Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sermon: Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43 Wheat and Weeds

Have you ever looked at the world around you and thought - why is it like this? You might be watching the TV news, or reading a newspaper, and wonder what’s going on. Whether it’s the shocking news of the girl going missing in England (and her body being found in her granny’s house), or Julian Assange seeking asylum in a foreign embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden. The way of the world doesn’t seem to make any sense sometimes.

It’s made worse when it looks as if good things happen to bad people - those in charge of the banks continue to take home big bonuses while most people suffer; Premiership footballers earn vast sums while others go hungry. Or move to the personal level - someone has wronged you, perhaps cheated you in business or relationships; and they seem to be getting away with it. You’re worse off for doing the right thing. What’s going on?

This is the very problem that the writer of Psalm 73 is struggling with. He can’t get his head around the fact that the wicked are prosperous, healthy, seemingly lucky, and getting away with it. They’re proud, violent, scoff, and wealthy. Did you feel the frustration of the Psalmist as we read the Psalm earlier? ‘It is in vain that I cleansed my heart and washed my hands in innocence?’

For the believer, sometimes our faith makes it harder to cope with. After all, we believe that God is in control, that he is sovereign. If God is really the king, then why is life like this? Why is the world the way it is? Is God not in control? Is God not the king?

For this month of August, we’ve been listening in as Jesus teaches the crowd and the disciples about the kingdom of God. Today’s parable answers the question of Psalm 73 - if God is king, why are things the way they are? As we’ve seen, Jesus uses ordinary stories to teach about spiritual truth, so let’s remind ourselves of the story.

We’re told of a man who sows good seed in his field. He’s happy with his work, and waits for the plants to sprout. But unknown to him, in the dead of night, an enemy has come along and sowed weeds among the wheat. The plants grow up, and it’s not immediately obvious which is which. You see, the weeds here are probably darnel, a mildly poisonous weed that looks like wheat in the early stages. It’s only when the grains appear that the weeds are seen to be different. But by then it’s too late.

The slaves of the farmer are surprised when the weeds appear: ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ (27) If you sow good seed, you expect a good crop - not weeds. The farmer realises an enemy has done this - something which was devastating, and illegal in Roman law. But rather than sending in the slaves to pick out the bad weeds, the farmer tells them to wait: ‘No, for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.’ The roots and shoots of the wheat and weeds are tangled together, it would be too messy to get rid of the weeds now. It’s only when the harvest comes that the weeds can be easily separated from the wheat.

Now again, Jesus isn’t just telling a story for the sake of it. When he gets into the house, away from the crowd, the disciples ask him to explain it. As Jesus explains the story, we find that we’re in the story - it explains the world as we know it now, and gives us a warning about the future.

Jesus is the farmer, the one who sows the good seed. Here, the good seed are the children of the kingdom - those who belong to Jesus. On the other side, the weeds are the children of the evil one, sown by the devil, in opposition to Jesus and his purposes. Isn’t this what we see in the world? There are those who are wicked, who seem to be prospering; alongside those who are members of the kingdom.

Even the church can be a ‘mixed’ organisation - wheat and weeds side by side, looking fairly similar. It’s sometimes hard to tell. You can have those who on the surface look to be faithful members, but in fact they’re not. The fruit shows the heart - they might look like wheat, but they produce weeds.

We’re now in this season of growth, but one day, some day (soon), will come the time of the harvest. The owner of the field will call time and send his workers in to gather the harvest. At that time it will be so obvious which is which - the wheat and the weeds.

Here’s what Jesus says: ‘Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!’

Jesus is giving us a solemn warning here about what lies ahead for those who are not his people. Harvest time is coming, at the end of the world, when time itself shall cease, and the judgement of all is at hand. Just as you wouldn’t want any weeds spoiling your gardens or window boxes, so there is no room in God’s kingdom for those who are evildoers. Sin and sinners would be out of place in that atmosphere of perfect holiness.

We don’t like hearing about judgement; it’s not an easy thing to speak about - yet the Lord Jesus speaks of it, and so must we. You see, this world is not all there is, despite what the New Atheists try to tell us. If this world was all that existed, then there would be no justice. Hitler commanded the genocide of millions of Jews and others, and committed suicide before he could be captured and brought before a war trial. Did he escape justice? Our hearts cry out for justice - because there is a just God.

Jesus describes the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. I know that some of you have a tender conscience, and as we speak of evildoers, your heart immediately cries out. You’re all too aware of your sins and failings. But look at the contrast - evildoers are the weeds, but the righteous are the wheat.

None of us are righteous by our own efforts. All of us deserve the fire of hell for our sins. But the good news is that Jesus endured our punishment; he died the death we deserved, and as we trust in him, we have that great exchange - he takes away our sin, and gives us his righteousness. We are found to be his, to be that good seed - and so no longer face punishment, but paradise.

The Psalmist was utterly confused by his problem - ‘until I entered the sanctuary of God and understood the end of the wicked.’ God IS in control - Peter tells us that the delay of judgement is not weakness, but patience - while it is still today there is still time to turn and be saved. One day it will be too late, the judgement will be final. Come today, while the offer remains. ‘In the Lord God have I made my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.’ ‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!’

This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 19th August 2012.


  1. I would love to have a copy of this sermon. I need to teach my congregation. There are several important points I would like to get across to the children of God . How can I get a copy

    1. Hi Marcia, you can copy and paste directly from the blog. You can also hear the sermon as preached at this link:

  2. I like your statement that we all deserve punishment, but as believers, we have the option to "opt-out"