Not everything is as it seems. This is true in all of life. In the plant kingdom there are edible plants that look so similar to toxic plants that they are almost indistinguishable. For example, Alliums, which include a wide variety of plants, has many varieties we can enjoy. Who doesn’t like garlic, onions, shallots, scallions, leeks, and chives? And yet, you better be careful because Alliums also include false garlic and death camas. Death camas looks so much like wild onions that the only way to tell them apart is to wait until the wild onions bloom. You don’t want to confuse them because eating death camas could result in death.
Who doesn’t like almonds? They are tasty and good for you, but you want to make sure you are eating “sweet almonds” and not their evil twin, “bitter almonds.” I learned something interesting this past week that I bet you didn’t know either. All almonds contain cyanide. Sweet almonds contain only a trace, but bitter almonds have 42 times the amount of cyanide as sweet almonds. Eating just 5-10 bitter almonds can result in death for children.
Who has been out on a hike and run across wild grapes? They are everywhere in Oklahoma and are edible. Wild grapes also have an evil twin called “Canadian moonseeds.” The fruit of the Canadian moonseed and wild grape are identical except for the difference of the seeds within the fruit. You can eat wild grapes, but you want to stay away from Canadian moonseed since they are toxic. Botanists tell us that Native Americans would use part of the Canadian moonseed plant to make laxatives. Enough said. Stay away.
It’s not the just the Plant Kingdom that can be confusing. There are many kinds of snakes that are harmless, but some of them have cousins that are poisonous and can cause great harm if we don’t know the difference. People often confuse corn snakes with copperheads. You’ll know the difference if you’re bitten by a copperhead. Another example is the confusion between the deadly coral snake and it’s non-venomous look-alike the scarlet king snake. There’s an old rhyme that goes like this, “black and yellow, kill a fellow and red on black is a friend of Jack.” It might seem childish, but it’s the easiest way to remember the difference.
I told you, not everything is as it appears. What’s true in the animal and plant kingdom is also true of human beings. You can think you know someone, be able to describe and define who the person is and what the person is all about, but find out that you were dead wrong. In our Scripture for this morning we find Jesus sharing another parable about the Kingdom of God. Let’s take a look and then we’ll see what we can learn. Turn with me to Matthew 13:24-30 and we’ll get started.
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'” (Matthew 13:24-30 NIVO)
The man sowed good seed in his field, but someone, his enemy, came in during the night and sowed weeds among the wheat. When the servants noticed the weeds they went to the owner of the field and said, “Didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?” When they found out that an enemy had snuck in and sowed the weeds among the wheat, the servants were anxious to get the weeds out of the field. They said, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” They had to have been shocked when the owner said, “No.” What was his reasoning? I’m so glad you asked. He said, “If you pull up the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let them both grow together until harvest. The harvesters will separate them.” What lesson was Jesus trying to teach when He taught this parable to the large crowd who listened in? Jesus didn’t unpack the parable for the large crowd, but we learn exactly what Jesus had in mind when we skip down to Matthew 13:36-43. We can listen in as Jesus explained the parable to His disciples. Read it with me.
36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.” 37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:36-43 NIVO)
This parable has been used to teach that the church is a mixed lot, filled with good seed and bad seed, those who are true believers and those who are imposters. I’m sure many of you who are here this morning have heard someone tell you, or maybe you’ve said to yourself, “The church is full of hypocrites.” Although this is true, Jesus wasn’t speaking about the local church or the church in general. Jesus described each of the seven elements of the parable for His followers.
- The Sower is the Son of Man
- The field is the world
- The good seed stands for the people of the Kingdom
- The bad seed stands for the people of the evil one
- The enemy who sowed the bad seeds is the devil
- The harvest is the end of the age
- The harvesters are God’s angels
So, we can see, this parable is not about the local church or the church in general, but it is about the Kingdom of God in the world. If you are a follower of Jesus then you must know that God has planted us in this world with a purpose. He has purposefully planted each of us where we are to be His ambassadors, to let His light shine, and to share the Good News of Jesus with those who cross our path each and every day. This is “Following Jesus: 101” and yet most followers of Jesus don’t understand this important truth. Most followers of Jesus acknowledge they were at one time separated from God, at enmity, at odds with God, but then they accepted Jesus and began to follow Him. Now that they are followers of Jesus they are headed to heaven. In the time between their turning to Jesus and the day they depart and go to heaven, they simply go on living life. Trying to do good no doubt, making sure they go to church, and doing their best to keep from doing anything too bad, but not even giving a thought to living with the purpose God intends for us.
Along with this lack of purpose, we find many followers of Jesus being distracted and discouraged by supposed followers of Jesus who sing with the angels on Sunday, but live like the devil during the rest of the week. I’ve known good friends who loved the Lord, but the hypocrisy of supposed believers challenged their faith to the core. Today’s parable is a powerful lesson for those who have ears to hear. Let’s see what we can learn.
In the parable, Jesus said the man sowed wheat and the enemy sowed, “zizanion.” It’s a Greek word for what is called, “bearded darnel.” The word is used eight times in the New Testament and all of those eight occurrences are found here in this parable told by Jesus. The bearded darnel looks so much like wheat when it is young, but when it matures there’s a clear difference in the head full of grain.
I was talking about the parable of the wheat and the weeds in a Bible study I was leading this past week when Mike Curtis spoke up and told us about what he had seen when he worked on wheat harvest when he was young. Mike hadn’t heard of bearded darnel, he said they called it “cheat.” As Mike described his experience on wheat harvest it was amazing how similar it was to Jesus’ parable. Even to the point of separating the wheat from the cheat at harvest.
“Cheat” may look like wheat for a long time during the growing process, but eventually the truth comes to light. Those planted by the King and those planted by the evil one may appear to be one and the same, but eventually the truth will come to light. You have to remember we are not talking about comparing wheat with brussel sprouts or cucumbers, we are talking about comparing wheat to that which appears to be wheat, but isn’t. When we talk about those planted by the King and those planted by the evil one we aren’t talking about comparing the followers of Jesus to atheists or Buddhists or Muslims, we are talking about comparing Jesus’ true followers to those who hold themselves out as followers of Jesus.
Just to give you an example of what we’re talking about, let me remind you of Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples. Judas went everywhere Jesus traveled. He appeared to be the real deal. He talked like a disciple. Walked like a disciple. Judas had all of the appearances of a bonafide follower of Jesus. He even seemed to separate himself from the other disciples in his holiness and compassion for the poor. Do you remember the time when Mary broke the alabaster jar, anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume, and then wiped His feet with her hair? It’s an amazing story of devotion and tender-heartedness on Mary’s part. “Judas the pious” spoke up,
4 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:4-6 NIVO)
How holy and righteous of Judas, right? John, writing in hindsight, figured out why Judas said what he did, but at the time nobody saw through Judas’ hypocrisy. He appeared to be genuinely concerned for the poor. I say nobody saw through Judas at the time because later on, near the end of Jesus’ ministry, He was alone with the disciples. It was at the Last Supper. Jesus and His disciples were celebrating Passover when Jesus spoke up. You can find it in Matthew 26:21-22.
21 And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” 22 They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?” (Matthew 26:21-22 NIVO)
You would think that everyone would have turned at once, pointed at Judas, and yelled, “He’s the one!” when Jesus said, “…one of you will betray me.” Instead, they all said, “Surely not I, Lord?” There was no tell tale sign that Judas was a “tare” among the disciples, but eventually the truth came to light.
I’m afraid we are much like the servants Jesus described in His parable who wanted to uproot the weeds, get rid of them. Jesus said, “Leave them alone. Their time will come.” We want to do everything we can to rid the world of the evil caused by those who pretend to be followers of Jesus, but aren’t. Instead of focusing on every heretical lifestyle or diabolical deviation of the supposedly devoted, we should instead focus on letting His light shine through our lives. The tares have always been present among the wheat, as a matter of fact all of us were tares at one time weren’t we? Jesus said let them grow together, the harvest will come one day.
There will be a harvest one day, a separation one day, but at the same time some of those tares, or weeds, might just be transformed into a strong, bold stalk of wheat bearing much fruit. Have you ever heard of the Apostle Paul? If the Owner had allowed His servants to go ahead and pull up a weed as soon as they saw it, our New Testament would be about half of what it is today because Paul wrote at least 13 of the 27 books. The servants would have no doubt confused Saul of Tarsus for a weed. He who was once a tare became wheat planted by the Lord and yielded a great harvest. The stories are endless of those who appeared to be weeds, but were later proven to be wheat planted by the Lord.
Here’s what we need to keep in mind. First of all, we don’t know a person’s heart. We can say what we think, but we don’t know so we need to keep our eyes on the Lord and share His Good News with all people because we don’t know what the Lord might do in a person’s life. Second, we need to recognize that wheat and weeds have always grown up side-by-side in the Kingdom. The Lord plants His people and the devil comes along and plants a counterfeit. We can see this all the way back in Genesis.
The first time we run onto one of those Jesus says was planted by the evil one is in Genesis 4. Cain and Abel were brothers. Both of the brothers were religious, we can see that Genesis 4:3-4. Both men brought an offering to the Lord. Abel had faith, but Cain only pretended to have faith. When Cain was upset that his brother’s offering was accepted by the Lord while his wasn’t, Cain became angry and God came to him to counsel Cain.
6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7 NIVO)
Cain heard the counsel of God, but he didn’t have ears to hear. He left the presence of the Lord and devised a plan to kill his brother.
In the New Testament we find John the Baptist and the Pharisees laboring in the Lord’s fields. The Pharisees looked far more religious than John the Baptist. Who ever heard of a preacher wearing a camel’s hair tunic and eating locusts and wild honey? Yet, Jesus said John was the greatest man ever born of a woman. And of the Pharisees, Jesus said everything they did was simply for men to see. In other words, it was all a show. Jesus went on in Matthew 23 to say,
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. (Matthew 23:15 NIVO)
“Twice as much a son of hell as you are.” So you see, everywhere the Lord plants a stalk of wheat, in every place, all over the globe, where the Lord plants His people, the enemy, the devil, follows to plant his counterfeits. Oh, they can look so much alike and yet, things are not always as they appear are they?
I’m not finished giving you examples. The Bible is full of examples of this truth. In Acts 13, we find Paul and Barnabas, planted by God to share the Good News of Jesus. They were spreading the Good News in Paphos when a Jewish sorcerer confronted them and tried to interfere with their speaking to Sergius Paulus about Jesus. In Acts 13:9-10 we read,
9 Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, 10 “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? (Acts 13:9-10 NIVO)
In Acts 20 we find one of the most powerful and tender scenes in the New Testament. Paul had loved the people of Ephesus. He had spent a great amount of time with them; teaching them, loving them, and showing them how to follow Jesus in their everyday life. Paul was on his way to Jerusalem, he had a sense his life was drawing to a close, but he had to see the leaders of the church in Ephesus one more time. When Paul and his companions landed in Miletus, he sent for the leaders of the church in Ephesus. It would have been about a forty mile journey. You get an idea of the deep, deep love they had for one another when you read what happened after Paul spoke to the leaders of the church. Turn to Acts 20:36 with me.
36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship. (Acts 20:36-37 NIVO)
Paul and the leaders of the church loved one another with a deep, deep love. This is why Paul had to see them, to speak with them one more time. There was an urgency to Paul’s message. What did he tell them? What was so urgent that he had to share? We find it Acts 20: 28-30.
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28-30 NIVO)
Watch out! Keep your eyes open at all times! Watch out for one another! Folks would come in from within the flock as well as outside of the flock and their intention would be to lead the followers of Jesus astray. Jesus described these folks as “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
In Revelation 2, Jesus spoke to His followers in the church at Smyrna. He commended them, but He also let them know there were others in their city who appeared to be followers, but instead they were a “synagogue of Satan.” Those are Jesus’ words. Not everything is as it appears my friend.
There will be a harvest, a time of separation. I have to tell you, this parable is problematic for many people because of what Jesus said about the harvest. When Jesus explained the parable, He explained the harvest in this way.
…The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear. (Matthew 13:39-43 NIVO)
In the modern day church we are trying to do everything we can to explain away the biblical teaching about hell. A few years ago a preacher wrote a book called, “Love Wins.” In the book Rob Bell says that every person has a place in heaven and there is no place called “hell.” At least the guy is being straightforward in what he believes, even if what he believes is in total contradiction with the teachings of Jesus. Many other preachers and Bible teachers dance around the topic. C.S. Lewis was listening to a young preacher one time, who came to the end of of his sermon and said, “If you do not receive Christ as Savior, you will suffer grave eschatological ramifications!” On his way out of the church C.S. Lewis asked the preacher, “Do you mean that a person who doesn’t believe in Christ will go to hell?” The preacher said, “Yes.” Lewis said, “Then say so.”
It is impossible to explain away the reality of hell if we are followers of Jesus because Jesus taught about hell more than all of the biblical writers combined. I often get the question, “If God is loving, how then could God send people to hell?” The word “send” is a misnomer in my estimation. J.I. Packer, in his book, “Concise Theology,” writes,
Scripture sees hell as self-chosen…hell appears as God’s gesture of respect for human choice. All receive what they actually chose, either to be with God forever, worshipping him, or without God forever, worshipping themselves. (J.I.Packer, Concise Theology, p.262-263.)
Rob Bell’s premise for dismissing hell is that God is love, that there has never existed a love like the love of God. I totally agree. Here is where we part ways. Rob Bell says since God is love He will welcome all people, no questions asked. I say, God loves you and me so much that He has paved the way for you and me to be reconciled to Himself. He has done this through the perfect life, the sinless life, of His Son. God has done it all for you and me, but if you have no desire to be reconciled to God, if you have no desire to worship and serve Him, if you prefer to live your life apart from God, then God will not force Himself on you. You will have all of eternity to have your way, apart from God.
We all have a choice to make. In making your choice know this, our choice has eternal implications. You can either spend all of eternity in the presence of our glorious King or you can spend eternity, eternally separated from our King. I pray that today, if you do not know where you stand, that you will take your stand and ask Jesus to come into your life and lead you into eternity.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
October 28, 2018