It seems like 2020 has lifted worry and fear to a whole new level. Things that we never needed to worry about before March are the forefront of our thoughts today. Rates of infection, death rates, will a vaccine be discovered? Will the vaccine be safe? Does my mask match my suit?
Oh, to have lived in 1933 when Franklin Roosevelt was first elected as President of the United States. In his inaugural address to the nation, Roosevelt told the American people, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Of course, all they had to worry about was the Great Depression, a 25% unemployment rate a little man named Hitler and increasing tensions Asia, but other than that they only thing they had to fear was fear itself.
A little aside, the president’s speech contained 1883 words and took him twenty minutes to deliver. An average sermon for me contains 3500 words and take me twenty-two minutes to deliver. Either he spoke really slow or I speak really fast.
The passage that was read earlier came from what we now think of as the Sermon on the Mount, and apparently people worried about stuff 2000 years ago the same as they do today.
And so Jesus asks the people why they are worrying about things they can’t change, and he finishes by telling them, Matthew 6:33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
This is week four of our The Kingdom is. . . series and we’ve been looking at different parable where Jesus taught those following him about the Kingdom of God. And he seemed to put a high premium on them getting it. Which would imply that perhaps we should put a high premium on getting it as well.
And so, over the first three weeks of this series we have seen how Jesus looked across the countryside looking for everyday events to illustrate the eternal nature of His Kingdom, workers hired to pick grapes, a fishing net being thrown into the water and a merchant looking for the perfect pearl.
Through the pictures he has drawn his followers have seen the Kingdom planted and begin to grow and mature, having an impact on individuals and society as a whole. And there has been no hint of problems, everybody having a wonderful time.
And sometimes that’s what we expect of church and life, just a meandering ride down a gently flowing river. When I was a teenager we lived on the Hammond River, just outside of Saint John New Brunswick, and sometimes in the summer we would cart our big inner tubes upstream and drift down the river, just lying back in the sunshine.
But that isn’t life and it certainly isn’t the reality of God’s Kingdom as long as there are people involved and as long as there are forces out there that oppose the kingdom of God. Through these parables, Jesus was explaining what the Kingdom is really like not simply reinforcing how we would like to see the Kingdom.
And so, Jesus looks out across a wheat field gently swaying in the afternoon breeze and says look, Matthew 13:24-26 . . . “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
In another one of Jesus’ parables, he talks about a farmer sowing seed and how some of the seed fell on the pathway and didn’t take root, and other seed fell on shallow soil and wasn’t able to survive and other seed feel into thorn bushes and was choked out, and finally how some seed landed in fertile soil and produced a flourishing crop.
In that parable, Jesus was illustrating how his words and teaching would be received by the world, how it would not be productive in everyone’s life. And we understand that we see it happen, but we kind of hope that when the seed finally begins to grow and reproduce that is the happy ending to the story, and everyone lived happily ever after.
But here we see the reality, the crop has been planted, the seed has taken root, the wheat begins to grow and then those tending the fields notice a problem, they discover that not all the plants are the same. That the majority of the plants are indeed the wheat that was planted but in amongst the good wheat are plants that look like wheat at first glance but upon closer examination are something completely different.
In the NLT we read Matthew 13:25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. But that doesn’t say it all, because we aren’t really an agricultural society we don’t get the true meaning of Christ’s words.
When we think of weeds we think of dandelions and thistles and other nasties that invade our lawns. And they are a nuisance and aren’t ascetically pleasing but not much beyond that. In the King James Version, the verse reads this way Matthew 13:25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. This means even less because nobody here really knows what a “tare” is. But if we were to go back into the original language the word that the NLT translates Weed and the KJV translates Tare is actually the Greek word ζιζάνιον, or zizanion (dziz-an’-ee-on) but you probably already knew that. And this story is the only place that this word is used in the Bible. And it doesn’t just mean weed it refers to a very specific type of weed.
Those is the know tell us the weed that is spoken of here was what is known today as Bearded Darnel, or false wheat and that when darnel is starting to grow that it looks like wheat. But the grain of the darnel was slightly poisonous. William Barclay describes it this way “It causes dizziness and sickness and is narcotic in its effects, and even a small amount has a bitter and unpleasant taste. In the end, it was usually separated by hand.”
But what does it all mean? There are the farmer and the enemy, the wheat and the weeds, people wanting to tear up the wheat and others saying wait not yet. Kind of confusing in a parable sort of way, but unlike most of the other parables Jesus took the time to explain this parable a little more. Apparently, he wanted to make sure that they understood the ramifications of this one, it was important and he didn’t want any confusion.
And if it was that important to those who first heard it then it should be that important to us, so if you have your Bibles turn with me to Matthew 13:37-43 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels. “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!
So, let’s take a look at the explanation.
First of all, There Is One Field. Jesus tells us the “The field is the world”. And there is only one world, sometimes you will hear the media talk about the first world, or the third world or people will try to define various parts of the planet as the “Christian world” or the “Muslim world”. But there is only one world and that is a world that Jesus came to live in, to preach to and to die for.
We all know John 3:16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus didn’t come simply to reach a specific people group while offering no hope for the rest of humanity. His sacrifice wasn’t simply for one slice of the population he came for the world.
And he expects his people to take his message of hope and grace to the entire world. The last command of Christ to his apostles if found in Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. And for two thousand years, Christ-followers have been doing that. Within a generation of the resurrection of Jesus, his message had been spread across the Middle East, into Asia and Europe and down to Africa. Before the first apostles died believers were worshipping in India, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Italy and beyond. They had reached the world as they knew it.
It was Wesley who said, “The world is my parish.” But he was simply following the command of Jesus and the example of those who went before him.
And it is why when the European nations started to colonize the “New Worlds” that they had “Discovered”, which is kind of like Newton discovering gravity, did things just float around before he made that discovery?
Sorry, a little bit of a tangent, when the New World was opened up the church was there with the message. Was it because they wanted to eradicate the culture of the aboriginal people? No, it was because they wanted to share the grace of Christ with them. They truly believed the words that Matthew quoted in relation to the coming of Christ, Matthew 4:16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.”
And that is why Cornerstone is actively ministering to people in Haiti and Ghana and Sierra Leone and Japan because we are still obeying his command to spread the word of his grace to all people. Christ came for the whole world, not just our little corner of it and there are people of the Kingdom all over the world. The message is alive in them. If they are doing their part then we shouldn’t be asking “Well what about those who don’t know about Jesus?” Wherever there is a Christ Follower then people should know about the Christ they are following.
So, There Is One Field.
And There Are Two Sowers. In the parable, Jesus tells us that the farmer spread good seed and then his enemy came and spread bad seed. And then in the explanation of the parable, Jesus tells us first in Matthew 13:37 Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. And most people would like the explanation to end with that statement. Most people that we know have no problem believing in Jesus, even if they never develop a personal relationship with him they have nice warm, fuzzy thoughts about him, the baby Jesus in the manger, Jesus feeding hungry people, Jesus holding a lamb. But Jesus continues in the story to tell us Matthew 13:39 The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil.
A number of years ago I was in a conversation with a minster from a more liberal denomination who was talking about his time in Newfoundland and he said “You know they still believe in the Devil there?” Surveys show time and time again that the vast majority of North Americans believe there is a God, there are very few atheists in North America, they might live like there is no God but they believe there is one.
On the other hand, the number of people who believe that there is an actual Devil is considerably fewer. But Jesus had no doubts about the existence of Satan, nor does the bible.
Kind of like the two little boys who were talking about the Devil and one little guy said, “I figure in the end he just like Santa Claus, it will turn out to be your dad in a red suit.”
Jesus’ best friend, while he was on this earth, wrote in 1 Peter 5:8 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Did you catch that, “Your great enemy”?
The Devil isn’t just some impersonal force, he is not just the personification of evil he is real and he is the enemy of those who serves God and he whispers in people’s ears, “there has to be more than one way”, “It doesn’t matter who you worship as long as you are sincere”, “You’re really not all that bad” and “A loving God wouldn’t send people to hell.” And all the time he is sowing seeds, seeds that take root.
Which leads us to the next point.
Matthew 13:38 The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one.
There Are Two Crops There was the wheat and there were the weeds. And remember they looked very much alike but they were different very different, one was good and one was bad. And again, most people don’t want to hear that there is such a clear delineation, they don’t want to see that line drawn that clearly in the sand.
Most folks, outside the church and inside the church would like to see the line fuzzier, they would like to think there are those who serve God and then there are those who are at various places and levels and almost serve God and only kind of serve the Devil, or don’t serve God but don’t serve the Devil, they serve. . . well they are not sure who they serve.
But Jesus didn’t say there were 12 different crops, or 7 different crops not even 3 different crops, there were two. One represented those who chose to serve God, those who belong to the Kingdom and those who chose not to serve God, who don’t belong to the Kingdom, they belong to the Devil. It goes back to the Bob Dylan song that says “You gotta serve somebody, it might be the devil or it might be the Lord but you got to serve somebody.”
And Paul gives us this insight in Ephesians 2:2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.
2 thoughts here 1. If we are Christ-followers, before we were Christ-followers we were obeying the Devil but now we are obeying Christ. 2. If we are not Christ-followers we are still obeying the Devil.
As much as we’d like to think that people who are good, nice, sincere people but don’t have a relationship with Jesus are going to be kind of ok, that isn’t what the word of God says. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Because if we could get to heaven by being good, nice sincere people than there would have been no reason for Christ to come and for Christ to die and for Christ to be raised from the dead, and instead of John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.” Jesus would have said John 3:3 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth unless you are good, nice sincere people, you cannot see the Kingdom of God.”
So we have one field, two sowers, two crops and then Jesus tells us in Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest.
There is One Harvest Remember when the servants discovered that the weeds had been sowed they wanted to rip them up but the farmer told them to wait. Matthew 13:29 “‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.”
We need to protect our relationship with Christ, that’s important. And throughout the New Testament, we see that we need to protect the local church from false teachers and false teachings, that’s important but from this parable, it would seem that Kingdom of Heaven is capable of taking care of itself. That in the end, it’s not our mandate to try and dig up the weeds too soon.
That’s why the inquisition was so wrong they were trying to tear up the weeds. And that is why the witch trials were so wrong, they were trying to tear up the weeds, and we just aren’t qualified to make that decision.
Any time we try to legislate morality or head down the path of our own private Jihad (holy war) against some particular behaviour in the world we end up doing more damage than good. I read one day that if God hates the same people that you hate then you can be pretty sure you’ve created God in your own image. In the end, we need to let God sort it out.
So Jesus tells us that the weeds will be separated from the wheat at the appropriate time, and when is the appropriate time? Matthew 13:39 . . .The harvest is the end of the world . . .
And there is no reason to get into great theological debates about when that is going to happen because it is enough to know that it is going to happen. It’s going to happen corporately, that is the world as we know has a best before date and we don’t know what that date is but someday this is all going to end. But personally, there will be an “End of the World” for each of us individually. That is that our existence in this world will end, and this is what the word of God tells us in Hebrews 9:27 . . . each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment.
Every one of us shares that in common, we are all going to die, that is the end of our world and we are all going to be judged. But that leaves us with the end of the parable, Matthew 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.
There are Two Futures There used to be a time that the church preached that there was a Heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned but then somewhere we decided that we didn’t like the concept of hell and stopped preaching about it, but that didn’t make it any less real, it just meant that we were shirking our responsibility. In Jesus’ explanation of this parable, this is how he spells it out. Matthew 13:41-43 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!
When we tell people that Cornerstone exists to help depopulate hell we believe it. We believe that there will be people in heaven who would have been in hell if this church didn’t exist to tell people there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned.
Will hell be fire and brimstone, and demons with pointy tales poking people with their pitchforks? I don’t know. What I do know is that it will be a separation from God and from love and from light and from all that is good and all that is pure.
But here is the reality, the word of God promises us in James 4:7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
So, where you at? When the harvest comes, and it will come, what will be your destination?