Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost (A)
July 20, 2008
Text: Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; Rom. 8:18-27

The earth was made for the saints. The universe was created for our benefit. It is a gift of God to His people. When God made the earth and the universe and all that is in it, He made it perfect. But when all mankind fell in Adam’s fall, the creation itself was subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20). The creation was made for perfection. So also mankind was made for perfection. But sin ruined it all. The moment Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they fell into sin and death, and dragged all of creation down with them. Ever since, “the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (v. 22; ESV). The creation groans because it is the innocent victim of man’s sin. But there is good news. The creation will be delivered from this fallen state, when our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ returns again in glory. And in the mean time, the fallen creation is sustained because God is merciful, and wants sinners to repent. He desires to make more and more sons of God in this world as His Spirit takes possession of them by means of the Word and brings them into the death and resurrection of Christ by Baptism. God preserves the fallen creation to give time for repentance. God preserves the fallen creation to give time for conversion. But the time of grace will come to an end. On the Last Day, Jesus will return and divide the people of the world between the causes of sin and all law-breakers on the one hand, and the righteous sons of God, those of whom the Holy Spirit has taken possession, on the other. The causes of sin and the law-breakers, the sons of the wicked one, will be thrown “into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt. 13:42-43).

Until then, both groups live together in the world. Jesus compares the world to a field. The farmer sows good seed in his field, intending to grow a healthy crop of wheat. The farmer is the Son of Man. The wheat are the children of God. But an enemy, the devil, comes along and sows bad seed in amongst the wheat. These grow up into weeds. The weeds are the causes of sin and all law-breakers, the sons of the wicked one. The thing is, though, these weeds aren’t just any weeds. They are tares, or darnel, zizania in Greek, and this kind of weed looks exactly like wheat. It only begins to look different after it starts producing grain. Unlike the wheat, the tares produce a black, poisonous grain. But until that grain is produced, the two look the same. Thus when the servants come and ask the farmer if he wants them to pull up the weeds, he rightly says, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn” (v. 30). Only at the end, at the harvest, the Last Day, will the difference between the wheat and the weeds be apparent. And then the reapers, the holy angels, will divide the two, casting the weeds into the furnace of hell, but gathering the wheat into the barn of the kingdom of heaven.

Beloved, you are in the world, but not of the world. So don’t be deceived. The enemy, the devil, is always trying to damage and destroy the field with his bad seed. There are both weeds and wheat all around, and many times it can be impossible for us to tell the difference. Some people are obviously non-Christians. They wear their unbelief on their sleeve. Perhaps they are adherents of another religion or maybe they have no particular religion at all. These should ever be the objects of our mission and evangelism and prayers. But others are harder to tell. The plain and simple fact is that there are always hypocrites in our Lord’s Church, which also is in the world, but not of the world. A hypocrite is not one of these obvious unbelievers. A hypocrite is someone who claims to be something he is not, or claims to believe something that he does not believe in his heart. In the Christian Church, a hypocrite is someone who claims to be a Christian, and very often looks like a very faithful Christian, but in his heart believes none of it. And the difficulty is that you can’t look into another person’s heart. Only God and the hypocrite can see the hypocrisy, unless the hypocrite slips into some manifest sin or false belief. Otherwise the hypocrite appears to be virtuous, perhaps attends church services regularly, talks a good talk, and outwardly walks a good walk. But in the harvest on the Last Day, it will be apparent that that person is full of poisonous black grain, that he is a weed, and no true wheat.

But that’s at the harvest. In the meantime, the Lord doesn’t ask you to go pulling up weeds. He doesn’t want you to go on a hypocrite hunt. Remember, you can’t tell the difference between the weeds and the wheat! The farmer specifically commands his servants not to pull up the weeds, but rather let them grow together with the wheat until the harvest. Then the reapers will come and divide the two. In other words, God specifically commands His Christians not to try to find out who the hypocrites are lest they pull out some wheat with the weeds. Leave that job for the angels on the Last Day. On that day every hypocrite will be exposed. If you jump the gun and start weeding out hypocrites now, the difficulty is that you may falsely accuse some who are real Christians, and so lead them through a great deal of tribulation and maybe even make shipwreck of their faith. And you may also get in the way of God’s miraculously turning weeds into wheat. How do you know that God isn’t working in that hypocrite every time he comes to church, working through the Word, imparting His Spirit, so that in the end the hypocrite will be converted? After all, as we heard last week, the Word of God never returns to Him empty, but always accomplishes the purpose for which He sent it (Is. 55:11).

Actually, the farmer tells his servants to treat the weeds just like the wheat. You are to treat the hypocrites just like Christians, because again, you don’t know who is a hypocrite and who is not. You are to let God make that judgment. You just assume, out of love, that if your neighbor professes the holy Christian faith, he is a Christian. You can only take his word for it, just as he can only take your word for it. You believe that I am a Christian and I believe that you are a Christian because that is what Christian charity demands. We take each other at each one’s word. Now this is not to say that we aren’t on our guard against false doctrine or unchristian preaching or manifest sin. When a person starts to preach false doctrine or gives himself over to manifest sin, he is not a hypocrite anymore, but has become one of the obvious non-Christians, and this no matter how loudly and persistently he insists he is a Christian. At that point we should treat him as a non-Christian, which again, means not to shun him, but that he is the object of our mission and evangelism and prayers.

Well, whether the weeds are obvious or whether they are hidden amongst the wheat, the goal is always the conversion of the weed into wheat. The goal is always repentance and faith. This is something only God can do, and it is His will to do it. He does it through His Word, as His Holy Spirit makes children of God out of children of the wicked one. Christ died for the forgiveness of the weeds as well as the wheat. Christ died for every obvious non-Christian, for every hypocrite, as well as for the faithful in the Christian church. And the fact is that even the faithful in the Christian Church were once weeds. You were once a weed. You were born an unbeliever. You were once a child of the wicked one. It was not until the Holy Spirit turned you into wheat through Baptism or the preaching of the Word that you ceased to be a weed. This is all by God’s pure grace. And this has been accomplished in you because God preserved the fallen world so that the Holy Spirit could have His way with you, that you would come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, that you would become God’s own child.

But now you have the burden of knowing that not everyone is wheat like you are. You dare not make this a matter of pride, as if you are better than the weeds. In fact, you must watch, lest Satan trap you in sin and unbelief, and you fall from faith and become a weed again. Remember, it is by God’s grace in Christ, without works, that you are wheat and not a weed. And so you are moved with compassion for the weeds. You pray for them. You confess Christ to them, even when it means the weeds reject you and persecute you. You speak God’s Word about the Savior to them because you know that God is always ready to receive a repentant sinner, to make him into wheat. You know that Jesus shed his blood, not only for you, but for those weeds. You long for the weeds to be saved.

But you also long for deliverance. Thus you groan along with the fallen creation. St. Paul writes, “And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Rom. 8:23-24). You long to be delivered from the old Adam who still hangs about your necks. Though you are thankful that the Lord preserves the fallen creation for the sake of those who have yet to repent and come to faith, you also long for that day when you can cast off the effects of the fall from your flesh, in the resurrection, when your body, too, will be perfected along with your soul. Then there will be no more sin. Then there will be no more temptation. Then there will be no more weeds. Then the righteous, which is to say those made righteous by God, justified by faith in Christ Jesus, given Christ’s own righteousness, will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Your deliverance is coming. The creation will be restored. You will be restored. The earth and the universe, originally made perfect for your benefit, will be created anew, just as you are. In the mean time the Spirit helps you in your weakness and intercedes for you with groans that words cannot express (v. 26). The Day is coming. The Spirit preserves you in the faith until that Day. Christ is your deliverance. Therefore remember that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

4 Comments:

Anonymous M. Powell said...

Pastor, This sermon has stuck in my head ever since hearing it in the pew. I have been wondering where the definition of 'darnel' comes from. Where did your reasearch find that it is a weed that looks exactly like wheat? Aslo then, why did the workers offer to pull the weeds if they could not tell the different between the weeds and the wheat?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

The Greek word, zizania, means 'darnel' or 'cheat,' according to the Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich Greek-English lexicon. Lenski writes: "By (zizania) is meant 'darnel,' most probably lolium temulentum, with grass-like foliage resembling that of wheat and barley" (Matthew, p. 509).

I probably found out the most about it by reading other sermons on this text, but here is a Wikipedia article that says the same thing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darnel):

"Lolium temulentum, typically known as darnel or cockle, is an annual plant that forms part of the Poaceae family and part of the Lolium genus. The plant stem can grow up to 1 meter tall, with inflorescence in the ears and purple grain. It grows plentifully in Syria and Israel.

It usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so extensive that in some regions cockle is referred to as "false wheat." It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The ears on the real wheat are so heavy that it makes the entire plant droop downward, but the "false wheat", whose ears are light, stands up straight.

It is also gives its name to another edible grain, aquatic cockle, known as "false rice."

The plant is mentioned in the Parable of the Tares in the Gospel of Matthew."

In an agricultural setting, I'm not sure why the servants ask if they should pull up the weeds. Maybe upon very close examination one who is an expert can tell the difference. Maybe the servants are cocky. Maybe they don't care if they pull up some wheat with the zizania. The spiritual point of the parable, though, is clear... If you go pulling zizania, for whatever reason, even if you think you can do so without pulling wheat, you will make mistakes. You will pull out some genuine Christians you thought were hypocrites. You also may pull up some hypocrites who could, given time, miraculously be converted into Christians. So you have to wait until the harvest. Then the reapers (different than the servants (humans), the reapers are the holy angels) will come and separate the wheat from the tares. In other words, on judgment day, the ears appear on the plants, and the angels can easily tell the difference between the wheat and the zizania.

Does this answer your question? Is there a question behind the question? Do you know something I don't know about wheat and darnel (it wouldn't be hard... I don't know a lot)?

Blessings!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous M. Powell said...

Thanks for the detail. I found it very interesting and educational. Nope, no hidden question or agenda, just curious how one fills in the gaps left by the Word. The message was clear and your sermon complete. Thanks for all you do...

1:19 PM  
Blogger Pastor Krenz said...

Thank you, and thanks for commenting.

1:49 PM  

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