LOVE OF THE CROSS

TEXT

Matthew 13:36-43

Jesus dismissed the congregation and went into the house.  His disciples came in and said, “Explain to us that story of the thistles in the field.”

So he explained.  “The farmer who sows the pure seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the world, the pure seeds are subjects of the kingdom, the thistles are subjects of the Devil, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, the curtain of history.  The harvest hands are angels.

“The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act.  The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them.  They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen.  At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.

“Are you listening to this?  Really listening?”

The Message

COMMENT

What makes the difference?  What distinguishes the wheat and tares?  When the harvest comes, how will the angels know?  “Ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom.”  “The righteous will shine with sun-brilliance in their Father’s kingdom.”  Some of the tares may look like wheat, and some of the wheat like tares, but in the final analysis, the final harvest, Love will make the difference.  And it will not be merely an ethical love, a doctrinal love, but “the love of the Cross.”

READING

This must be remembered:  Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism all teach love to a certain degree.  There is a vast difference, however, between the instinctive love of animals, the ethical love of human beings and the redemptive love which God revealed through Christ.  Animal love is purely instinctive, and is not subject to the correction and control of reason.  Human love, though more than instinctive, attempts to become rationalized only within the bounds of human relations.  Confucius called this jin, the way of benevolence.  But the jin of Confucius is not rooted in God, who embraces the whole universe.  Therefore it is a love that makes concession to seeming necessity and permits the killing of an enemy and leaves sinners in the lurch.  In Christ alone, and for the first time, was made known to humankind the love of the Cross which forgives enemies and saves sinners.

Buddhism teaches great compassion.  This goes deeper and further than the jin of Confucius.  Buddha was a man of virtue.  A blacksmith gave him putrid prok to eat, which caused his fatal illness.  Yet, on his death-bed Buddha preached the way of forgiveness and love to this man.  But since the beginning of time, who has declared, “this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins?”…Christ, the God-conscious Savior, taught sinners the love of God.  Nay, he did not stop with teaching.  He shed his blood.  He gave his life.  He gave it on the Cross.  Only a sinner weeping over his sins can comprehend the marvel of this love.

—Toyohiko Kagawa (1888-1960)
Christ and Japan (p. 113-114)

COMMENT

There can be great similarity between wheat and tares.  Do we who call ourselves Christians, who name the name of Christ, reflect this radical love of our Savior?  Or are we really no more than Buddhists or Confucians?

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