Darnel It All

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Had a great time at church this afternoon looking at a large number of verses about God’s sovereignty over all creation, and the supremacy of Christ. Our service time was spent looking through scriptures and discussing how people often perceive the Gospel. We went through so many passages this afternoon that I lost count, but the one in particular stuck out to me: The Parable of the Sower.

Luke 8:4-15 records Jesus’ parable and its meaning so that what he intends us to get from the parable can be clear and unmistaken.

In the past whenever I’ve read this passage I tended to focus on the hearers whom Jesus describes as being good soil. More than anything I want to be good soil, that is, one who hears the word of God and bears the kind of fruit that God intends his word to bring about. Though Jesus does not explain in this passage what “fruit” means, his meaning is actually pretty clear since throughout the Gospels and the New Testament “fruit” is either used to represent the souls won to Christ by Christians, or (and most often) it is a reference to personal character brought about in the Christian through obedience to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart (in John fruit refers to both, but in Matthew, Mark, and Luke fruit refers to character). More importantly for my purposes today I was drawn to Jesus’ use of the description of “thorns” that grew up with the seed (word of God) and choked it. It brings to mind another passage where Jesus referred to “tares” or in the common vernacular, “weeds” in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43.

In each case Jesus applied a different meaning for the “seed.” In the first passage the seed was the word of God. In the second the “good seed” are believers in Christ. In the first passage the word of God grows in the person, but the thorns of life choke it out. In other words, the normal everyday desires of life prevent the seed from taking firm root. In the second passage Jesus describes something different: people who look like Christians as they begin their experience, but who turn out later to have been imposters all along. In both cases Jesus intimates that the normal experiences in life either prevent people from growing in their faith, or are people who never had faith in the first place.

As I listened to the passage this afternoon I thought of people who hear God’s word but instead of giving supremacy in their lives to Jesus Christ, they look upon the Bible and Jesus as solutions to their personal problems or a way to get their desires fulfilled. In other words, they give preference to the thorns rather than the word of God which can produce something greater. They treat the word of God as if its purpose is to grow up and make the thorns less thorny. They want to keep the thorns and keep what Jesus has also planted. The word of God and the sovereignty of Jesus Christ take a back seat to personal ambitions or desires. Consider also that in the second passage something similar is going on, though more drastic. In the first passage the people who receive the word are those who honestly receive it. They want it. But they still care more about the thorns of life. But in the second parable the people recorded there are deceivers from the very beginning.

The Greek word for “tares” is only used once in the Bible, and it’s in this passage in Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43. It’s not a simple weed, but a reference to a very particular plant (zizanion,) known in modern times as a bearded darnel. Darnels are nasty things. They look like wheat as they are beginning to grow. Only later as the plant begins to head is the difference more obvious. Most importantly, darnel seeds are poisonous, causing dizziness and in some cases even death.

It’s no mistake that Jesus used the darnel in his Parable of the Weeds, and the thorns in his Parable of the Sower. For a person with thorns the normal issues of life take precedence over Christ. The object of faith becomes that which faith is thought to deliver: materials blessings, emotional wholeness, and end of suffering, etc. In fact the Bible never promises such things to the Christian (it usually promises the opposite). In the second passage there are those who appear to be children of God, but in fact are mere imitations. They also do not give Christ supremacy; in fact they deny it altogether. They walk the walk for a while, and talk the talk, but in the end they expose themselves for that they truly are: poison at the core. They are designed to perform the same function as thorns—choke out fruit which God intends to raise.

The supremacy of Jesus Christ and the view of the scriptures as our authority for life and practice is critical for a Christian to be a Christian. Christianity is not designed as a solution to our personal problems. The heart of Christianity is the person of Jesus Christ. When we cede supremacy to Christ the thorns cannot choke out what God intends because we are removing them, and pushing them back that God’s will might be done in us. When we cede supremacy to Christ the poisonous weeds may grow up with us in our midst, but in the end Christ will separate us to himself and the weeds will be left only for burning, much like the land that gave itself for thorns.

What place does Christ occupy in your life? If he is the means to your ends, then chances are he is not occupying the place in your life you thought he was. But if your life is surrendered to Christ (surrender is a military term, as in “unconditional surrender”) then and only then can you find yourself bearing the fruit that he has intended for you to have.

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