Oops, I had some problems uploading this and I never came back to finish it after I solved them.
This is the middle sermon of three on Jesus’ parable discourse. It cover mainly the Wheat and the Weeds, although I think the mustard seed and the leaven are important for rounding out the understanding. If the Sower addresses why the Kingdom seems to be failing, or at least encountering heavy opposition, then these address how we are to respond to it. And at this point there are two audiences: a) the disciples and b) the crowds who are on the fence.
Both audiences are encouraged to patience. Don’t take rash action. But each a different type of patience. The disciples to not become “zealots” reaching for a sword. The crowds to watch the leaven/mustard work/grow.
Parables and the purpose of the parables have in the last couple of generations of interpreters have had two dramatically different purposes. In the hippy era, the parables were these nice earthy stories that allowed the interpreter to say whatever odd but nice things popped into their heads. Think Godspell, parable edition. Almost as a reaction to that, some interpreters latched on the evangelists’ quotes of Isaiah on the purpose of the parables. Parables were not meant to be understood except by disciples. Parables became an exercise not in creation homey communication, but in esoteric teaching. Both of these, at least in my reading, are horrible over-shoots. (I think the hippy version itself was a reaction to an overly stiff German “there is no allegory, there is only one meaning” parable dogma.) Part of what this sermon does is attempt to avoid both inviting the listener to imagine how the parables could have been a natural development from the actual ministry of Jesus.
I lean quite heavily on Jeff Gibbs for this, but I think he nails it. The parables themselves are preached to the crowds, and they are invitations to not turn away. Yes, this Reign of God doesn’t look like what is expected – a messy field, small, scandalous – but this is God working. In this they are a statement of the now. The sermon comes in two part though. Jesus moves into the house, and his explanations are to the disciples. To those who are following however haltingly, the emphasis isn’t so much on the now. They know the now. Jesus’s emphasis is on the not yet, the eschatological promise.
Worship note: with two “seed” type parables in a row, you really burn through those hymns. One of them, which we sang today is a little tricky. Not a surprise because LSB 654 (Your Kingdom, O God, Is My Glorious Treasure) is a hymn from 2003. Modern hymns so often have tunes or metrical phrasing that is just harder for congregations. So, I didn’t include that one, but instead left in our closing hymn, which is a classic. LSB 921, On What Has Now Been Sown.
We continue this week with the parables in Matthew 13. The parable of the sower with its focus on individuals soils is more applicable on a personal level. The parable of the weeds and with it the parable of the leaven care less about individual reception of the gospel but are aimed more toward the various situations that the people of God might find themselves. The leaven is hid in the midst of a very large amount of flour. The wheat and the weeds grow together. The people of God find themselves in a wide variety of fields in the world.
The title points toward Peter Leithart’s taxonomy of the kingdoms of this world: guardians, babels and beasts. The sermon attempts two things: 1) a warning to the people of God used to a guardian what it means to live in babel and 2) a refocus on the core hope – the resurrection – that unites the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom might look small and weak, but that is how God has chosen to act, and the reign of heaven even small instills hope.