Connections 07.19.2020: The Waiting

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

The chorus of the late Tom Petty’s 1981 song “The Waiting” says,

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.

Petty was singing about the development of a romantic relationship. I’d like to apply his words to our waiting for God to establish God’s complete reign and to make all things as they are supposed to be.

The waiting is the hardest part. In the parable found in this week’s lesson text, Jesus tells the story of a farmer who sowed good seed in a field, only to have an enemy sow weeds in the same field. He and his workers realize what has happened when both the grain and weeds start coming up. When his workers ask if they should dig up the weeds, he tells them to wait until harvest time, because otherwise they’ll damage the wheat.

We can imagine how hard such a growing season would be. Think about how excruciating it would be for the farmer and his workers to watch the weeds and the wheat both grow to maturity.

When the disciples ask Jesus what the parable means, he tells them that it’s about the situation the “children of the kingdom” will live in until Jesus returns. They’ll have to deal with the presence of the “children of the evil one.”

A word of caution is in order here. We need to take care about adopting an us versus them attitude. It’s possible for us to misidentify whose children some folks are. We’re not always what we should be, and those who oppose us aren’t necessarily wrong. Discernment is necessary. So is grace.

Every day you see one more card. As we live more days and have more experiences, we should grow in our understanding of the way things are. We should grow in realizing and dealing with what’s real.

One thing that’s real is that the weeds are part of the landscape. It would be an ideal world if there were only wheat and no weeds. But it’s not an ideal world. The wheat and the weeds always have grown together, are growing together, and always will grow together until the harvest. The growing season has lasted for two thousand years to this point, and we have no idea when the harvest will come.

But realism needn’t result in resignation. The parable is about how both the weeds and the wheat will be gathered when it’s harvest time. When the workers ask the farmer if he wants them to dig up the weeds, he tells them no, because in trying to eliminate the weeds they’d harm the wheat too. If we spend our time and energy trying to get rid of the weeds in our world—the people who seem to oppose God and the things of God, such as love, service, sacrifice, grace, and peace—we may do more damage to ourselves—to our witness, our fellowship, and our spirit—than we do to the weeds.

But that doesn’t mean we have nothing to do. For one thing, we have something to do in regard to ourselves. We can tend to our wheat as best we can. We can cultivate Christlike qualities such as love, grace, and mercy. We can become the strongest and healthiest wheat we can be.

For another thing, we have something to do in regard to the weeds. We all know that weeds can’t become wheat. This parable presents a clear division between the people of the kingdom and those of the evil one. But the overall biblical witness is that we have a responsibility to bear witness to God’s grace to people who don’t know it. We can and should love, help, and reach out even to people who seem beyond reach. They can become God’s children. They can be saved.

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart. We trust that God is indeed working God’s purposes out. We live in expectant hope of the way things will be. We live in light of God’s assurance that everything will be all right someday.

Everything’s not all right these days. We need to remember that while the wheat in the parable represents us, we aren’t wheat—we’re people. Moreover, we are people touched by God’s grace, love, and mercy through Jesus Christ.

The waiting may be hard. But while we’re waiting, we have a lot to do. We have a lot to share. We have a lot to give.

Discussion

  • Why do you think Jesus told so many stories, particularly so many stories about the kingdom of heaven (which is Matthew’s way of naming the kingdom of God)?
  • How would you summarize Jesus’ teaching in this parable?
  • The parable teaches that ultimately “the children of the kingdom” and “the children of the evil one” will be separated. What problems might we cause and what damage might we do if we try to bring about this separation before it is time?
  • Jesus told this parable to people who lived in an agrarian culture. Some of us know about farming or gardening, but lots of people don’t. How could you retell this parable in terms that someone who knows nothing about agriculture might understand?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

*****

For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

*