Pastor Kirk

Reflections from a spiritual pilgrim in Toledo, Ohio

Parable of the Weeds, 26 July 2015

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

Series Overview: this summertime series will examine the various parables of Jesus recorded in thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

Big Idea: good and evil coexist in our world—for now!

Introduction

Last week we began our series Parables, a look at several stories Jesus told as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew’s gospel—good news—or biography of Jesus.

Lectio Divina: Matthew 13:24-30

Last week we talked about a man who sowed seed. The success of the harvest was not dependent upon the sower, the seed, the water, or the sun, but rather by the soil. Bad soil produced bad crops and good soil yielded a great harvest.

As we continue reading Matthew chapter thirteen, Jesus continues to talk about sowing seed, this time seed that apparently lands in good soil…but there is a problem. Its origins go back to the Garden of Eden—in more ways than one!

In the first chapters of Genesis, Adam and Eve are enjoying God, the Garden, one another, and work. Yes, they enjoyed work.

They were punished for their disobedience, listening to the enemy, the serpent, satan, the devil. They ate the forbidden fruit, and they suffered the consequences.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

At the risk of oversimplifying the punishment, God allowed weeds to grow!

I hate weeds. Hate is a strong word, yet weeds were the bane of my existence as a child. You may have heard me share stories about pulling weeds in our garden and yard. I’m sure my mom would disagree but it seemed as if my sister and I spent half of our summer days pulling weeds in 100 degree heat, sun beating down, no water until dinner, no rest until bedtime, and no vacation until winter break! I love you, mom!

Obviously I had no such experience, but I do vividly remember moments—if not hours—pulling weeds, wanting to curse Adam and Eve for eating the fruit and causing me great hardship!

Weeds are nasty. I dare say weeds are evil.

As we will see from our text today, had I studied the Bible more as a child, perhaps I would’ve discovered this passage and used it as an excuse to not pull weeds!

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. (Matthew 13:24-26)

First, this is a parable, a story of what the kingdom of
heaven is like, a picture of the future. We are all so curious about heaven. Where is it? Who will be there? When do we get to go? What does it look like? Do all dogs go there?!

Jesus says a man sowed good seed in his field. Good seed produces…good crops, in this case wheat (my apologies to those who are gluten-free!). We can assume the soil is good, but unfortunately the man has an enemy. The enemy goes to the trouble of sowing in the same field, but instead of sowing seeds, he sows weeds.

Why? Weeds grow naturally. I have a garden full of them to prove it!

Growth takes time. It takes time for babies to grow into adults, for seedlings to grow into big trees, and for seeds to grow into crops. In the early days following planting, it’s difficult to know what is planted…or where. Many gardeners use popsicle sticks or other markers to show above ground what is below.

In Jesus’ parable, the wheat and weeds appear together.

The world is getting better. The wheat is growing.
The world is getting worse. The weeds are growing.


“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?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ (Matthew 13:27-28)


This is a great question. I’m sure I asked it many times of my mom. Do you
really want us to pull the weeds? Wouldn’t it be better for us to swim in the neighbor’s pool and not get our clothes dirty?!

No parable or analogy is perfect. As a general rule, pulling weeds helps the crops grow. This explains why I’ve grown so few crops in our garden over the years; we don’t spend enough time pulling weeds, they rob the crops of nutrients, and sometimes even choke them, winding their way around the stems of our plants. Weeds are evil!

The answer really is surprising.

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 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 13:29-30)

Jesus seems to be saying two things:

  1. Pulling weeds risks pulling the wheat.
  2. At harvest time, the wheat and weeds will be separated and have very different outcomes

Do you understand this parable? If you’ve read this chapter, you have an unfair advantage, one unavailable to Jesus’ disciples. A few verses later we get the explanation.

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.” (Matthew 13:36)

The more I read the Bible, the more I understand human nature and realize I’m not alone in my cluelessness! There’s so much of the Bible I don’t fully understand, yet that prompts me to pursue it all the more.

He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. (Matthew 13:37-39)

Jesus begins by identifying the two teams! Jesus sows good seed—the people of the kingdom—into the world. The devil sows his people into the world, the weeds. The harvest is coming and angels will harvest the people of the kingdom and the people of the evil one.

God is real. The evil one is also real.

Most people prefer to talk about God than about satan. More people believe in angels than demons. They’re all a part of reality.

If you don’t believe me, last night “an 8½-foot-tall bronze monument featuring a goat-headed Satan” was to be unveiled in Detroit by The Satanic Temple. The monument, a “1½-ton Baphomet, which is backed by an inverted pentagram and flanked by statues of two young children gazing up at the creature, shows Satan with horns, hooves, wings and a beard.” (
freep.com)

So much for underground! For the record,

“The Satanic Temple Detroit chapter founder Jex Blackmore has said the group doesn't worship Satan but does promote individuality, compassion and views that differ from Christian and conservative beliefs.” (freep.com)

As I’ve said before, the essence of satanism is the worship of self, something that seems to be our national—if not world—religion!

Talk of heaven and hell, God and satan, angels and demons makes many uncomfortable, but whoever said life and reality were to be comfortable?

Here’s what Jesus said:

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 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. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear. (Matthew 13:40-41)

I don’t like the thought of hell any more than the next guy, but these are Jesus’s words. Heaven is for real. Hell is for real. There will be a separation of the wheat and weeds, the sheep and the goats, those who follow Jesus and those who follow their own desires, those who worship God and those who worship themselves.

Which are you?

The world really is getting better.
The world really is getting worse.

A day is coming when we will all be judged for the way we lived our days on this earth. Today really matters. There’s no guarantee of tomorrow.

This past week Heather and I attended one of the most gut-wrenching gatherings we’ve ever experienced, the funeral of a five month-old baby who died in his sleep. Like all funerals, it was a reminder of how fragile life is and how each day is truly a gift. They say you are not ready to live until you’re ready to die. Are you ready? Are your loved ones ready?

The reason Christians aren’t taken to heaven upon following Jesus is there is work to do here on earth. Light and darkness coexist. Good and evil coexist. One is always in tension with the other. Let’s make sure we are in the light of Jesus and reflecting that light to our dark world today. Tomorrow might be too late.

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

The World, 1 John 2:15-17, 10 May 2015

Big Idea: We are not citizens of this world, but citizens of heaven on God's mission in our world.

Scripture: 1 John 2:15-17

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Introduction

Do you like to travel? What’s the most fascinating place you’ve visited? Why?

There’s a common expression many make regarding a place. The phrase is…

“It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

There are various reasons people give for their statement, but interestingly enough virtually every visited place has people that live there!

In 1972 Christian music pioneer Larry Norman released an album called “Only Visiting This Planet.” More recently, t-shirts have proclaimed, “Don’t mind me, I’m just visiting this planet.”

Visitors and residents live very different lives, don’t they? I was with a friend from out of town last week during the election and they weren’t too concerned about whether or not Proposal 1 was going to pass. They don’t have to drive on our crater-filled roads each day!

Actually, it would be quite odd if they were deeply concerned about the election, aside from their interest in how it would affect me.

This past week I joined a group of people in downtown Ann Arbor for the National Day of Prayer observance, an annual half hour of prayer at the Federal Building flagpole. While I appreciated their concerns and prayers, I was struck by how opinionated their prayers were, certain of God’s will for the United States and ever so bold in telling God how politicians and leaders should vote, with hardly a word of thanks for the freedoms we enjoy, the progress we’ve made, or even worship for God simply being God. A day set aside for talking with our Dad turned into a laundry list of fear, angst, and pleas for power.

I’m quite sure I over-reacted to their prayers, but today’s passage from the first epistle of John reminds us not to be overly concerned with this world. I want to live in peace and freedom and smooth roads as much as the next guy, but we’re just visiting!

Do not love the world or anything in the world. (1 John 2:15a)

This is not a reference to creation or the planet. It’s not a reference to people in the world. It’s a reference to the world’s system, to worldly things, to temporary things.

Since sin was introduced to our world, evil has been present, causing death, pain, and destruction…all disguised beautifully in tempting forms…like chocolate covered poop!

Jesus spoke of this world. Although he created it, he has allowed satan and his demons to tempt and deceive, presenting us with daily choices to follow God or the world. Jesus called him the prince of this world (John 14:30; John 16:11).

I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, (John 14:30)

…and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. (John 16:11)

In his letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul spoke of what it was like for people before they followed Jesus.

…in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. (Ephesians 2:2)

Evil is real. Just watch the news! Every day we are bombarded with lies that suggest we will be truly satisfied when we have __________.

Fill in the blank: money, sex, power, the latest cell phone, the fastest car, the best clothes, the most Facebook friends, the most encounters with celebrities, the biggest paycheck, the most prestigious job, the best grades, the finest school, the most beautiful family…

Paul told the Galatians…

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

The cross and the world are in tension. Good and evil are in tension. God and satan are in tension.

Peter recognized the evil in our world.

If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (2 Peter 2:20)

John continues…

If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. (1 John 2:15b)

This is harsh, but true. Jesus said nobody can serve two masters.

Have you ever had two bosses?

A few years ago I found myself driving a fifteen passenger van in Los Angeles with three navigators! I finally had to tell two of them to put away their GPS devices so I could follow one person.

You can’t run with the devil during the week and run with the LORD on Sunday!

You can’t love sin and God. We are in the world but not of the world.

There is a perpetual conflict between our old sinful nature and our new, righteous nature given to us through Jesus.

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)

God gives us all desires. Those desires are not bad since they were from God, but we are often tempted to meet those desires in unhealthy, sinful ways.

It’s like running a marathon, wanting to finish, and then taking a taxi to the finish line.

The flesh, the eyes, and pride. Notice how these themes appear repeatedly in the Bible.

The lust of the flesh. Our bodies have cravings. Gluttony is a real temptation. Eve was tempted by satan to eat the forbidden fruit. It wasn’t that God said she couldn’t eat, but rather she couldn’t eat from just one tree in the garden.

Jesus was also tempted this way in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. He was hungry after fasting for forty days (duh!) and satan tempted him to turn stones into bread to inappropriately feed his flesh. He even misquoted scripture to lure Jesus into sin.

By the way, temptation is not sin. It’s what we do with the temptation that matters. Eve said yes and Jesus said no.

The lust of the eyes. Our eyes are drawn to attractive things. They are often the gateway to lust, pornography, or materialism. The tree looked good to Eve. The fruit looked good.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was taken to a high place and satan showed him the kingdoms of this world, offering them to Jesus if he would only worship satan.

The pride of life. Eve was told if she ate the fruit she would be wise. It wasn’t simply an urge to eat something tasty, but a desire to be like God.

Jesus was also tempted this way. He was told to jump off the top of the Jerusalem temple and show his superiority by summoning angels to protect him. Jesus never performed a miracle to impress people.

The stomach, beauty, and even religion can be deadly and of the world when we give into sinful temptation. Here’s why:

The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:17)

The Roman Empire, Michael Jordan’s athleticism, the wealth of many who invested in Enron and Radio Shack, …

It All Goes Back In The Box

Author and pastor John Ortberg tells a great story about learning to play Monopoly from his grandmother. She repeatedly beat him and finally said John needed to risk it all, go for broke, buy every house and hotel possible and accumulate as much wealth as possible. She said, “One day you’ll learn to play the game.”

So he played with a neighbor all summer long, understanding money and possessions were the way to keep score. That fall he sat down to play with grandmother and ruthlessly beat her, taking every last dollar she had! She had one more thing to teach John. She said, “Now it all goes back in the box. All of the houses and hotels, railroads and utilities and money goes back in the box. None of it was really yours. It was here before you came along and it will be around after you’re gone.”

So What?

This world is not our home. No matter how exciting it can be to experience money, sex, power, fame, and comfort, the thrill will eventually wear off. Then what?

What really matters?

We are just visiting this planet.

As odd as that may sound, we’re not the only ones. Jesus made a visit, and He set for us a great example of how to live here while being citizens of heaven. He only visited for about 33 years. He said to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God. He never demonstrated fear, even when seemingly most of the world wanted him dead. There is no record of him campaigning for a candidate or even a political issue, though his sermons were loaded with radical commands and ideas no politician would dare utter.

Some Christians are so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good. We need to be involved in this world, but only to the extent that we’re on mission, that we are obediently following our assignment to make disciples, to love others, to lose our lives for God’s sake.

A growing trend in travel is eco tourism where people do more than visit and consume; they serve the residents, perhaps through digging a well or volunteering at a soup kitchen. They are on a mission, but permanent residency is not part of the arrangement. The tourists know they will eventually return home.

This world is not our home. We’re just visitors. Let’s live like it! In the meantime, let’s complete our mission and leave this world in better shape than we found it!

You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast
here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

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