2015-05-29 - God's Garden: Wheat and Weeds
If your church has a directory, look it over, or as you attend a church service this weekend, look around for a few minutes. As you look over the list or around at the faces, know this: you will not see them all in eternity. It's sad but true - the Bible tells us so, again and again. Jesus tells us this, in an epistle to a church in Asia minor, and in a parable told to those who gathered round him by the seashore.
Revelation 3:14-16 (NASB)
We will come back to the Laodicean letter later, so let's look at the parable passage first. It is the second of several parables in Matthew 13 dealing with the subject of God's kingdom. Some say that the tare, or weed, is likely a specific type known as "darnel"; it looks just like wheat, until the heads appear. Darnel heads were grayish, whereas wheat heads are tan. That is why they didn't know until "the wheat sprouted and formed heads." Easton's Bible Dictionary mentions this by its scientific name, lolium temulentum. It is a species of rye grass whose seeds are a strong soporific poison, meaning that they cause sleepiness. The grains have a sleep inducing effect, a mental lethargy, a hypnotic state, and a lack of interest in anything. Some people on Sunday morning look like they had a whole bowl of tares for breakfast.
In his parables, Jesus often provides an unexpected twist in his story, to turn our expectations upside down. The weird part of this story is that most farmers would've plowed the whole field under and started over, but this farmer's concern was that all good wheat be harvested - not that the whole field be harvestable. The expectation for most is that the king will rule, and only good seed will be allowed, but here the wheat and the weeds grow together until God's harvest time. It is in this twist, that we see various levels of meaning.
First, we can see an immediate meaning for Israel. This is what the original audience walked away with, or at least those who had come to the shore to hear him speak - but didn't stay around for the explanation. A preacher named Tom Fuller described this meaning by saying, "To the Pharisees, he speaks judgment; to the people, he speaks in ways the curious can understand, but the callous won't have a clue." The Jews looked for the Messiah to come and restore Israel - to remove the Gentile weeds in the field of Israel. Zealots tried to get rid of Romans, using guerrilla warfare-style tactics. Essenes tried to remove the weeds, by separating themselves from everything else out in the desert. The Pharisees tried to bring about God's kingdom with organized, rigid Jewish religious practices. But despite all these efforts by various groups, the Messiah wasn't going to be swooping in to save the day and rip out the Romans. Israel must put up with others, until the end of time.
Until next time
Author's Note: this devotional is based on a sermon I preached on 5/16/2010, but I hope that the words will ring as truth to you, as they did with the original audience.
All scripture references from KJV (King James Version) unless otherwise noted