Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 Jesus told them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 "The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?' 28 "'An enemy did this,' he replied. "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.'" … 36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." 37 He answered, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 "As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
In A.D. 537 the Byzantine Emperor Justinian dedicated what was then the largest cathedral in the world in his capital city of Constantinople. It was called the Shrine of the Holy Wisdom of God (referring to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ), known more commonly by its Greek name Hagia Sophia (Greek for “Holy Wisdom”). For its time it was a stupendous miracle of engineering and construction. Its inner walls were covered with mosaics, and it boasted a 49-foot-tall iconostasis – the screen that separated the altar area (priests only) and the nave where the people stood. It was the center of Christian worship for the entire Eastern Empire after the West fell to the barbarian invasions in the 400s. (Have some fun later today and Google “Hagia Sophia” and even take a virtual tour.)
Constantinople itself held out until 1453, when it fell to the invading Turks (the Muslims). Hagia Sophia was stripped of its Christian features and converted into a mosque. The altar, bells, and furnishings were removed, and all the mosaics were either plastered over or chipped out. It was converted into a museum in 1931 and is still an important stop for Western tourists.
Very disheartening news was reported in April from Syracuse, New York. Holy Trinity Catholic Church has had its own Hagia Sophia moment. Because the church was declining in membership, it was sold to a Muslim group who wanted to operate a literacy center for immigrants. But now they are turning the church into a mosque. That means removing the six crosses from the roof and spires, and probably the stained glass windows – especially the ones portraying Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.
The Muslims are trying to keep peace with the community by renaming the church the Mosque of Jesus, the Son of Mary – which, I believe, may keep the peace, but is extremely blasphemous to any Christian.
It is a discouraging feature of the times in which we live that Christians are fading not because of invasions by Muslim Ottoman Turks but because of lack of interest. Constantinople had to be taken by storm, but Holy Trinity was simply put up for sale because there weren’t enough Christians around who cared to keep the congregation alive.
Jesus told us this would happen. He used a story to help us better understand: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.”
While God’s Christians – the sons of the kingdom – slept, the devil sowed his seeds on top of Jesus’ good seed. And the two sprouted up together. Wheat and weeds side by side, some even joined together at the root. Christians and unbelievers together in the same community, some even sharing the same marriage bed.
The weeds are connected to the wheat. They will try to choke the life from the wheat. They will attempt to drain all the nutrients out of the ground and the air. They want to see the wheat suffer and die. Unbelievers are not content in their unbelief. They want Bibles out of public schools, evolution taught in public universities, tolerance for any religion except for Christianity.
The devil wishes to kill the faith of every Christian so that they end up burning with him and his weeds at the Last Harvest.
And the tragic thing is … we let him!
We don’t need Muslim Turks to attack our homes or buy our churches. We have already capitulated and act as if we just don’t care.
We cower in the corner when our faith is challenged. We don’t speak out when our children are shacking up with their boyfriend or girlfriend. We don’t call our friends to repentance for the language they use around us.
Unbelievers don’t go to church – neither do the majority of our members. Unbelievers don’t set aside time to study the Bible at home or in school or in Bible class or Sunday School – neither do most of you. Unbelievers don’t share Jesus with others. When is the last time you talked to someone about Jesus outside of church?
We don’t appear any different from the unbelievers when we go out to the bar; when we are sleeping in instead of worshiping; when we are dealing with our spouse or children; when we are surfing inappropriate websites; when we are speaking filthy curse words or taking the Lord’s name in vain or shouting with outbursts of anger.
We do all of these things! Yet, somehow, we believe we are different from the unbelievers. Even though we look and act like them on a daily basis.
We have grown to love the weeds of this world, naively assuming that such devotion is not harmful to our relationship with Jesus – as though we could have Jesus any way we want. As though we could have Jesus while at the same time denying His call to “follow me.” As though we have the freedom to follow when and where we will.
We have allowed the sons of God to marry the daughters of men and vice versa (Genesis 6:4). We’ve given our children to marry unbelievers. Wheat sharing roots with weeds! A capitulation that will not go without consequences!
We have tolerated the enemy’s words in our midst. We have allowed ourselves to be deceived by words scratching our itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3). We have let false doctrine into the church, the very seed which leads to more weeds. While we have been spiritually asleep – distracted by the pleasures of the world – the enemy is busy sowing his seeds in the Lord’s fields.
This is not the will of the Sower. This is not the will of the Savior. An enemy has done this!
What should we do? Were it my garden I would pull of the weeds. I would poison the weeds. I would destroy the weeds in order to save those plants bearing fruit. And the same question is put to the sower, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” because that’s what any other sower of good seed would do – gather the weeds and destroy them. But that is not the way of kingdom of God.
Unlike the sowers of this world, unlike the enemy who sows weeds on top of the Savior’s wheat, the Sower of the sons of the kingdom is concerned for the whole field – the whole world. He has come to give His life as a ransom for the world, come to suffer, die and shed His blood for the world. “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son” (John 3:16). God not only loves and died for Christians, He loves and died for the entire world.
Jesus does not want the wheat to be choked into becoming weeds. Instead, He wants the weeds to be cultivated into wheat. He desires for the unbeliever to be converted to Christ.
Our Lord Jesus, the owner of the field, came to live among the weeds. He didn’t apply some kind of cosmic Roundup to the field, sanitizing it before He became flesh and dwelt among us. He immersed Himself into the grime and grit of this sin-infested world. He lived flawlessly among the devil and all his demonic seeds so that His blood might turn sinners into saints, so that He could protect the wheat living among the weeds, so that He could convert and save, and so that He could raise the dead for His final Harvest.
Jesus announces at the end of His explanation of this parable: “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” We are the righteous ones, the sons and daughters of the kingdom – not because of who we are, but because we have been joined to Christ. Joined with Christ in His Church, our focus is not to yank the weeds – as if we could tell the difference! – but to cultivate the field. And so the water of Holy Baptism is applied to sinners, and in those waters faith is given and grown. The Holy Scriptures are truthfully taught and faithfully proclaimed, and the Word that enters our ears and hearts grows roots strong and deep. Holy Absolution is pronounced on sinners bent under the burdens of our nature and the world, so that forgiven and restored we grow strong and produce fruit. The Holy body and blood of our Lord is given into our hungry bodies and souls to strengthen and preserve us in the struggles of this world.
The remedy for the enemy’s sowing is not wrath but grace and patience. Through such love the Savior offers Himself to the world. This is why St. Paul admonishes believers married to unbelievers to stay married (1 Corinthians 7:12-13). This is why the church has no political authority to punish sins in the world. In the church there is to be discipline, but with the world there is to be patience. For it is only by patiently bearing the cross of Christ in this world that the world is given a glimpse of the grace of Christ and those who are of the enemy’s design are brought to conversion. Thus the Savior’s patience is given in order to bring about repentance and completely undermine the enemy’s intentions. For “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Living with our Savior, today, tomorrow and forever is to be our greatest delight. This is why we have been planted in the first place. Jesus has given you new life through the planting of His Word in your heart. He has used that Word to forgive your sins of looking and acting like a weed. He has used that same Word to call you to follow Him. But as sons and daughters of the kingdom, you don’t get to follow as you see fit. He has called you to be different from the rest of the world – to stand out, to distinguish yourself so no one has to ask if you are a Christian – they can tell immediately by your speech, your behavior, your very demeanor.
We are the wheat. We are living among the weeds. They are not only connected to us to try to choke out our faith; but we are connected to them, to try to nourish them with the water of life, which is Jesus. While they are trying to tear down our churches, remove our crosses, and eliminate our Bibles – we are reading and proclaiming what is in our Bibles; we are preaching Christ crucified on the cross; we are building and expanding the influence of our churches.
We don’t want wheat becoming weeds. By the grace of God, we desire for the weeds to be converted into wheat!
Judgment Day is coming. The Lord’s patience will end. The time for repentance will run out. There will be a harvest. At the harvest, there will be a separation. Wheat will be separated from weeds. Believers will enter eternal glory. Unbelievers will be cast into the fires of hell.
But there is still time. Don’t allow yourself to be infected with the cold unbelief of the unbelievers. Instead, inject others with the warming love of Christ. We must pray that the Sower turns the enemy’s plans against him so that the weeds are influenced by their proximity to the wheat. Those whom we have grown to love will be separated from us and from Christ for all eternity. Therefore we must go to them. We must share the Gospel with them. We must invite them to the Lord’s house, even pleading with them to be reconciled with their Savior – that they, too, may shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
He who has an ear, let him hear. Amen.