Wednesday, 20 July 2011

July 17th 2011, Pentecost 5, Ordinary 16, Wheat and Tares Matthew 13:24-43



There are two types of parables: there are teaching parables  (often using metaphors or similes) and there are kingdom parables. The kingdom parables usually begin with  "The kingdom of God/heaven...." Matthew chapter 13 consists of kingdom parables and Jesus' words in v10-17 are about these kind of parables. The kingdom parables are "designed to capture the listener and make him a participant, overturning his world-view and leading him to call in question basic values. They teach the presentness of the kingdom and the immediacy of the kingdom of God.In the Old Testament in the Hebrew masal, they were an obscure saying or riddle. The crowds hear the riddle and go home entertained - they hear and do not understand. Those who want to follow God will want to know what it means.

The parables are for the crowds. In this particular parable, unique to Matthew's gospel, the kingdom of God is at hand. It is impacting upon us at this very moment. In the parable of the weeds we are told of a kingdom at hand, but also of a final judgment that is still in the future. The kingdom which is to come, as foreseen by the prophets, has in fact entered the world in advance, in a hidden form to work within and among us.

Speaking with the crowds, Jesus proclaims that the coming of the kingdom of heaven can be compared to that of a farmer who has completed his planting and now waits for the harvest. An enemy, or hostile person has planted bearded darnel (it looks like wheat but is poisonous). As the heads of grain appear on the wheat, the servants can identify the weeds, now intertwined with the wheat. The farmer (or master) tells his workers to leave both weeds and wheat together. At the harvest, the two will be separated and the  the weeds burnt.

Jesus leaves the mystery with the crowd and withdraws. The disciples are mystified. So Jesus explains the parable to them. The Son of Man, sows the seed and directs the harvest. This takes place in the field, which is the world.  From the Early Church Fathers, through Augustine, and up to the Reformers, the field was seen as the church. But Jesus is saying the field is the inhabited earth, the world, the kingdom is somewhere in it (sometimes!). The righteous are alongside the lawless, but only for a time.

Jesus says "he who has ears, let him hear,” and  identifies those who face judgment as the ones who cause offence (stumbling-blocks are a trap, something that causes a trip or fall). The lawless, those who defy God's law, are in the world and  they have much in common with the wheat, but they are children of darkness. In the present time they coexist, but the day is coming when they will be weeded out and cast into the fiery furnace. This is a place of "tears and bitter regret."

The Pharisees in Jesus' day sought to be good "weeders". They considered Jesus and his followers as weeds.

 The Kingdom is messy, a mixed up garden where the good stuff and the bad stuff is so intermingled it's not safe to separate them! The kingdom is like the present we live in right now.

In one of the first crusades, knights from western Europe blew through an Arab town on their way to the Holy Land and killed everyone in sight. It was not until later, when they turned the bodies over, that they found crosses around most of their victims’ necks. It never occurred to them that Christians came in brown as well as white.” We often can’t tell the wheat from the weeds.

 Jung explored the nature of the unconscious “shadow” that lives in each soul.  The shadow gets filled with all the things that we repress because we don’t want to know about them.  This rubbish rots and pollutes and unconsciously drives our actions.  We think we have rid ourselves of our rubbish, but it controls us behind the scenes of our conscious thought.  Jung believed that by acknowledging our rubbish and knowing it is always there, we are better able to understand ourselves and others.  Perhaps is a modern translation of wheat and tares

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