Sunday, July 20, 2008

Now, But Not Yet

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Most of the words are Jesus’. The parable and its explanation are from Him.

But it’s the reaction of the disciples that pinpoint what this about. This parable of Jesus is usually called the parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. But that’s not what the disciples call it. They’re troubled by the parable Jesus says and when they ask Him to explain it they call it “the parable of the weeds.”

Where did these weeds come from? Who is that enemy that planted them? They’re very concerned about these weeds. They will fall to a fate far worse than the wheat. The disciples perceive Jesus is describing to them the end result of all people. They reason that if they’re the wheat then they’re in good shape. But if, on the other hand, they’re the weeds then Jesus has just sent shudders down their spine. Can we get some more explanation there, Jesus, please? Can you please assure us that we’re the wheat and then we don’t need to worry or fear?

What Jesus is teaching here is, in one sense, for everyone. The problem is, those who are the weeds may not listen. They may be offended, they may not care. But in another sense, this parable is for those of us who are the wheat. The problem here, however, is that while we listen to our Lord we fail to take it to heart. What does it mean for us that the wheat and the weeds grow together?

At the Judgment, we know what it means for the weeds—they will be damned to hell for eternity. Likewise, for the wheat, we know it means that we will be welcomed into the eternal Kingdom of glory in heaven.

But that’s what it means then. What does it mean now? What does it mean for us that the weeds will be in torment forever? What does it mean for us now that we will be forever in perfection?

What it means is that we live in the now but not yet. Or we could say the soon but not yet. The reason we might say the soon but not yet is because Christ is coming again in glory on the Last Day, but it’s not far off. It’s soon. It doesn’t seem that way because we’re going on 2000 years now since Jesus ascended into heaven and promised to return in glory on the Last Day. How long is soon in God’s thinking? Well, it is soon but since He is not bound by time it’s not long to Him like it seems to us.

This is so much more important than we realize. When it seems like it’s not soon, what do we do? We get lackadaisical. We think that He’s in no hurry. But this is deadly. And this is exactly why Jesus tells this parable. It’s going to happen. He’s going to come again in glory. And when He does, it will be too late for those who are the weeds.

This is one reason why it’s so important for you and me to know what this parable means for us in regard to the end result of the weeds. If they don’t know, or don’t believe, then it’s tragic if we sit by and let that result happen to them. Not that we’re going to save any of them. We’re not. Only God can do that. But we can tell them what will happen. Jesus makes it clear so that we clearly know of the call we have to warn the people of the judgment that will occur on Judgment Day.

But there’s a warning here for us regarding ourselves. The disciples noticed it right away. What if we’re among the weeds? Jesus begins His parable with the Gospel: He sows the wheat. But there’s judgment hidden even in the purest Gospel message. Behind the Gospel is the reason for the Gospel: the sinfulness of man. The fact that Jesus died attests to our need of salvation. It shows us that we are utterly sinful. That we are, in fact, the weeds but for the merciful action of God. Paul spells out the painful details to the Ephesians: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience.”

The prince of the power of the air is Satan—the enemy of Jesus’ parable, the evil one, the devil. We belong to him because of our sin. This is the domain of Satan. But Jesus entered into His very own creation. He came down into the domain where Satan likes to prowl around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. He met Satan head on in his own territory. And what Jesus did in the battle is to lay down His life. If it were simply a battle between Jesus and Satan Jesus would simply crush Satan under His feet. But Jesus didn’t go to the cross to prove His might over the evil one. He did it to appease the wrath of God upon sinners. Satan thus had a victory of sorts, he nicked Jesus on the heel.

But what the devil could never have seen because of His blindness to the mercy of God is that Jesus in dying for the sins of the world crushed his head.

When God sows seed He sows good seed. When He makes you His child forever, you are His child forever. You may hear the news that there are weeds in the Church and wonder if indeed that’s you. Maybe you’re not a child of God after all. But know that you are indeed a child of God, even now. Not yet enjoying the fullness of the glory of heaven, to be sure, but a child of God forever, nonetheless.

He sowed the seed in your heart and waters it daily. That’s why we return to our Baptism daily. We are weak and often turn to the desires of our sinful flesh, so daily we go back to our Baptism and repent of our sins. There we are once again drowned to the old sinful flesh and are raised up anew to new life.

He sowed the seed in your heart and tends and nourishes it. That’s why He feeds us with the very Body and Blood of His dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We at times wonder if there are greener pastures than the field of wheat that is the Holy Christian Church. But that’s why we hunger and thirst for Christ’s invitation to come and feed upon His eternal Bread and life-sustaining Blood. There we are renewed in heart and mind and soul. There we are forgiven and strengthened.

Can we feel the reality of glory in Christ where there is no sadness or sin, no pain or evil? No, that’s not yet. It’s the promise of our faithful God, but it’s not yet. It’s the hope, but it’s nevertheless in the future.

But even now our Lord gives to us the strength we need. He sustains us. He provides for us and cares for us. He takes our sin and wipes it out. Not because He ignores what we have done, because He has reconciled Himself to us in His holy Son, the very Lamb of God. Behold, He takes away the sin of the world. This promise is for you and your children and all who are far off. It is yours in your Baptism. It is yours in His Holy Supper. It is yours—yes, even now. And forever. Amen.


No comments: