Weeds in God’s Garden
(Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43)
I have titled the message this evening . . . . the KJV has the translation of this word, weed, as tares. And that is really a better translation than other, modern versions that simply translate it as weeds. The tares in this parable are indeed weeds, but they are weeds that closely resemble wheat–that is until the wheat begins to ripen. The tares Scripture is describing here are actually something called darnel. And that is a poisonous weed organically related to wheat but difficult to distinguish from the real deal in the early stages of its growth. It is only in the final stages of growth when the kernals of the tares actually turn black that their falseness becomes apparent.
And as Jesus gives an explanation to His disciples on the meaning of this parable, I think we can see clearly a striking connection between the Kingdom of God, as represented in the church, and to the tares and wheat existing in the same field of the world together. The field, of course, is the entire world, and our study tonight will consist in our discussing how it is that the false wheat, the tares, and the good wheat, can coexist after the Kingdom of Heaven has broken into the world.
You see, just as the OT prophesied, God sent forth a Messiah, didn’t He? He sent the Son into the world at just the right time; there was the breaking forth into the world of men of another world, one with values at odds with this one of sin and pain and death. But this kingdom hasn’t yet reached its final victory. The victory was, indeed, won on Calvary and in Christ’s resurrection, but awaits its final consummation in The Second Coming. In the meantime, God’s Kingdom, which is both here and is real, has both tares and wheat; the false and the true.
During WWII when the Allies finally invaded Europe in 1944, that invasion signaled the death knell for Hitler and the Nazis. For all intents and purposes, the war was over. Yet the German armies, and what was left of the German Government, did not actually surrender until 1945. The war was over, but the battles continued. With the superior firepower, manpower and military intelligence of the Allies there was no question that the Allies would eventually conquer Hitler and his armies. But the fighting, destruction, and deaths continued from the D-Day invasion of Normandy on Jun 6, 1944, until the official German surrender on May 7, 1945.
And so it is with the invasion, if you will, of the Kingdom of God into this world; a world that is dominated by Satan and his world system. The war is won, but the battle still rages. The believers in Christ, the church, are living right alongside the enemies of God, aren’t they? Sometimes, we even rub elbows with them in the church, too, don’t we? And so true believers are called by our Lord to ceaselessly wage war against the forces of darkness. But we will see that our weapons are not the weapons of our enemies, are they? They are the weapons of God’s Kingdom. And so we will also clearly see, the final victory belongs to Jesus. It is Christ who will come to set things to rights, it is Christ who will order the gathering of the tares and the wheat at the time of the harvest: one to be consigned to the fire, the other to be delivered to glory!
I. The Sowing (Matthew 13:24–28, 38, 39)
(1 Who is the sower in this parable? Jesus said it was Himself, didn’t He? And the seed in this parable is us, right? Believers. Children of the Kingdom. The tares? The weeds? Children of the wicked one. And ever since the breaking in of the Kingdom of God in this world, there has been both tares and wheat existing side by side. And this Kingdom of God is the principle teaching of the NT, indeed of the entire Bible. In our churches today, we often think that the salvation of individual souls is the only purpose for Christ’s first coming to this world. But that simply isn’t so, is it? Of course, Jesus died for sinners, didn’t He? Luke 19:10 (KJV)
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. But Jesus came to redeem the whole universe, didn’t He? To save the whole world, not just people, but everything! A universe enslaved and in the grip of sin and death. Paul wrote of this truth in that most glorious of chapters: Romans 8! Romans 8:20-23 (KJV)
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. 23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. And so this is all about the living God going about the business of redeeming His very good creation from the effects of human sin. It is about His Kingdom which was ushered in by the Lord Jesus Christ becoming the norm for human existence. So, why all the evil? What’s up with all that? Why does everything seem to always spiral out of control? If this Kingdom of God is supposed to be so wonderful, why do things stink? We find the answer in this parable. Let’s begin to look at it. Read Matthew 3:24-28.
(2 There is a certain type of person, one who imagines himself to be intellectually and emotionally sensitive, who also fancies himself to be just a tad bit superior to other folks who aren’t quite as sensitive. And these people, both men and women, are forever angst ridden. They worry over the fate of humanity. They ask the perennial questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? And these folks never seem to find the answers, never get to the truth, because they seem to be forever looking in all the wrong places.
(3 Now there is another type of person who grows out of this immature way of looking at life, but they really don’t get to the truth either. The reason being they look to all the simple pleasures of life: family, friends, comfort, home, country as being the only reasons for life. Neither approach gets to the truth of life, do they?
(4 Christians ought to know the meaning of life, shouldn’t we? We ought to know what history is all about: where it’s going, what it means. But we don’t. Most of us think that history is moving toward something, and we pay lip service to God’s being in control of it, but I’m not too sure we really believe it. Most Christians think that life is all about the invitation, the altar call! We really sometimes think that all of life is all about my salvation. But it isn’t. Life, history, everything is all about Christ Jesus, and His reign as King over all that is! And everything is His! Now to be sure, that reign begins in individual hearts in an individual’s personal salvation. But even if you ain’t saved, God is still sovereign, and His Kingdom is still supreme. And everything still belongs to Him.
(5 But why ain’t everything hunky-dory? Look over at verses 38-39. Have you ever stopped and wondered: Why the devil? Why is he still allowed to hang around and torment this world and tempt God’s children? Unfortunately, in our modern, pseudo-enlightened age, the devil is not seriously considered as a real personal being. We will believe any nutty conspiracy theory out there, from the government being responsible for JFK’s death, to the government being responsible for 9/11. But we are way too sophisticated to believe in a personal devil. Evil is more often thought of us a Star Wars’ like force out there, real and present, but not personal. Just on the opposite end of the spectrum from good. And often to the popular mind the devil is just a funny creature in red underwear with horns and a tail, and sometimes a pitchfork. Neither is the image of Satan portrayed in the Bible. He is portrayed in the Bible as an angel of light, isn’t he? As the most glorious creature God made–until he fell.
(6 That Satan is a real person is beyond doubt from a Biblical point of view. And in the Book of Isaiah we find that pride was the reason for His downfall. In the book of Ezekiel we see how high his original state was: Ezekiel 28:12-15 (KJV)
12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. 13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardiusd, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created. 14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. 15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee. Although Ezekiel is bringing this judgement from God onto the king of Tyrus, the being behind this king, the one Ezekiel is truly writing about, is Satan, isn’t it?
(7 And it is this being, this fallen angel, comes behind the good sower and sows his tares in the field. And the lies, the havoc, the hatred, the temptations, all come from him, and his children. Or do they? II. The Harvest (Matthew13:29-30, 40-43)
(1 Here is a true statement, though, folks: because of the presence of tares in the wheat, because of the continuing physical presence of the devil in the kingdom, Christians, the children of God, are just as capable of wrongdoing as the children of the devil. So why doesn’t God get the tares out? One day He will. Look at your Bibles, Mat. 13:29-30, 40-43.
(2 We understand from the first parable in this series of parables on the Kingdom of God that the good seed of God’s Word doesn’t always fall on good soil. I preached a message on this several weeks ago. And we all know from experience that not everyone is a true Christian who says they are, right? We’ve all run into folks who say they have been saved, but whose lives resemble more the children of darkness than children of God. Now, this isn’t a call to look over at your neighbor to check and see if there might be just a glint of the devil in their eyes. This is a call to look deeply into our own hearts. These parables then can be taken as warnings, can’t they? Especially this one we’re studying now. Earlier, I said that believers must wage war against the forces of darkness. But that darkness creeps into our own souls, too, doesn’t it? This is a spiritual warfare that is ceaseless and remorseless. The devil wants nothing less than to destroy you.
(3 And don’t we all know the truth of that statement? Each one of us, if we are honest, could give a report on how we have been tempted into sin, couldn’t we? Each one of us, although we fall into sin often enough through our own lusts, have been attacked by Satan, and fallen into sin because of him as well. Although to digress a moment, God always makes a way to escape when the devil tempts us, doesn’t He? 1 Corinthians 10:13 (KJV)
13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
(4 Sometimes I don’t think we really believe that verse, do we? Sometimes I don’t think I do. The pull and tug of the flesh to sin is so strong at times we wonder where the escape valve is. Most of us are familiar with the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in the OT, aren’t we? Joseph was being pursued by this powerful man’s wife to commit adultery; and we have to assume she was good looking, right? I mean, you gotta figure it would kind of defeat the point of the story if Potipher’s wife looked like a bulldog, wouldn’t it?
(5 But listen, what did Joseph do after Potiphar’s wife ran everybody out of the house, and then grabbed him and demanded that he lay with her? Vamonos, right? He got out of Dodge! Genesis 39:12 (KJV)
12 And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out. Joseph didn’t give her a Gospel tract, or witness to her about the love of Jesus, did he? The Bible says he ran. Too many times, too many of us, are lingering where we ought not to be in the first place, then standing still when we should be running for our lives, and then blaming the devil for our fall into sin.
(6 We sometimes live our lives as if there were no danger at all for Christians in this world. As if the devil and his children weren’t out there amongst us, waiting for the opportunity to tempt us. Although, to be truthful, some of us like to live on the edge, don’t we? Right? Instead of living safely within the boundaries of a life that honors the Lord, we go right up to the edge of falling into sin. We watch a TV show that ridicules holy living and sexual purity, thinking there is no harm. And for many, the next thing they know, the images they have seen on regular TV entice them to go further and find the real deal on the Internet. And then the next thing they know after that, they are addicted to pornography, those seemingly harmless images on TV have moved on to the genuine cesspool of Internet porn.
(7 And people, this is real, isn’t it? This is how life lived with the tares operates. And the problem in the American church is, either we don’t understand this anymore, or we just don’t care. Listen carefully, there is a real devil, with a real agenda, who is hellbent on destroying your life. Does he have the power to do so? Yes! Can he do so without your cooperation? Absolutely not!
(8 There are stories that have come down to us from ancient sources of what today would probably be called bioterrorism, even if at a very primitive level, in which an enemy of a powerful landowner clandestinely tried to destroy the landowner’s crop during planting season by scattering the seeds of other plants in his field in the middle of the night. The similarity with Jesus’ parable ends there though. Although the devil did infiltrate God’s Kingdom initiated at Christ’s first coming, unlike a rich landowner whose fields had been corrupted with weeds and would have pulled those weeds up as they began to grow, God has not chosen to rip the weeds out of His kingdom. He has allowed them to grow side by side with the good wheat. In this parable, Jesus says, “Let them grow together. We’ll separate them at the harvest.”
(9 Why? Why not now? Why not then, for that matter? Why didn’t Jesus totally eradicate evil when He died on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day? Why is Satan still allowed to roam God’s universe planting his tares in God’s good wheat field? Why is Satan here wreaking havoc in the lives of the folks on Signal Hills Dr. There are many answers we could give. But at the fundamental level of knowing why God doesn’t come and bring about harmony and peace and purity–I don’t really know.
(10 Everybody here believe in the Second Coming? That Jesus is coming again? That is one of the fundamentals of the Faith, isn’t it? There is a coming harvest, right? But I think, I really think, that we get too caught in when Jesus is coming; and in all the details surrounding the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Antichrist. Many of us seem to be far more interested in who the Antichrist might be than we are in the Christ we know! We want the entertainment of the Left Behind things more than we do the holiness that Jesus demands of His followers. You see, the book of Revelation is not primarily about the minutia of end times events, but it is a revealing of the risen and living Christ and who He really is! The title of the book is the Revelation–singular not plural–of Jesus Christ! That will be a great and awesome day for everyone, both believer and unbeliever alike. One of the most powerful passages in the NT on the Deity of Jesus Christ is found in the letter of Philippians. We sometimes have this image of a meek and mild Jesus fixed in our minds, a blond haired, blue-eyed Jesus, who looks and acts like a wimp. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Jesus that walked this earth as a man was nothing less than God in the flesh. And when He comes again we will see Him as He really is, won’t we? Listen to these verses from Philippians 2:10-11. Philippians 2:10-11 (KJV)
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Turn in your Bibles with to Revelation 5:11-14. When Jesus came the first time He came as the Lamb of God; when He comes the second, He will come as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5). He came to die the first time, He is coming to judge and reign as Lord of Lords, King of Kings the second time. He came the first time to bring into the world of men, a world sunk in sin and darkness, the Kingdom of God; He is coming the second time to enforce His sovereign will over all the universe. Look at your Bibles, Rev. 5:11-14. There is going to be a moment in time, I believe, when everyone who has ever lived, believer and unbeliever, will behold the Lord Jesus Christ for who He is. We will see Him as the disciples saw Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. And people, I believe that in that single instant there will be a hushed silence, a silence filled with the awesome presence of God. And then everyone, all creation, will bow and worship the risen Christ, the Lamb of God, the Lord of Lords, our Savior, Jesus!
(11 And so this parable we have been studying ends with what? The great Harvest and then final judgement. The Second Coming ends in judgement and then ushers in glory! 1 Peter 4:5 (KJV)
5 Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead. Hebrews 9:27 (KJV)
27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Most us live out our lives in a desperate attempt to avoid all thought of, first of all, death, and if we can’t quite push the grim reaper to background of our thoughts we secondly try to console ourselves with the false idea that even though there is absolutely nothing we can do about death–we are all going to die–God is not really going to judge me for everything I’ve done wrong. And hey! Even if He does, I ain’t that bad, right?
(12 Let me ask you something? When is the last time you heard a hellfire and brimstone sermon? You don’t hear very many these days, do you? Almost universally, the church looks back on those old Bible thumpers and pulpit pounders and hellfire screamers with embarrassment, doesn’t she? And I suppose that most of them were really over the top and excessive. But people, hear me now: Jesus Himself talked more about hell than He did about heaven. We have to strike the proper balance in our preaching, but if we don’t preach the twin realities of heaven and hell, we have not actually preached the Gospel, have we? Because what exactly did Jesus die for anyway? What are we being saved from? Paul tells us in Romans, doesn’t he? Listen: Romans 1:18 (KJV)
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
(13 Jesus came and died on the cross, rising on the third day in victory over sin and death so that all who trust on His name should perish, should be saved from the just wrath of a holy God. And that is good news, isn’t it? Let’s go back to Matthew and read 13:40-43 once more.
(14 Our hearing’s faulty, isn’t it? We hear but don’t really listen. Any of us who have children can testify to the truth of that statement, right? My grandson will look me dead in the eye and look like he’s listening to every word I say, and then he will go right on and do the very thing I told him not to do. Unfortunately for many of us, while I expect my 21/2 year old grandson to not pay attention; he must be taught to do so by his mama and daddy, God fully expects us to pay attention to what He is teaching us in His Word, doesn’t He? And He expects us to not only listen, but to obey Him.
(15 He expects His children to work diligently for His kingdom even though we know the consummation of that kingdom will not happen until Jesus comes again. And here is one last point that I saved until last. Sometimes the difference between the false wheat and true wheat is readily apparent, isn’t it? The tares show their true colors early. But sometimes we can’t ever seem to tell the difference. And sometimes, just sometimes, we are wrong in our judgement of what is true wheat and what is false wheat. Listen to this story of one homelsess young lady and judge for yourselves.
(16 A young woman about 20 years old had been living on the streets of a suburban neighborhood for about five years because of her severely abusive alcoholic parents. She was a pleasant looking young woman behind the tattered and dirty clothes, oily hair, and dirty makeup free face. Somehow she had managed to avoid the alcohol her parents lived for, and the drugs that soothed most of the other homeless people in her area. She had a little old Bible that an aunt had given her when she was 11 years old, that she kept in her one canvas bag that held all of her belongings.
She got by like most homeless folks with rummaging for bottles and cans, and asking the odd person for spare change, but she never gave herself up to prostitution or stealing. Through all the years of torment her only refuge was this Bible that she had learned inside and out, which of course led her to depend on the Lord and love him, she had too much pain though, and not enough skills to get out of the situation she was in, but tried to live as close as she could to how the Bible instructed.
For years she had watched people go to the church a couple blocks away from the place she slept alone at night in the bushes. She would look at all the well dressed people get out of their cars and walk into church as families. She would sit in the parking lot and listen to the muffled music of the worship service, she would pray and read her Bible until the end of the service, and then watch as the people mingled and laughed and hugged before they got back in their cars and drove off. This was her church service. She dreamed of being like all those people, but believed that she could never fit in there.
Finally one day she decided that she would take the money she had made from her collections and instead of food, she would go to value village and buy the prettiest dress she could find. She didn’t know how a dress should fit and felt very uncomfortable wearing it, but she bought what she thought was a very pretty dress. The following Sunday she got up, gathered all the courage she could muster, and put on her dress. She had no place to take a shower and no makeup, but she tried her best to clean her face and do something with her hair. She trembled with nervousness as she made her way to the church and tried to sneak in so that she wouldn’t have to shake hands with greeters. Of course there was no place to hide so she walked through the foyer attracting a few looks of disgust but mostly people just looked away and ignored her. It took everything she had not to run out of the building, but she stayed and found a seat in the back corner of the sanctuary where she closed her eyes and prayed until the service started moments later. She sobbed not so silently through the entire service knowing that she would probably not put herself through this again, but feeling so ecstatic about having had the chance to at least be a part of one church service in her life. To experience some of what these people did.
She found herself hesitating to leave at the end of the service because she wanted to get all she could out of being there before being asked to leave, or just bolting out of there back to her life. When she decided to get up and leave, the foyer was very busy and it took some effort and much discomfort walking alone through the crowd of cheerful people. She finally did escape and as she walked toward her home in the bushes a young teenage girl noticed the color of her dress, and interrupted her father asking him who that was walking away, as she had never seen her before. He glanced quickly, finished up his conversation, then looked more intently as she exited the parking lot. As this family was driving home in the same direction as the girl they noticed her going into the bushes a couple blocks away in her dress.
This family just happened to be a quite wealthy family who regularly took in foster kids who were preparing for independent living when they turned 18. The father had also helped finance a low cost building project for the homeless in a nearby city. The following Saturday morning this family went in search of this girl as their curiosity had increased over the week. The dad went into the bushes where he saw her enter the previous Sunday and saw her sleeping there with an old blanket over her, and her Bible sitting open beside her. He didn’t want to startle her so he gently kept saying hello from a distance until she finally woke. Before anything else was said, he quickly asked her if she had come to their church the previous week. This sort of lowered her anxiety, and she hesitantly said yes.
The dad ended up putting her in a motel for the night, and the mom gave her some nice clothes and some makeup from home. Sunday morning they picked her up, of course she had been ready for hours. When they saw her, they could barely recognize her because of the difference. Now she got to go to church like everyone else. After church that Sunday the family took her out for lunch and by the end of it, they had invited the girl to come live with them, kind of like an adult foster kid I guess. Within a year she enrolled and was very successful in Bible college, knowing the Bible as well or better than any teacher or pastor. Today she is living on her own and is the children’s ministry director of an even larger church in that community, which has a huge outreach program for homeless people that she helped initiate.
This woman looked like a weed, a tare, but she turned out to be one of the finest strains of wheat in God’s Kingdom.
(17 Listen to me as we close. Yes, we must always have discernment about what is right and what is wrong. And yes, we must always preach against sin. And again yes, we must preach that there is a judgement coming. But people, God left the tares and the wheat in the same field of the world so that He could develop in His children the same love and concern for the lost that He has. He left the work of Kingdom unfinished so that we would work and honor Him our sacrifice for others and so that our worship of Him would be true. God left the good wheat and the tares in the same field not so we could lord it over people with our own goodness–we have none but what Christ has given us, anyway–but so that we might show a watching world the love, truth, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ!
(18 We are to be wise and remove sin from the camp as best we can, but people we are to welcome sinners into our midst so that we might show them the salvation that only comes from Jesus Christ.
(19 Do you know Him this morning? Has there been a moment in your life where, by an act of your will, you have said, “I trust Jesus for forgiveness of my sin!” If there hasn’t let me invite you to do so today. In recent years, I have every Sunday School lesson I have taught, and every sermon I have preached with one of the most important verses in the NT, John 14:6. Listen: John 14:6 (KJV)
6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. That verse can make some people angry. “Whaddya mean, there ain’t but one way! You telling me that every other religion out there is wrong except for this Christianity?” Well, you know what? Yeah, I am saying just that. No other religion makes a way for sinful men and women to have their sins washed clean. No other religion has the founder of it, who just happens to be God in the Person of the Son, die a horrible death on the cross of Calvary for you and for me so that we don’t have to suffer for our sins. And listen carefully: no other religion has that very same founder come up out that grave in victory, so that you and I can live with Him forever.
(20 The reapers are coming one day, aren’t they? They are coming to separate the tares from the wheat, the believer from the unbeliever. The one for the fire, the other to shine like glory! Which are you? Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
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