Pentecost 9a

Preached: August 10, 2014

Wait for the Harvest
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Jesus speaks to us is Matthew 13

Jesus told them another parable: “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.

“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?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 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.’ ”

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.”

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 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, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 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. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 NIV84)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

“O Lord, how long will you look on” (Psalm 35:17 NIV84), David calls out in Psalm 35. “[H]ow long will you look on? Rescue me from their ravages …” (Psalm 35:17 NIV84). He may have prayed these words while on the run from King Saul, hunted like an animal, hiding in caves. What wrong had he done? None. King Saul hunted him because the Lord had chosen David to be the next king. Think about it. The Lord’s promise to make David king brought him trouble.

We too call out, “How long, O Lord? How long?” We pray not only when we share in the sicknesses, pains, tragedies, and troubles that can strike anyone, but especially, dear Christians, when our hardships and adversities come because of God’s Word.

In this world we are in the same field as the unbeliever. They do not accept God’s Word and refuse believe his promises, and they want to choke out those who do. In this world they grow up right next to us. As long as we are alive on this earth, that’s the way it will be. But take heart and patiently endure, for the harvest is coming. Wait for the harvest. That’s the theme today. Wait for the harvest. For God knows how to take care of his field. Then when the harvest does come, the weeds will burn, and the wheat will shine.

A. God knows how to take care of his field

Throughout the world, wherever the true Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed, there he actively rules in believers’ hearts. The world is his field. Wherever he plants, there sons and daughters of the kingdom grow. Jesus explained it this way, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:37, 38 NIV84).

But notice who else is actively at work wherever Christ’s crop grows. “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” (Matthew 13: 25, 26 NIV84). The devil wants to ruin Jesus’ harvest. He uses the unbelievers of this world to try to.

Why not get rid of all the unbelievers right now? Don’t we weed our gardens and fields? That seems to be what the servants thought. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ” (Matthew 13:28 NIV84). But what did the owner answer? “No … because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest” (Matthew 13:29, 30 NIV84).

God knows what he’s doing. He knows how to take care of his field, even though it doesn’t match our thinking. Note the explanation he gives, “while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them” (Matthew 13:29 NIV84). Notice his care and concern for each blade of wheat. In fact, he carries out his good and gracious will even as the weeds grow. Other places in Scripture give us examples of this, which go beyond what this parable can picture.

While the church was still small and weak, an ambitious man hunted down Christians and lobbied for their execution, wanting to completely wipe out the name of Jesus from this earth. Wouldn’t we have pulled him out as a noxious weed? But Jesus changed him into the Apostle Paul. God knows what he’s doing. And if you think of it, didn’t we all start our lives as unbelievers? How good and merciful our God is that he didn’t pull us out then! He knows what he’s doing. He knows how to take care of his field.

In fact, God uses the weeds, even those that stay weeds their entire life. He uses them to achieve his good will and wonderful purpose. Think of Pharaoh in Egypt, who oppressed God’s people and refused to let them leave with Moses. The Lord used Pharaoh’s wickedness to show his own saving power as he delivered his people. God knows what he’s doing. Or consider the wickedness of Caiaphas, Judas Iscariot, and Pontius Pilate. They all had their evil motives for what they did, but the Lord used it all to accomplish his saving purpose, namely, the forgiveness of your sins through the death of his Son to bring eternal life to all who believe in our risen Savior. Yes, God knows what he’s doing.

We could list many more examples from Bible history and church history. And those are only the ones our limited reasoning and knowledge can figure out. How many more ways beyond our recognition hasn’t the Lord been at work? He knows what he’s doing.

So, dear Christian friend, when you are ridiculed for your faith, when you are criticized for doing what is right in the Lord’s sight, when you feel the pressure to do wrong and begin to wonder if it’s worth following Jesus as the weeds spring up around you, have confidence that God knows what he is doing. He knows how to take of his field. We usually can’t see it at the time, and even in hindsight we often cannot figure it out, but believe that God certainly knows what he is doing. He is taking care of you. Patiently endure. For although troubles may seem to last forever, the harvest is coming. Wait for the harvest. For the harvest will get rid of the weeds.

B. The weeds will burn

“The harvest is the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39 NIV84), Jesus says. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 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. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42 NIV84).

Yes, hell is for real. It is a place of unimaginable anguish, hopelessness, torment, suffering, pain, and horror. The weeds will burn in the fires of hell. For the harvest is certainly coming. This world will end. No one will escape. All who do evil will feel the fiery flames forever. The weeds will burn.

Now, as we hear Jesus calling out, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:43 NIV84), examine your own heart. The specific kind of weed Jesus refers to in the parable can look a lot like a blade of wheat growing. Only you and God can truly see your heart. As I examine my heart, I see much that I don’t like, much that is sinful, evil. And the evil within me corrupts my actions, so that even best works don’t measure up on their own. Notice who is thrown into the fire of hell. It’s all who do evil. Why wouldn’t that include me?

Now I could fool myself and argue that I’ve done my best or that I’ve been good enough, especially compared to some people. Then I’d be a weed, trying to cover my evil heart with a fig leaf. And the harvest would bring me to hell to burn with the other weeds.

But Jesus is my righteousness. He covers me. And there is no evil, no fault, in him at all. Only his righteousness stands up in God’s courtroom. Why would I plead my own attempted efforts at goodness? Instead, Jesus freely credits me, yes guilty me—he freely credits even me with his righteousness, his flawless record.

For you see, God credits Jesus’ righteousness to the unrighteous, to the sinner, to the ungodly. That’s you and me. Don’t imagine that your own efforts at goodness can stand up before God. Each day give up on making yourself right before God. Instead trust Jesus and his righteousness. Faith clothes you with Jesus’ righteousness so that God counts you and me as wheat. For God has declared you to be righteous in his sight through Christ alone.

And what does Jesus say about the righteous as he explains the parable? “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43 NIV84).

C. The wheat will shine

“The kingdom of their Father” reminds us of how Jesus called the wheat “sons of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:38 NIV84) earlier. Some translations translate “people of the kingdom” to make it clear that “sons” does not exclude females. But the Greek word the Holy Spirit gave Matthew is the word for “sons,” indicating the special status we have as believers in Jesus. We’re not merely peasants or tradesmen in this kingdom. We’re sons of the King. We’re heirs. We’ve been recreated in his image. Heaven is our home, for it’s our Father’s house. In fact, we reign with Christ. Our royalty is hidden now as we grow with the weeds in this world. But when the harvest comes, then all will see that you and I and all who have believed are truly sons and daughters of the King, heirs of eternal life, reigning with our savior, Jesus Christ, forever and ever. The wheat will shine. Wait for the harvest.

In the parable Jesus says that the wheat is brought into the barn. That’s how wheat was safely stored. Heaven is a place of eternally safety and security. Remember that, when you feel so insecure in this life. Anticipate the harvest. Wait for your harvest-home.

But as Jesus explains the parable, he doesn’t mention the barn. But rather, he breaks out of the picture of the parable since heaven is so much greater and says, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun” (Matthew 13:43 NIV84). Ordinary wheat doesn’t shine, does it? But heaven is no ordinary place. We cannot even imagine its wonder and marvel. The last hymn today will help us picture it as best as our limited minds and experience can. But in heaven we are not only spectators and bystanders marveling at God’s glory. We too will actively share in that glory, we will shine like the sun. Wait for the harvest.

And as you wait, dear Christian, shine now in this dark world. So dear friends fellow wheat, shine by growing deeper and deeper into the word of God, just as wheat sends its roots deep into the soil. Love for our Savior draws us into his word. Shine also by reflecting Christ’s love as you love others sharing with them kindness, forgiveness, and the good news of Jesus. Such good works are fruits of faith which wheat produces. Shine as you wait for the harvest. Amen.

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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