3 January 2021
Who Made This Mess?
Matthew 13, 24-43
Let me ask you this question.
If Jesus rules the world as the Messiah King, then why does he tolerate his enemies and those who stand in defiance against him?
Let me be more specific.
If Jesus has come, the great king, the long-awaited Messiah with his coming the Kingdom of God has dawned.
If the Son of God himself has come into the world and by his life and his death has defeated Satan and sin at the cross and won a great multitude to himself.
Why is it that Jesus continues to tolerate his enemies and those who stand opposed to him?
If his kingdom has come?
If when Rome takes over a country all bow the knee to Caesar and when England ruled the waves all bowed the knee to the monarch of England.
Why does Jesus rule seem so … pathetic?
Why has the whole world not bowed down at the feet of Christ? The Messiah has come. The kingdom is here.
What is the Kingdom of Heaven actually like because it doesn’t seem to be what was expected?
Well, to answer that question Jesus tells a parable.
He says, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
While everyone is asleep, his enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat.
It is not clear which is which seed at the beginning but when they grow and the plants bear grain the difference is clear, and the servants see it.
I was told that the way in which you tell the weeds from the plants is that you pull up everything in your garden and the things that grow back are the weeds.
That aside, there is an obvious difference between the weeds and the wheat as they bear grain.
Now the servants are confused and asked the master “didn’t you sow good seed?”
The master knows what has happened, he knows that an enemy has come and sown the weeds.
Now the servants are very keen to go out and remove the weeds right away but the master says, no, no.
Wait, lest in gathering the weeds you pull up the wheat as well. Let both grow together until the harvest. At harvest the weeds will be burned and the wheat collected into the barn.
Now the nice thing about this parable is that Jesus tells us exactly what it means, starting in verse 37
The sower is Jesus himself. The field is the world.
The good seeds are the sons and daughters of the kingdom of God. The weeds are the sons and the daughters of the evil one. The enemy is the devil himself and the harvest is the end of the age.
When you know that information the parable makes sense.
The kingdom of God has dawned with the coming of Jesus the king. His defeat of Satan and sin.
The saving of his people.
It is the last hour of human history. We live in the 11th hour.
Despite this reality, the effect is less apparent than might have been anticipated. There is no massive disruption of human history yet.
The kingdom has come, but the transformation of all things is deferred because the Lord protects the true wheat. He will not have one of his wheat pulled up with the weeds.
2 Peter says
9 The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise (of coming judgement) as some count slowness but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
The Lord will not lose even one of those he has set his love upon from before the foundation of the world.
There may well be people not even born yet who belong to the Lord and he will not bring the judgement early.
Friends, I need to say this, if you don’t belong to Jesus today, there is still time. At the moment. The Lord is merciful, but you don’t know when the time will be gone. Please do not despise the Lords’ patients towards you.
That means that life appears to continue as if nothing has changed. Evil and the reign of Satan do not to this point appear significantly threatened. The light shines, but the darkness has not yet been put out.
The final moment is yet to come.
The kingdom has arrived, but the old order has not yet been swept away.
It will be, the Lord God will not tolerate its opposing, usurping presence forever but that is not yet.
Today the sons of darkness continue to oppose the Sons of light, the devil continues to sow his seeds among the crops of the Lord, the field is blighted and the harvest is obscured.
Today we are called to be patiently waiting, but it is waiting in anticipation, not anxiety. The kingdom has been established, God’s new day has dawned. The harvest is being nurtured, secretly but surely.
The final harvest day is already chosen. The son of man will come again.
In the meantime, good and evil growing together, side by side. The children of God and the children of the devil live side by side.
Well if that is the case. What will encourage you as you live in this ‘in between time’? Between the coming of Jesus and his kingdom and the final consummation of the kingdom?
Jesus tells a second parable that is sandwiched between the first one.
How do you live as a person of the Kingdom in the meantime?
Jesus spoke about something very small - one of the smallest seeds you’d ever plant in your garden or orchard: the mustard seed. What is produced, by comparison, was huge, a small tree or large shrub about 3 metres tall, large enough for birds to roost in it, and for stock to enjoy its shade.
Jesus also spoke about the small piece of dough left over from yesterday’s kneading. A lady worked it, with its yeast, into 25 kilograms of flour, and the result is enough loaves of bread to feed many.
On both counts: a small, very small beginning. A large, very large finish.
The before and after picture is obvious enough. What’s the point? Let me try and draw it out in a few ways for us this morning:
1. In the meantime don’t despise small things
We live in a world that says “Big is beautiful”, and we believe it. If you live in a big city, you’ve made it. If you live in a big house, you must be successful. If you belong to a small church, you don’t count - but if you are part of a mega-church, then you must be blessed by God.
God has never been impressed when something is bigger than something else. God has never been impressed when someone is richer or more clever or more gifted than someone else.
To turn it around, littleness has never been a problem to God. God has never been intimidated when his people are a small minority, with the rest of the world on the other side of the line.
God has never tied his plans to big people and big churches and big numbers. His plans always include small things, and often his purposes are tied to the little people.
Any number of people here is proof positive that God’s plans so often hinge on little people because of their faithful lives and godly talk, a grandchild has been converted, or a friend brought to Christ. The result, in turn, of that, is that someone else has become a Christian and so it goes on.
What you do does not have to be big to be important in God’s Kingdom!!! In God’s kingdom, great things so often come from small beginnings.
If you’ve been praying for someone for 5 years, or perhaps even 25 years, and there are no signs of any response, it’s natural to want to give up. What’s the point? What good has your praying or your speaking done? You seem such a little blip on the scale of things and so ineffectual.
However, the mustard seed parable says “keep on”. Keep on praying. Keep on talking and looking for good results. It is because God brings big things out of little things, and great things out of the work of small people. It doesn’t matter if you’re surrounded by weeds.
Things don’t have to be big to be important, or large to be life-changing.
You are put off when things are small, and so am I, but we don’t have to be. God’s vision includes small things- and certainly things that have small beginnings.
In the meantime know the end will be big
Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches.”
People from all nations flow into the kingdom of God.
Here comes the Roman centurion and the woman from Syro-Phoenecia. Here come the Samaritan woman and Cornelius, and the African, the Greeks and Italians and French and Spanish and Russian and English and those from the Philippines and Australia.
The mustard tree is a beautiful picture of a very extensive kingdom where people come in from every tribe, every language group and every nation.
God’s people have always had their eyes on big ends.
David Brainerd and Jonathan Edwards went to the North American Indians. William Carey went to India, with his eyes on China also, and Henry Martyn to India and then on to Persia.
Why? Was it because they believed people had it in them to believe? No - but to be the means of bringing in the birds whom God has planned to save in the branches of his kingdom.
When you belong to a big Jesus, it gives you a vision of the whole world for Christ, because God says he has chosen men and women and boys and girls in every single part of this world, and he means to bring them in by the preaching of the gospel. It means that when we go, we aren’t doing something that might work, something that is uncertain.
The end will not come until every single child of God chosen from the foundation of the world has been saved. The ends will not come a minute too early or a minute too late.
Why are we working alongside our brothers and sisters in those small churches spread across the Philippines? Why are we concerned to bring the gospel to Tamworth to our neighbours to our family.
It is because we know it is God’s plan to bring all kinds and classes of people into his kingdom. And because we know it is a plan which cannot fail.
Sometimes it doesn’t look that way when you are surrounded by weeds.
But we know that when we are working for the gospel, we are “NOT WORKING AT UNCERTAINTY NOR AFRAID OF THE RESULT”.
Our efforts are small. We make a few dents here and there, but what we are doing is hardly earth-shattering. That’s okay - that’s the way God does things. He uses small things. Size with him doesn’t matter.
In the meantime rejoice to belong to the Kingdom of God
Jesus told us that there are always going to be wheat and weeds growing together in this world right through until the end. Jesus never envisaged a golden age when at last we’d have the upper hand.
But listen to the last parable …
“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.”
Jesus says the lady kneading the dough “hides” the yeast inside. While the change in the dough is total and thorough, it’s a change in the nature of the dough. It becomes something radically different, from the inside.
In theses last days God’s Gospel comes to people everywhere - we’ve seen that already. But more than that, it comes to people not simply to change what they do. But to change what they are.
God’s plan involves deep changes - deep inside the hearts and souls of men and women and boys and girls. Do you belong to Jesus and his Kingdom?
You have been deeply changed.
Marxists will change people’s working conditions.
Islam will change people’s religious conditions.
Materialism will change our living conditions.
But God’s gospel is unique. First and foremost it changes our bad record with God, and it changes the bad heart we have before God. Nothing apart from the gospel even gets close to that.
You are totally different from the weeds from the inside out.
And the marvel is that it doesn’t stop there. The bread dough parable tells us that the change is thorough and radical, extending to every part of a person’s life.
In 1900 in San Francisco, Harry Ironside came across a group of about 60 Salvation Army people holding an open-air meeting in the city. They recognised him as a famous preacher and asked him to speak, which he did.
As he finished a man from the crowd, who was a well-known socialist and opponent of Christians, gave Ironside a card. The message said “Sir, I challenge you to debate with me ‘Agnosticism versus Christianity’ in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at 4 o’clock. I will pay all expenses.”
Ironside read the invitation out loud and accepted it. On condition “that in order to prove that the gentlemen have something worth fighting for and worth debating about, he will bring to the hall with him two people whose qualifications are proof that agnosticism is of real value in changing human lives and building true character.”
Ironside required the man to bring a man who had been a drunkard or criminal whose life had been radically changed having heard the claims of the agnostics and socialists. He must also bring a woman who had been a prostitute who now had hope and deliverance and virtue because of the gospel of agnosticism.
He said that if this man would bring his two pieces of evidence of the power of agnosticism to change, he would bring “at least 100 men and women who for years lived in sinful degradation, but who have been gloriously transformed by the gospel which this man ridicules. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses of the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the truth of the Bible.”
The Salvation Army captain in charge of the meeting immediately offered 40 of the 100, and Ironside said: “I will have no difficulty in picking up 60 others from the various missions and churches of the city; and if you promise to bring two such exhibits as I have described, I will come marching in at the head of such a procession, with the band playing ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’ and I will be ready for the debate.”
The challenger withdrew, but the point was made.
Friends in these last hours of history the weeds and the wheat live side by side.
Agnosticism or atheism or humanism or materialism any other ‘isms’ may sound attractive, or look reasonable, or be good material for debate but only the gospel changes people. Whether ‘down and out’ (destitute) people or respectable clever people, it is only the gospel that brings changes that are deep and lasting. Only in the kingdom of Christ are lives really changed and that is from the inside out.
Rejoice every day that you belong to this king.
Rejoice every day that you are being changed from the inside out.
Just as our King claims every nation of the whole world, so he also claims the whole of every person.
Friend, in these last days, don’t get diverted from Christ’s mission of changing people to the devil’s alternative strategy of changing the world. Don’t give up working on that change in your life that flows from the centre to every part at the edge. The outcome is not uncertain but for sure.
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