’ did in this parable. If there was a Roman law against sowing weeds in people’s wheat fields, it must have been done by people from time to time.
With the events in history and the current groups in our world now, what they are trying to do is pull the weeds. But when they yank out the bearded darnel they are also taking good wheat with them or damaging the whole crop. When we hear of people who call themselves fellow brothers and sisters in Christ picketing soldiers funerals, they are actually causing more damage than good. When we hear of Christians bombing abortion clinics or killing doctors who perform abortion, they are actually causing more damage than good. Any time a government tries to eradicate one race or religion by acts of violence, whether it is the Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust or the genocide or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. All of these Christians actually did more damage for the faith in the long run than good. In fact we look back and can see really no good out of any of it.
This is what happens when we take matters into our own hands. If we were left to yank the weeds out of the fields I bet we would come up with some sort of testing we could do determine which were wheat and which were weeds. Then after this testing we would pull up what needed to be pulled up and pat ourselves on the back. But once again that would only be dealing with surface weeds and God’s plan is much more ultimate.
God’s plan for evil is to wait until the harvest, the end of time. Then the angels will become reapers and will sort the weeds from the wheat. The weeds will be bound up because now they are easily identified and thrown into the fiery furnace where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Once again did you notice what our job will be at the end of time? We don’t have one. We are either wheat or weeds and the angels and God will make the distinction who is worth keeping. We don’t have a say. We don’t have any say at all. Listen closely, IT IS NOT OUR JOB!
Last week I reminded you that it was not our job to make the seeds grow. We are to scatter the Word of God and then let God do the watering, growing and harvesting. We are only to sow the seeds. In this parable we don’t have anything to do. The master tells the servants to do nothing. This is because to ultimately deal with evil there is nothing we can do. We are soaked in sin as humans. To quote Paul again from his letter to the Romans, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Then if we are all sinners and fall short of God’s glory, are we all weeds? Are we all sinners and so what has a grip around our heart, a weed or wheat?
Look at this picture and be honest with yourself. What judgment do you have? Some people might see a person who they would not want to meet. They may walk down a few more isles in the grocery store just so they wouldn’t have to stand in line next to him. But what if I told you this was Jay, Jay Bakker. He is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker. In his early life, after the big fall out with his parents he went through a time of substance abuse and partying. Then after a while he took a deep hard look at himself and his faith and now he is a pastor. I’ve actually had the pleasure of hearing him myself and he is an extraordinary speaker. He pastors Revolution NYC and has helped thousands of people who feel like they are on the fringe of society feel they are loved by God.
If we were left in charge we might have plucked Jay Bakker too early. Because of his looks and his past we might have felt that he was a weed in this world, so we would have yanked him up from the soil. Yet God is working through him and because of that work many people have a relationship with God. Luckily God knows how we would handle things and that is why God didn’t leave us in charge of judgment.
Our job is not to judge, and we are not to pull weeds. We have to get comfortable with the idea that in the end, we will have nothing to do but wait for God sort the wheat from the weeds. In the end the wheat will “shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their father.” As we live among the weeds we have to realize we are not in control and nor will we ever be. So maybe the best way to live in this world is through the words of Paul once again, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
And all God’s children said, Amen.