It’s a (tare-able) thing to miss the Truth…
I began my week with a study of chapter thirteen from the Gospel of Matthew (The Kingdom of Heaven is Like). I finished the week with a meditation on the sum of the whole. This morning, before reading, I prayed from my Wesleyan Prayer Book the following:
From distraction in the midst of the sacred reading, save me, good Lord. From presuming that I already know the meaning of the Scriptures that are about to be considered, spare me. Pry open both my mind and my heart and in the place of their pretense and coldness put the fullness and fire of your life-giving Spirit; for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.
I started my reading with Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (also known as the Parable of the Wheat and Weeds). It should be noted that this entire chapter thirteen is relevant within the context of this particular meditation today. I find it very interesting, this collection of parables and sayings of Jesus… I don’t think I’ve been as keen to what I noticed this morning. I think in some way the Parable of the Sower sets the stage for the entire chapter; I believe there is a certain connection with the metaphor of the Sower in general, but more important (to my thinking) are Jesus’ words to “Listen.”
“You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given, and they will have an abundance of knowledge. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.” (Matt. 13:11-12).
Right on the heels of this Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells another parable (the Wheat and Weeds-Tares). In the parable, we see the weeds growing alongside the wheat. When asked by the “workers” should the weeds be removed, the farmer says, “No.” He advises the workers to allow the weeds to continue growing with the tares; ultimately, the tares will be separated and destroyed. (Pause)
Before explaining the meaning of the parable, Jesus (appears randomly, but he’s God…so not random) breaks out with a couple of Kingdom of Heaven is like… (see my earlier post from this week) word pictures that describe the effect and influence of the Kingdom of God. This is important; pay attention to how you listen and hear… “I will speak to you in parables. I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world” (Matt. 13:34).
Don’t be a weed; It doesn’t end well…
It is at this point the disciples ask Jesus to explain the meaning of the Wheat and Tares to them. He goes on to explain the following:
“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! (Matt. 13:40-43)
Then, seemingly as abrupt as his previous interjections about the Kingdom of Heaven is like…he launches into another couple of Kingdom of Heavens: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field. Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matt. 13:44-46). We now have five very specific word pictures about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Excluding the “Wheat and Tares” Kingdom of Heaven parable, two of our Kingdom of Heaven word pictures tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven overtakes and overwhelms what it comes in contact with (my words). The second Kingdom of Heaven word pictures tell us the Kingdom of Heaven is more valuable than anything that exists in the material world, so much so that it would make perfect sense to sell or give up all you had in trade of it. This is important; pay attention to how you listen and hear…
Random Ponder Moment: I wonder if weeds know they’re weeds or if fish know what kind of fish they are…
Speaking of fish… Jesus begins his sixth parable about the Kingdom of God is like telling his disciples it is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. He completes the parable with the following:
“When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?” (Matt. 13:48-51)
Not a pretty picture; not for the weeds, not for the “bad fish.” Pay attention to how you listen and hear; do you understand all these things?
I asked some questions at the beginning of the week about the value of and the effect of the Kingdom of God on those it comes in contact with. I have come to realize that, true to Jesus’ words, God is our food and our drink. He is the air we breathe and without those mandatory elements we die. It was not always the case with me, but I am often stricken with the sense that (1) I do not have enough of God in my life, and (2) the more of God’s Presence I do have in my life, the more I desire of it. This is in keeping with four of Jesus’ examples of the Kingdom is Like statements… I think. I believe I understand what the apostle was trying to convey when he wrote to the church in Galatia the following words:
“As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation.” (Galatians 6:14-15)
As I pondered in yesterday’s posting, I wonder how many of my Christian brothers and sisters identify with this sentiment? I wonder how many are “paying attention to how they listen and hear…” I am afraid that many are not paying attention. I think for many, many people the world they live in is on hyper-acceleration with the volume turned up to the max. The scenery of God’s invitation to abundant and eternal life is a blistering blur in most people’s rear-view mirror and His verbal invitation to the same is drowned out by the infantile screaming of people’s daily schedules. Most people are just simply too busy with their own life to be troubled with the Kingdom of God is like life. Besides, God is love and God is grace…he only hates those things called tares and bad fish…not people, and certainly not me. Right?
Close, but no cigar…
The chapter is closed out by a narration of Jesus’ return to Nazareth. We read the following passage:
When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. (Matt. 13:53-58)
What caught my attention in this passage was how close the people were to truth… like the tares (weeds) and bad fish. They were close; they recognized it for a fleeting moment, “Where does he get this wisdom and power?” Sadly, the people quickly dismissed Truth; “Then they scoffed… and were deeply offended.” I think we fail to recognize the urgency of God’s Kingdom message. I think we too, are prone to scoffing, or we don’t recognize we are weeds and not wheat. Some of us (christians) are just bad fish. Some of us need to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5) and see if Jesus is truly among us. Are we passing up the “Pearl of Great Price?” We might be swimming along with good fish or blowing in the breeze next to wheat…. But oblivious to understanding the first bit of Truth because we have failed to pay attention to how we listen and it is a (Tare)-able thing to miss the Truth.