Didn’t you sow good seed? (August 2, 2020)

Didn’t you sow good seed? (August 2, 2020)

August 2, 2020
Benjamin Ehlers

Didn’t you sow good seed?

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

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He got old. That young man who leaned on Jesus’ chest the night before the cross. The one who bested Peter in the early morning dash to the tomb – the first one to see the empty grave clothes and believe their silent testimony. He got old and finally slowed down. That John got old is not a remarkable fact all by itself. But consider that he was the only one of the 12 disciples to accomplish it. He endured, with a mix of crushing sadness and swelling joy to see the brutal martyrdom of most from that intimate circle of friends, and to see believers endure nonetheless.

How can that be? How can there be a good God when the world is such a bad place? Reflect on your own life – the mix of joy and sadness you’ve been through, the moments when you knew for certain that God did not exist or that his intentions were not entirely good. The problem: A God of absolute power as well as absolute goodness seems incompatible with the world we live in – a world filled with pain and death. “Lord, didn’t you so good seed? Where then did the weeds come from?” (Mt 13:27). The weeds, as later described by Jesus, being, “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41).

First, let’s take a look at the sowing of this field.

God certainly intended to have a weed-free field – to have a world filled with people who are born in his image, having the same will of God, and living in a creation that would be a blessing in every way. And that’s certainly what he sowed. When he established the world by his creating word in the beginning, “everything was very good” (Gen 1:31). Everything worked as it should. Everything was harmonious. Even mankind was created in God’s own image – having a mindset, a will, that aligned perfectly with God’s good and gracious will. Can you even imagine that?! But, we didn’t get to see that. Shortly after creation, the devil sowed weeds – sowed the seeds of evil right into the world and into the human heart.

Jesus says in his 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” (Mt 13:24-25). To be clear on terms, the “Kingdom of heaven” is not a place – it’s not talking about that place called heaven where believers go after they die. Jesus is talking about something right now. In fact, in one place Jesus even said, the kingdom of heaven is among you (Lk 17:21). The kingdom of heaven is God’s gracious rule in human hearts and lives. Through the gospel promises of God’s word and sacraments, Jesus gives us the sure hope of heaven. That’s the kingdom of heaven!

In the world there are both Christ’s kingdom, and the devil’s kingdom of sin and darkness. God has all authority and sows only good seed in the world. But the devil sows bad seed – weeds among the wheat. So when asking, “Lord, didn’t you so good seed? Where then did the weeds come from?” (Mt 13:27). You know their source. The seeds of evil didn’t come from God. They came from the devil. Ever since the beginning there have been wheat – children of God – and weeds – children of the devil. The sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one live side by side in this world and may look very much alike. Yet they are entirely different.

So you know who’s sowing. Now let’s take a look at what’s growing.

The question is often asked, “Didn’t you so good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from” (Mt 13:27). Or, why is there evil if God is good? How can a good God allow such evil? Like the servants in the parable, who are the sons of the kingdom – the believers – we too are often astonished at the spread of wickedness. And what’s more perplexing is that even where the gospel has been clearly proclaimed for many years, wickedness still abounds.

Seeing this, our first reaction is to uproot the weeds – get rid of them all. And you can see this happen throughout history. How many times have believers tried to separate the wheat and weeds in the kingdom with rules or monasteries, with inquisitions or Pharisaical laws? All these were measures meant to uproot weeds or at least prevent them from corrupting good wheat. But what did it actually do? Any time it has been tried, we only succeed in ruining wheat along with the weeds. We uproot the faith of the weak who fall into sin. We trample the faith of the strong by feeding their pride. We cause more harm than good.

The servants in the parable had the same plan for action, “Do you want us to go and pull [the weeds] up?” (Mt 13:28). But they didn’t immediately go out and begin their work. First, they asked the master what he would have them do. Our Lord wants servants who are zealous to do his work, yes. But who first find out from Scripture exactly what their Lord wants them to do.

Our Lord’s answer is a resounding, “No!” (Mt 13:29). He said, “Let them grow” (Mt 13:30). But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a plan. The Lord most certainly has a plan to separate the wheat and weeds. Before the devil even carries out his wicked plans, the Lord already knows his plan – how he will use the evil for our good (Rm 8:28).

Take, for example, the true story of a man who was wrongly accused and condemned to death. Despite evidence to the contrary, a group of single-minded, evil men made up the jury that called for the death sentence. This man was killed for crimes he did not commit. Beaten and brutally killed – hung upon a cross to die. And yet, because of his death, you are forgiven of all your crimes. I’m talking, of course, about Jesus. Yes, Satan planned his evil and was allowed to carry it out. He persuaded one of Jesus’ own disciples to carry out his evil work. He incited a mob to cry out their injustices. But God meant it for good! God used the devil’s scheming at the death of Christ to be your greatest good!

How many other examples are there throughout Scripture? Examples of God using evil for his good plans. Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery out of jealousy and greed. But God used this to save many thousands from a devastating famine. The apostle Paul being raised a Pharisee among Pharisees – relying on his own works, not God’s grace – and yet that knowledge and background gave him a thorough knowledge of Scriptures and customs to bring others to faith and combat Judaism.

What about in your own life? How many of you would have been uprooted if God simply destroyed the weeds as soon as their fruit appeared – destroyed you and me as soon as there was any evidence of evil thoughts and wicked actions? Oh Lord, who could stand? We all would have been pulled up and thrown into the fire.

Jesus calls the weeds, “everything that causes sin and all who do evil” (Mt 13:41). It makes sense that the weeds should be uprooted, but that was not God’s plan. Thankfully that is not God’s plan. Jesus’ answer is an unmistakable “No!” The reason the owner forbids his servants from pulling up the weeds is for the sake of the wheat. Out of love for the wheat, Jesus forbids us to cut short anyone’s time of grace. You and I were weeds once too. But allowed to remain and hear God’s Word, you are now wheat! Wheat among the weeds, growing together, yes. Suffering at times, yes. But also testifying to the truth, being wheat, and by God’s grace producing good fruit for the Savior.

As long as this present world stands, there will be both believers and unbelievers growing together in the world. But this situation will not continue forever. The harvest is coming. Now it seems that the wicked are prospering and flourishing. But the Lord points us ahead to the harvest, when believers and unbelievers will be separated. All temptation from our sinful flesh will be put to an end. All believers will be gathered into the Lord’s house forever. “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).

Didn’t you sow good seed? Yes, and by God’s grace you are one of them! Sown by God, growing strong and healthy in him, and one day he will mow you up into his arms. That’s certain!

Give to others this perspective you have – that even when life is not all roses and sunshine – when there are thorns and weeds, share how your good God can turn even the darkest moments in life to lifechanging moments for good! Because there is also a questioning that arises not from unbelief but from faith. It is precisely the fact that you know he is good, and you know he sowed good seed, and you know he is love that your soul cries out, “Then why, dear Lord?!” And the answer he gives reaches beyond the realm of words and ideas. He gives his very self for you. Gives himself so that weeds may become wheat.