I like this parable because it runs against the conventional wisdom. I’m not big into conventional wisdom in general. Do you know what I mean? Conventional wisdom leads to housing bubbles, millions of cars being recalled, and eventually innocent people asking, “What happened?” I like to apply that same level of cautious skepticism when looking at some of the tried and true parables. If we want to learn something new, we might be wise to look for a new way in. That may mean the back door or even crawling through a window.
I’m going to open up a window, so we can see that connection, where conventional wisdom relates to our world and then meets up with the picture Jesus paints in this parable. Here we’re told the enemy, the devil, has sewn evil weeds in the gardens of our lives. Being the good gardeners that we are, we want to get these weeds out, do we not? We want to prune and weed right away. We can’t allow any evil, potentially satanic weeds to remain in our front lawns or back gardens. What would the neighbors think? “Look at the preacher’s house; sure is a pretty front porch and I love that old Oak Tree, I just don’t know about all those demonic weeds.” Or it’s like having a bad hand at cards; you want to get rid of ones that will do you no good later in the game as quickly as possible.
Against our better judgment, common sense, spiritual inclinations, Jesus comes in and says, “wait!” Slow, down. You want to hold on to your bad weeds and your good grass. You never know when that 2 of diamonds might be as handy as the ace of hearts. Keep them all. I’ll sort them out in the end. He says “wait” and we say, “whaaat?” What Jesus? You want us to do what? Let me get this straight. These weeds, obviously now identified as evil, even by you, you want us to leave in place, because you say so. Shouldn’t we get them all up now? The people on the news say if we leave them in place we will be in mortal danger. They could grow and spread among us. Jesus says to us, “if you pull them up now, you will pull up the good and the bad, you will do more harm than good. You won’t be able to tell the good from the bad. The best thing to do is let me do the sorting. That’s my job.”
Again, we continue. “Lord, we heard it on the radio, we can’t leave these evil weeds in place, they must be removed now.” Jesus comes back one more time. “I’m telling you, you will hurt yourself and many innocent good pieces of grass. Let me, God, worry about it. This is my issue, not yours. I know your would like it to be yours but I can handle it.”
You see why I love this parable. It exemplifies beauty that is the sovereignty of God. It also shows how we try to undermine God’s sovereignty by our own misguided attempts to do God’s job for God. God can handle it. God sees the world (a world that includes us and the weeds in our lives) in ways that we will never understand. We can only glimpse our gardens at this moment in time. He’s telling us this parable for this reason. We only see last night and this morning. Our perspectives are severely limited. Then the media and the world around us reinforce these same ideas that history started yesterday. This is where Jesus steps. Jesus always takes the long view. He knows that can’t take the bad without also harming the good. This is important to Jesus and should also be important to us. Preserving life at all costs is important to Jesus. He will deal with the evil in his own way which is different from our way. Secondly, Jesus knows that there are both weeds and good grass inside all of us. Again, these are indistinguishable from one another. In order to destroy the evil within us, to use our own time tested human methods, we would destroy ourselves.
Once more, Jesus’s method comes to the fore. Leave it to him. We don’t want to self-destruct or ruin ourselves. The key is to let Jesus help us work through the things which need to be pruned or removed from our lives. We also need to let him protect us from ourselves, save us from throwing out the good from the bad. We’d throw our own babies out with our own bath water. Jesus is the one who will stop us and say, “you may need that later, don’t be so quick to make a hasty judgment.” It’s an old fashioned way to say it but we still need to, “turn it all over to Jesus.”
As I mentioned earlier, this is a parable about letting Jesus do his job. The fancier way to say that might be to say it’s a judgment parable. We like to make judgments. We shouldn’t. Jesus likes to reserve judgment for the right time and place.
How do you tell the Baptists from the Methodists in the liquor store? The Methodists will look you in the eye, wave, and say hello. The Baptists keep staring and the floor, push their carts on by, and ignore you.
Christians know a thing or two about judgment. Or at least we think we do. For some reason, we have got it in our heads that judgment is a central component of Christian faith. Maybe it’s from movies, it could be from selective reading of the Bible, hanging out with the wrong sort of people, or listening to bad preaching on the radio-you know the kind I’m talking about-
The kind with lots of breath and inhalation after each word-
And the Lord said unto the Israelites, I will smite the heathen Jebusites with a plague of lice infested beavers on the third full moon of Avatar, Amen…
You know what I’m talking about. For any number reasons, whether it’s how we grew up, how we were taught, what we’ve heard, or encountered, we come away thinking judgment and then acting upon that judgment (let’s call it condemnation) is central to our faith and belief system.
On top of this, we have picked a role in this judgment. Though we know in the back of our minds that God is the one who does the judging.
That is, if and when judging is going to go down, when it’s going to actually happen, it’s going to fall to the deity. It’s not in our job description. In the back of our minds we know this. We can even profess it if pushed.But in reality, it has never, ever sank in. We have always seen ourselves as part and parcel of the judgment process.
Even though, we are the ones who are subject to being judged (we don’t recognize this, in fact, we usually ignore it altogether). Humans, especially Christian humans have always seen themselves as the 5th men (or women) or God’s judgment basketball team.We’re always right there, on the bench, yelling out, “put me in coach, I’m ready to judge,” I saw somebody walking down the street who I know was a sinner, I can spot them a mile away.
It reminds of how my granddaddy told me about getting out of jury duty. Just tell the lawyers you can spot a guilty man a mile away just by looking at him.We know who’s guilty. We can just tell, can’t we? That’s what we do. We judge people. We know who needs to be condemned. We’ve taken the burden off an already overworked God, have we not? Aren’t we doing God a favor, by spotting the people coming out the liquor store, or noticing who is buying what medicines at the pharmacy? As someone once told me, I kid you not, how do we know who to pray for if we don’t “look at their lives”? That is, we can justify our judgment, presuppositions, and gossip under the guise of prayer concerns. Brothers and sisters, I think the Lord’s got that game pretty well figured out. The only people we’re fooling are ourselves.
Paul has the answer, as he often does. Right there, in the first verse of Romans 8. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. I know what you’re thinking. Everyone’s not in Christ Jesus are they. If they’ve not said the sinner’s prayer, done this, that or the other, then they’re not in, right? Aren’t they? Didn’t Jesus die for everyone’s sins? Jesus wasn’t like Santa Claus up there on the cross with a naughty and nice list, saying I’ll die for some and not others. He died for the salvation of the entire world. We’re all in Christ Jesus. That’s fundamental.
Christ was condemned so we won’t have to be. The immediate questions of sin, judgment, pain, and immortality, Jesus answered once and for all with the events of Easter Sunday morning. What Paul does is raise is a much deeper question; will your mortal body be the end? Will physical death be all she wrote for us? Paul leaves the ultimate question of what happens in eternity unanswered because it is not our question to answer. As Jesus notes in today’s parable, that’s His call. But for you and me and Paul, everyone is offered the opportunity to enter into Jesus’ condemnation free do-over. That’s got everything to with Jesus and nothing to do with us. Just as being graceful, forgiving, and more empathetic have everything to do with how we live after we’ve been given our do-over. No one gave us the go ahead or permission to be judgmental jerks but Paul says you’ve been given the freedom to live free of condemnation, in your own life and how you treat others. You’ve got the green light to go forward and live life differently. This is not something you try. This isn’t an experiment. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Make that choice, seize that opportunity to let God be God in your life and the world around you, and your world will change forever.