Philip Casmer

What Do You Expect?

by Philip Casmer on July 23rd, 2023
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

If I sit down with a young couple as they look ahead toward marriage, sometimes we’ll talk about expectations. Now and again, a young couple will say they’re looking for the perfect soulmate, someone who fulfills their desires, and accepts them for who they are. And I try not to laugh then… I mean – after my uneventful foray in the hospital, I’m wearing a heart monitor now for 30 days and I showed it to my wife and said, “I’m basically like Ironman now…” And she said, “It looks like you stuck a garage door opener on your chest…” That’s love… Because you know – even when it’s good, it’s almost always compromise – it’s much more giving than receiving – or it should be. And marriage isn’t always good – sometimes it fails – because of you or someone else. Sometimes pre-marital counseling is maybe not quite crushing dreams but definitely resetting expectations.

Same’s true in the work world. There are big generational, cultural differences between those who’ve aged out into retirement and those just entering the workforce – between those who’ve moved into management and those just getting hired. Expectations of being able to work from home may be less likely. And good luck finding a young person if you’re going to demand 70hrs a week and little vacation. And that isn’t even getting into our general lives as American people and what we all want and desire, strive for, and demand. It’s hard, in our relationships, work, lives, to line up all the expectations…

What about our expectations of God? Do you ever wonder what he’s up to? Last week a woman sleeping in a park in CA was run over by a lawnmower – mowed to death – that’s gruesome and unbelievable. But terrible things happen all the time. In our normal lives, unexpected, weak-making things that you can’t explain. There is abuse, taking advantage, discrimination, getting away with criminality, miscarriage of justice, persecution, misuse of power… And we might ask, “Where is God’s power?” or “Why doesn’t God do something?”

That’s a very natural question. It’s actually a kingdom question; a question about God’s rule – how does it work, what is he doing, shouldn’t it be this way? The people of Jesus’ day and Jesus’ own disciples asked it as their expectations for what Messiah would be met up with the reality of who Jesus is. And it’s probably why he gave us this series of parables in Matthew’s gospel that we had last week, this week, and will have next week too. Jesus is talking about God’s kingdom and what it’s like – and how it differs from what we expect.

Now, the parable itself is simple. Last week you had the sower, sowing seed all over the place in his love. This week he sows again – good seed for a good harvest. But the enemy came and sowed in weeds – which has been known to happen throughout history – destroy your enemy’s crop, damage their strength, etc. This weed Jesus mentions is a kind of grass that grows only in the wheat fields of the Middle East. It contains a poisonous fungus that ruins crops, can hurt humans. The problem is when it first begins to grow it looks a lot like wheat. That’s why it wasn’t until the wheat sprouted and formed heads that the weeds were evident. 

In my backyard right now, I’ve got a bad weed patch. It’s an old flower bed and it’s chock full of weeds. But I’ve got landscaping coming and I just don’t wanna deal with that stuff. So I’ve left it… Except, weeds spread, don’t they? They’re appearing around my patio and in my lawn now. And, I think it’s that knowledge drives the workers’ expectation that they’d go out and pull out those weeds right away before things got worse. Makes sense… So, it’s a sort of surprise when the master farmer said, “‘No [don’t uproot the weeds even though that’s sensible], because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest.’” (Matthew 13:29, NIV) If there was one truth in the tale, it’s right there: it seems like the master sower, the master farmer is saying, “Be patient… I will do what’s best… Just wait…”

He says it because the field is the world, where we live. And we’ve experienced exactly what Jesus told. There are both children of the devil (unbelievers) and children of God (believers) in the mix – good and evil growing together. God knows that that will happen and he wills that it remain so until the right time. That isn’t what we expect sometimes nor, very often, what we want…So, I think it’s particularly important that we attend to Jesus’ last word. You notice he prohibits the servants from doing a thing? And, actually, the only imperative for you to do is this: “Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

Hear… that there are and will be weeds: children of the devil. They will be in the world and even in God’s church. And their work “causes sin” and “[does] evil” (v.41). Read Romans 1 from this morning and recognize that every disgusting sexual, material, sensual thing the world pursues is an affront to God and a danger to you. The world may sound smart or make a show of being “loving” but it’s all a product of broken reason and sinful desire. Acknowledge that sin-causing evil. Don’t pretend as though everyone’s fine and whatever each believes is great. No, hear… God marks a difference. He even calls it to your attention.

But hear that he doesn’t call you to pull the weeds up. We have no claim on making a eutopia or a pew-topia… Out there or in here, Jesus doesn’t call us to give in to our fears that we will be harmed and to harm others first, nor to our hatred of those who hate us, nor to our own impatience because we want comfort – not even to put our trust in the law or princes or power – and to kill off the weeds… Listen to Martin Luther about the sinful agenda of his day – to remove all kinds of unbelievers by the sword: 

with the sword …with fire …with death, [we uprooted the weeds] by our own power, as if we were the ones who could reign over hearts and spirits, and make them pious and right, which God’s Word alone must do. [What really happened? Instead] by murder we separate the people from the Word, so that it cannot possibly work upon them and…murder the body for time and the soul for eternity, and afterwards say we did God a service by our actions.

Step outside of the picture of the parable for a moment, for two things: 1) As Luther said – God’s Word works / we must preach it. Because, in the field as it is, weeds also become wheat. People repent of their unbelief, their sin, of wickedness…and believe. So we dare not presume to remove the weeds, ignore the weeds, reject the weeds before (as Luther said) the Word of God has had a chance to work. St. Peter reminds us: “The Lord [does not want] anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance… he is patient with you.” (2 Peter 3:9, NIV)  2) We must understand that the Lord means to be patient with you. We also know the thorns of sin; have been weeds ourselves; will struggle with all the temptations… And Jesus isn’t telling us to not exercise discipline with one another – march ahead to Matthew 18 and other chapters – Christian life is correct, rebuke, encourage, not live and let live… 

But right now, Jesus is not calling us to preach – Jesus is not calling us to discipline. He’s calling you who know God’s Word to hear: it’s our own selfish impatience that presumes we are the kings and queens of the kingdom – who dictate what ought to happen here or there, who ought to belong here or there. There is judgment for that sin. Hear and repent for these… And remember: there, into that burning fire, but for the grace of God go we…

Did you hear that in Jesus’ words? Leaving the weeds is grace. Pulling them up, the workers “might uproot the wheat with them…” Perhaps bloody judgment in this world would sicken the hearts of believers and drive them away; maybe the destruction of unbelievers would weaken the faith of those who love them; maybe… I don’t know. I do know Jesus said leaving them there is part of his gracious consideration of you – to not uproot you before his harvest, to allow his Word to be heard by you and others, to gather in as much wheat as he can. 

Did you hear that too? This grand comfort that, even though there are weeds planted by a devious enemy, though there are dangers, though there is wickedness and temptations to sin, there will be a harvest… God’s wheat will be planted and grow and flourish and he will harvest at the proper time. And then there will be the judgment of all that is sin and the burning of all those weeds. But there you will shine…

Did you hear why? I think it’s this: “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.” I don’t know if you recall, but this title came out of the prophet Daniel long, long before Jesus’ day. But Jesus used this term for himself. Here’s what Daniel said about the Son of Man: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” (7:14) Talk about rule and regency  and majesty – kingdom… Perhaps the real surprise ought to be, not that the weeds will remain, but that a Son of Man like this would sow… Would put out a Word to make children of his own; dirty his feet in the field himself; don the flannel shirt and coveralls and glory in the farmer’s backbreaking work and, righteous and successful, die like one who’d failed to work at all – for the ones who’ve failed… So that they might be righteous – forgiven of sins, washed clean of filth, plucked up and held forth as exactly the kind of crop he wanted to have. No matter that the weeds have overshadowed you or crowded you or marred you or even that death took you… shining, bright and perfect like the sun – so holy you’re hard to look at… …As we’d have no right or reason to expect… Far beyond what we could ever see… Far greater than we could ever dream… That’s the way it will be. 

Look at the world, examine life, all your expectations – and ask: where is God’s power? Then, this morning, hear – Jesus is working in every possible way so that you are part of his harvest – with everlasting dominion and sovereign power he works – so that in holiness you can patiently wait, right here among the weeds…

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