Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
July 20, 2014
They call it “false wheat.”
The bearded darnel is the most insidious of weeds,
It’s also known as “tares” in the Bible-
so you may have heard of this parable called the parable of the wheat and the tares.
Here’s what the bearded darnel does – it’s rather ingenious:
its roots surround the roots of healthy plants,
and suck up all the nutrients.
It gets so entwined with the other plants,
that it’s impossible to uproot without uprooting the good plants too!
In the field, the bearded darnel looks identical to wheat.
However, the seeds of the two are very different.
The seeds of the bearded darnel are highly poisonous.
They cause vomiting and hallucinations.
They can even cause death.[i]
Of course farmers know all this.
The people Jesus speaks to know all this.
And perhaps more importantly the people in Matthew, the gospel writer’s, community,
the young Christians in the last 1st century, know all this.
And maybe you know all the bearded darnel too!
The people in Matthew’s community know all about the roots getting tangled up
and the poisonous seeds.
And here’s what they also know…
it hasn’t taken long for this early Christian community
to know that there is evil even among them.
That try as they might to follow the teachings of Jesus…
Even as they hear Scripture together,
evil is right alongside them.
Jesus’ parable isn’t as much about “why is there evil in the world?”
(that would’ve been a good question for him to address in a parable!)
Rather, this parable addresses the question, “Since there is evil in the world,
even in the church, even among the disciples you called, even among us,
what are we to about it?”
Shouldn’t we get rid of it…
before it poisons us?
Matthew’s community was no different than ours.
There were liars and cheats,
gossips and rumormongers,
adulterers and more!
There were people who broke every one of the 10 commandments…
and Luther’s explanations.
How dare they sit and pray among the rest of us!
Shouldn’t we ask them to leave, uproot them,
weed them out of our community?
Jesus says, “Wait.”
You think you know where evil is.
You think you can distinguish between the wheat and the tares.
But you can’t.
True wheat and false wheat look the same.
Follow the example of the wise farmer.
The wise farmer doesn’t try to get rid of the false wheat,
because he knows he’ll lose the healthy wheat as well.
Instead he waits.
After the plants have grown to form seeds,
the farmer separates their seeds through a sieve.
The smaller seeds of the tares fall through,
and the wheat remains.
This is one of many parables Jesus uses to describe the kingdom of God.
(we’ll hear five more next week.)
Jesus says the kingdom of God is like this farmer.
(And whenever you hear the phrase, “kingdom of God,”
you can substitute the phrase, “the way God works in the world.”)
The way God works in the world is like this farmer.
Evil and good coexist – even here.
Later in Matthew we’ll hear of other ways to deal with evil in the community.
But in this parable, Jesus says, “Don’t take this task of judgment on yourselves.
Be like the wise farmer.
Wait until the harvest.
Leave it for God.”
Leave it for God.
Don’t try to uproot the evil,
because in the process you will hurt the innocent.
Our hearts have been broken by pictures of some of these innocents
Our human instinct is to think that we can judge evil when we see it,
and to get rid of it…
quickly and completely.
But when we take judgment on ourselves,
we’ve seen some of the dangers.
We’ve seen some of the “collateral damage” it can create.
In trying to uproot Hamas,
four Palestinian children are killed playing football on a beach.
There was wheat growing among the tares,
and that wheat was taken down too.
Someone shoots down a plane over Ukraine.
On board are AIDS researchers heading to a conference,
and families heading to vacation,
and workers heading to business meetings.
For whatever the motivation,
for whatever perceived evil the perpetrators were attempting to uproot,
wheat was taken down too.
Children arrive daily at our borders,
and residents become afraid that weeds will grow up among the wheat.
Thinking that we know who belongs and who does not,
we seek to send them away, to send them back as quickly as possible.
Of course, for some of these children,
this means we are sending them back to be killed;
wheat will be taken down along with the tares.
Is it worth it?
Is it ever worth it to uproot the weeds, get rid of the tares,
destroy the bearded darnel?
In this parable Jesus seems to say no.
That’s not God’s way of working in the world.
God allows weeds to grow alongside the wheat,
because God is unwilling to lose a single blade of wheat.
Our synod has asked us to join with churches across the ELCA today,
and observe a moment of silent prayer in the wake of escalating violence in Gaza.
Let us take that moment and pray for an end to the violence.
Let us pray for the health and safety of each blade of wheat.
[i] Feasting on the Word, Year A, Volume 3, Talitha Arnold