The Matthew Series 29. Wheat and Weeds
Last week we started with, as Barry said, a series of parables that Jesus began to tell to those crowds who were following him around. And this series of parables has a single theme, and that theme – once you start looking into it, is tremendously exciting. It’s the theme of the kingdom.
As I was doing my Bible reading through the gospels last year, I saw this topic come up again and again and again and I decided to look more into it. I wrote down all the verses that speak about kingdom and here are some of the things I found:
The topic of the kingdom is HUGE in the New Testament. The word is used 87 times in the New Testament, not to mention the many references to it. Of those 87 times, 72 times it is used in the four books of the gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; whereas ‘ekklesia’ (the Greek word for Church) is used only twice.
The kingdom was something Jesus was excited about, and if you want to be excited about something Jesus was excited about, I challenge you to do what I did and just look up in a concordance if you have one, or Google if you don’t, all the verses of ‘kingdom’ in the New Testament and just write them down. You’ll get excited about it too.
Jesus starts His ministry talking about the kingdom (Mt 4:17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”.), and ends His ministry talking about kingdom (Lk 22:29-30 And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.) And all through His ministry, He’s speaking about the kingdom of heaven: The kingdom of heaven is like…, once again, the kingdom of heaven is like…, to what can I compare the kingdom of heaven – it is like…
That shows us that the topic of the kingdom was a massive one for Jesus in His ministry, and the rest of the New Testament builds on this topic as the writers wrestle with how the Kingdom reality plays itself out in the Church, and through the Church into the world.
Paul uses this imagery to further define the Christian reality in one of the clearest ways possible in Colossians 1:12-14 “[We give thanks] to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
And so, over these few weeks I encourage you to come and hear about this beautiful, wonderful kingdom that God has brought us into. As we’ll see tonight, it’s exciting for now, and exciting for then – now in this life, and our hope for the next.
Let’s get into our text for tonight. It’s long, so we’ll be rushing through, so hold on to your hats.
[Read Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43]
This is an interesting parable because we don’t just get the parable, we get Jesus’ own commentary and explanation for it, so we know we’re on the right track. In fact, I don’t need to explain any more of it to you than He already has, but perhaps I can highlight a few things of encouragement and warning as you go into this week.
Firstly, it helps to know what the point of this parable is. As Barry and I prepare each week for the sermon on Sunday, we come across this series of parables on the kingdom and wonder – How is this parable about the kingdom different from last week’s parable, and how will it be different from next week’s? Or are they the same.
Jesus wanted to give a clear picture of what the kingdom of heaven is like through this series of parables and so each parable shows us something new and profound about the kingdom.
What we have tonight is a parable about the Judgement aspect of the kingdom, and I’ll explain more about that as we go on. Last week Jesus showed us that for those in whom the kingdom is truly planted, they will reproduce by bearing seed which will then be planted in others, who will then reproduce the kingdom into others, and Barry made that clear to us last week. Next week we’ll see how the kingdom can’t help but grow, and that gives us courage to press on.
This week we see that while there is confusion in the world, and even appears to be confusion in the kingdom, there is no confusion in God. He knows those who are His, and when the time of judgement comes not a single person will be misplaced – those destined for destruction end there, and those for glory end there.
Let’s look at our points for tonight.
First, let’s look at:
1) The SECURITY of the Wheat
When I was still at college I had a very student mindset when it came to food. I figured food was expensive and mustn’t be wasted, and so even if food had been sitting out for a few days and tasted a little off, down it would go. I don’t know how I survived those years. I remember particularly there were these massive, ultra-cheap hamburgers a friend would bring me from a shop close to his home on the EastRand. It was the size of ten burgers with patties, eggs, lettuce, ham, cheese, onions, and who knows what else. After eating pieces for three or four days I’d be afraid to look inside, I’d just eat it, and had to contend myself that some bad would go down with the good, and that’s how it was.
Now, I’m a little different. My wife and I enjoy getting the berries when they’re half-price at Checkers. We know that at least for a day or two they’ll be okay, but after a few days some start to taste a little sharp and instead of eating the good with the bad, I throw the good and the bad away together.
In our story tonight, we learn that on Judgement Day, Jesus has absolutely no plan to keep the bad with the good, nor to throw away the good with the bad. Look at what the text says – upon learning that there were weeds mixed in with the wheat, the servants came with a zealous attitude – an eagerness: “Master, we will get rid of these bad weeds”.
But the Master stops them in their tracks: “No – wait until the right time, and it will be clear which is which, and then you can get rid of the bad weeds.” The servants were zealous for the Master’s integrity, but the Master was zealous for His crop
– not one that is good should be lost.
We see this promise of security for the children of the kingdom all through Scripture. We see it in Philippians 1:6 where Paul says, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you [the children of the kingdom of light], will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’
We see it in Jesus’ own words in John 10 (vss. 27-28) My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.
But we see it in one of the most clear ways in Romans 8:29-30: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son…And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”
I remember years ago sitting in a school hall in a village as a missionary explained this text to teachers and pointed out that there’s no loss from one level to the next: All those foreknown were predestined; all those predestined were called; all those called were justified, and finally all those justified were glorified. Not one was lost.
So, if you are wheat, my friends, there is security in that. You won’t turn into a weed overnight. God knows those who are His, He cares for His own, and with all wisdom and all might and with all carefulness, He will bring those who are His into His own house.
We’ve seen the SECURITY of the Wheat, now let’s turn our attention to the judgment – what will happen to the wheat and the weeds. First, the weeds:
2) The DESTINY of the weeds
[vss. 30, 40-42]
Now we enter on a topic which many of us don’t want to explore. In this parable, Jesus says that there is a distinction between two groups: One group is the group of the wheat – which Jesus explains are the sons of the kingdom: Those who are His. The second group is the group of the weeds – which Jesus explains are the sons of the evil one: Those who aren’t His.
Now we must be very clear. There are not three groups. If there were, Jesus would have told us so. There is not a third group of ‘harmless non-wheat’ that will be perhaps stored in a neutral place for eternity.
All of us sitting here are either sons of the kingdom, or sons of the evil one. And there is a definite destiny for each. We will look at the destiny for the wheat in a minute, but take sober consideration of what Jesus says will happen to the weeds.
In the parable He says that they will be tied into bundles – and burned.
In the explanation He describes how they will have eyes to weep and mouths to gnash and cry.
This is the destiny of the weeds – all who do evil – they spend eternity in Hell.
No one spoke of this eternal suffering of the wicked as much as Jesus did. Some people think Jesus only spoke nice things, and then Paul brought this idea of Hell to the world, and then the Church blew it out of proportion to scare people.
No – Jesus spoke about Hell more than all the rest of the Bible does.
It is described as a place outside of the kingdom, a place of suffering, a place of darkness and loneliness, an eternal place of suffering, a place of hopelessness and pain. This is how Jesus describes it.
And we have a decision to make ourselves from this passage: Do we believe it or not? If this is not true – if there is no eternal suffering for all who do evil – then Jesus is a liar.
In the world today there are many, many who call themselves Christians but deny the existence of Hell, little knowing that they are calling Jesus a liar. And if Jesus is a liar, then He cannot be the Saviour, and if He is not the Saviour, we have no hope – then what are we doing wasting our time going to Church, reading our Bibles, or praying? God can’t save us because there is no salvation – if Jesus is a liar.
But if He’s not, and be careful of what this implies – if He’s not a liar, then it means that there really is a place to which those who are not God’s will spend eternity in suffering. A place some of your friends may spend eternity in, a place your brothers or sisters may spend eternity in. A place maybe some of you may spend eternity in.
How loud must we cry: YOU DON’T WANT TO END UP THERE! YOU DON’T WANT YOUR CHILDREN TO END UP THERE! YOU DON’T WANT YOUR NEIGHBOURS OR EVEN YOUR ENEMIES TO END UP THERE! And be sure: IT IS REAL, AND MAY BE HOURS AWAY FOR YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW.
Maybe you say, ‘No, pastor Greg! This can’t be real. Maybe there’s another explanation. Maybe the sons of the evil one describe demons. Surely Jesus would cast demons into the fire for all eternity, but not those like me.’
But you’re wrong. The weeds are men and women who have rejected the word of God and continue in evil practices. In John 8:44, Jesus speaks to the Jews and says, ‘You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire.’ He wasn’t speaking to demons – He was speaking to men and women.
John tells us in 1 John 3 (:9-10) No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.
The children of the devil are not demons – they’re men and women – people like you and me, who have rejected the word of God and continue in evil practices. They know what is the right thing to do, as we said two weeks ago: To believe on Jesus and call on Him, yet they continue to trust in their own way. Their end is destruction, suffering, hopelessness, eternal punishment.
Think that’s unfair? Punishment escalates as the honour due to the offended party grows. Spit in the face of your father and see how hard he smacks you. Spit in the face of the president and see how long you spend in prison. But spit in the face of the Almighty, Holy One, and see how hard and how far He smacks you.
God is not mocked! And so, the sons of the evil one – those who cause sin and all who do evil – will never escape the punishment they earn through a life of consistent rejection of the Holy One.
Is there hope? Yes, there is. Trust in Jesus, cry out to Him, and you too can escape the fiery furnace along with the sons of the kingdom.
But I want to turn quickly to the last point: What is the destiny of the sons of the kingdom?
3) The PROMISE of glory
[vss. 30c, 43]
What will be the destiny of the Children of God, the sons of the kingdom – the wheat? What does the Bible tell us?
Not much. And this is for our good.
It is said that only two chapters in the Bible are dedicated to our destiny: the last two chapters in the Bible: Revelation 21 and 22. Read them, if you want to, but it’s even sweeter after reading through the entire Bible and getting to that point. Any more than those two chapters and the wheat would be ‘harvesting itself’ to get there.
Paul describes what paradise is like, saying that in a vision or a trip there ‘he heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell’, and calls them ‘surpassingly great revelations’.
Peter describes an ‘unfading crown of glory’ (1 Peter 5:4).
Paul, again, says that for the Christian, though we suffer now in this life, our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18); and in 2 Corinthians 4 (:16-17) he encourages us not to lose heart: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.’
What will this be like?
Jesus Himself seems to struggle, if I can use that word reverently, to describe our destiny in our passage tonight: The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. What does that mean?
We can hardly help remembering the path of the righteous which Proverbs tells us is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day; and even in Daniel’s prophecy of the days that follow This Harvest: ‘At that time, everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (12:1-3).
What will be the destiny of the Children of God?
The Bible hints at an inexpressible glory; eternal blessedness; perfect peace; unimaginable joy. This is what Jesus went ahead of us to prepare. This is what we can look forward to. The Bible hints at it, but doesn’t fully describe it, and I think, as I said, that this is for our good. When I get a clearer picture of what’s waiting for me I wrestle with God – Why do you leave me here amongst all this suffering?! [Tell the story of a man with a health-conscious wife].
Friends, never fear death because this is what Christ has promised us. Never be ashamed of declaring the gospel because by IT weeds become wheat and avoid the terrible punishment that awaits the weeds. Never lose heart, because our efforts for the Lord are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs all our troubles.