Search

7 Pentecost - Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

Between the parable and the explanation are several verses, and footsteps, and years.

Among the verses, Matthew repeats that Jesus only spoke to the crowds in parables, a

questionable choice about which the disciples asked him directly.


The reason I speak to them in parables, he replied, is that 'seeing they do not perceive, and

hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand.'


Now you know how the crowds felt.

The footsteps are from Jesus: then he left the crowds and went into the house.

The explanation of the parable is then given to the disciples, for internal ears only.

There is also ample reason to suspect it was really given not to the twelve guys around

Jesus but to the church around Matthew about fifty years later.

The early church assigned this anonymous gospel to the disciple who was a tax collector, if not on the basis of hard evidence and clear memory, then on a well educated guess.

The tax collector is an excellent candidate because this writer, who was obsessed with mercy and judgment, also had a mathematician's appetite to read parables by solving for x.

Literary types call this allegory: each detail stands for something else, like letters in algebra.

Matthew makes his church listen in with the disciples as Jesus cracks the code: the sower

is the Son of Man, the field is the world, etc.

He does not identify the slaves who do nothing because he is talking to them, and intentionally omitting them from the action.

Matthew is trying, yet again, to get a central truth through to his people.

There will be a judgment, and you are not in charge of it.

Do not judge, Jesus preaches directly in his first sermon, so that you may not be judged.

For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be

the measure you get.

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Throughout the gospel, Jesus constantly chides the Pharisees, who embody religious

judgment of others, as a "don't be that guy" warning to the people in the church.

He spends a whole chapter near the end dismantling them with withering, sarcastic critique.

I suspect it is a different version of the same thing he is doing by confusing the crowds

with parables: before building up understanding, he has to tear it down.

He is doing a teacher's hardest work: he is teaching us to unlearn things, especially judgment.

Finally, as his grand finale, Jesus tells a story that sounds a lot like today's.

Instead of wheat and weeds, he tells of the final fate of sheep and goats.

The king has to separate them, and everyone is surprised to find out which is which.

Not only did they fail to recognize the king hidden among them in the most needy and vulnerable, they also fail to recognize themselves.

It is the final, thundering drum solo completing the beat Matthew has been pounding all along.

There will be a judgment, and you are not in charge of it.

Imagine, if you can, a community of people who rush to judgment about each other.

I know it's a stretch.

We've come so far and matured so much as a society since then.

Current politics and social media demonstrate such advances in mature discourse and

civility that it can be hard for us to relate, but please try.

Matthew's church, it seems from reading between the lines, was inclined to judgment and petty social comparison and conflict.

There were Jews and Gentiles, which is to say natives and immigrants, poor and rich, newcomers and oldtimers, reliable heavy contributors and marginal flakes, holy ones and hypocrites, all mixed and tangled up together in one social platform.

I know this must be really difficult to imagine, so thanks for hanging with me.

In this motley mix, it was sometimes easy to distinguish the good eggs from the problem

children but sometimes not.

There was also a vast network of relationships with plenty of history and personal entanglements beneath the Sunday morning surface.

People, including Matthew, were both protective of their friends and sick of other people's crap.

The temptation to judge, and to try to winnow out the weeds, was strong.

What does God have to say about this?

God says no.

No, for in gathering the zizania you would uproot the siton along with them.

Forgive both of them to grow together until the harvest..


Zizania is a particular kind of weed that looks almost exactly like wheat; they are easily mistaken for one another above ground, never mind what's happening below.

So the master says forgive, which we should do for the translator who settled for the word let.

We can let the weeds grow, we can forgive their presence, with confidence in Matthew's drumbeat: there will be a judgment, and we are not in charge of it.

Both of these unwelcome truths are actually good news.

We're not as good at judgment as we think we are, but if we insist on doing it, God will</