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August 2014

 Parables of the Kingdom 

[This message is based on Matthew 13: 24-52]


There is an old saying which, if I remember correctly, goes like this


Patience is a virtue,

Acquire it if you can

Seldom found in Woman

But often found in Man

 I may have got it wrong.


In my message last month, we asked what would be the fruit that the seed that fell on good soil would look like when it grew. The answer I suggested is the list of the "Fruits of the Spirit" written by St Paul. This list includes "patience" and the parables in Matthew 13: 24-43 are all about patience - the patience required to let the wheat and the weeds mature together before separating them; the patience required to wait for a mustard seed to grow into a tree; the patience required waiting for the yeast to leaven the loaf before baking.


The farmer had planted a field with wheat (vv 24-30 and 36-43). It would take several months for it to grow to maturity before harvesting. But one day his servants notice some weeds growing amongst the wheat. "How did these get here?" they asked. "A bad man came and sowed them during the night when we were not watching", the farmer replied. Anxious to wage war immediately on the weeds, the servants were all set to dive in and uproot the weeds right away before they could grow any more. But the farmer didn't let them. "No", he said, "you would only root out some of the good wheat as well. Wait until the harvest and at that time the ripe wheat will be separated from the weeds. The seed will go into my barn and the weeds with be burned."


Are we a bit like this sometimes? We want action immediately; we want bad men punished right away, we want wrongs righted without ado. More than that we want God to act immediately to fix things; to punish the wicked right away; to get them to lay off us now; to stop wars instantly; and so on. Now let’s think about this. If we demand God to exercise judgement and punishment instantaneously on gross offenders, would he not then also have to judge us and punish us for the many times each day we sin, we get angry, we are impatient? One would think so.


So the parable of the wheat and the weeds teaches us that God’s way is to wait, to wait for the harvest, when all will be judged together and each dealt with appropriately. God is patient and we must be also however hard this is in the face of evil. But the parable is also about the coming Day of Judgment as is the Parable of the Net (vv 47-52) which catches lots of different fish, some good and some inedible; the fisherman brings them all ashore and separates them, sending the bad fish for burning.. Yes folks the Day of Judgement is coming!


This is not something we should fear if we are “in Christ” as St Paul says. If we have recognised that the Kingdom of God is something so valuable that it is worth more than all the kingdoms of the world together as the Parable of the Pearl teaches (vv 25, 26). That it is something worth giving up everything we hold dear to acquire as the Parable of the Buried Treasure (v 44) teaches. If we allow the mustard seed of faith to grow patiently in us so that we become a shelter for others; if we are the leaven in the loaf of humanity so that others see us and see Christ working in us, then we will have been good and faithful servants


The Jews certainly awaited the Day of Judgement, but not like this. Jesus says he is like a man who “brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old”. Yes he brings out all the teachings of the ancient teachers of Judaism, but he imbues them with new and startling interpretations that are unique to him.


He is worth listening to, is he not?


Ken (27 July 2014) (having drawn inspiration from Tom Wright's commentary Matthew for Everyone, Part 1 SPCK 2004)



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