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Matthew 13:24-43

What kind of world do you really want to live in?

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We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We are so glad you’re here. If you have a need and would like one, we have some extra copies of the book. If somebody will jump up here and help me out there, and in the back, if you need a copy to follow along, you’d like a paper copy, you can also jump online. We have a network here in the building, I believe, and you’re welcome to do that, if you would like.

We study this ancient book, the Bible, because it is God’s word to us, unique in its source, timeless in its truth, broad in its reach, and transforming in its power. And it’s always of interest to me to note things like this in history:

In the 18th century, the French atheistic philosopher, Voltaire predicted, “Another century and there will not be a Bible on earth.” What irony, then, that Voltaire’s house later became the headquarters for the Bible Society, printing and distributing many thousands of Bibles, even using the same printing presses that his own opinions were promulgated on.

AMY ORR – EWING, Beyond Opinion

We have studied, so far, in Matthew’s gospel, which we’re calling our study of ”The King and His Kingdom.”  We’ve studied: The personof Christ, Matthew 1- 4. We studied the principles of Christ and that famous sermon called The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5 – 7.  The power of Christ, lots of His miracles on display in chapters 8 – 12. And now, here in chapter 13, seven of His parables, all of them are about the kingdom of heaven. And we studied last week the parable of the sower and the seeds, or the seed and the soils. And we’ll pick up three more of those seven parables today.

As we have pointed out, these parables have some major themes in them:

  • The already-but-not-yet kingdom of heaven
  • God loves and invites us to come to Him even though we are sinful
  • Some people respond to God with faith; others respond with unbelief, scoffing, scorn, or indifference

As you go through the four gospels, you’ll see a lot about the already-but-not-yet Kingdom of Heaven. That is, it’s already begun. The King has come, Jesus come to earth; didn’t have to, but He did. And He came for us to save us, rebels though we are, resistant though we are, inconsistent though we are. He came for me. He came for you.

And then there comes a day and this has always pointed forward to throughout the scriptures, especially in the New Testament, we see a lot about the culmination or the consummation of the kingdom of heaven. So, it’s the already-begun-but-not-yet-complete kingdom of heaven. God loves and invites us to come to Him, even though we are sinful. And that’s where I say, “Amen. Thank you.” Some people respond to God with faith. We see that throughout the parables as well. Others respond with unbelief, scorn sometimes, and worst, indifference. I hope that’s not you. I hope it’s not me.

Before we read, let me pray this short prayer for illumination:

“ We don’t know everything, Lord. So, what we know not, we pray that you would teach us. We can’t see everything, Lord. So, what we see not, show us. We can’t become better on our own. So, what we are not, Lord, please make us. As we read and study Your word, I pray that You give us a clearer vision of Your truth, greater faith in Your power, more confident assurance of Your love for us, in Jesus name, Amen and amen.”

So, Matthew 13, then, if you’ll turn there with me (6and you’re going to want to look at this,) this is important to set your eyes on the page or on your device, if you happen to have it there. And we’ll take versus 24 – 43 today, and next week finish up the chapter together. So, verse 24 -remember, He’s just on the parable of the sower of the seeds and the soils and now, “He presented another parable to them,” Matthew records saying: 

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprung up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves [of the servants of the landowner] came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares [or weeds]?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ And the servant said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ but, he said, ‘No, lest while you are gathering up the tares or the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest’ and in the time of the harvest, I will say to the reapers, first gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, but gather the wheat into my barn.’ He presented another parable to them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.’

He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.’ All these things Jesus spoke to the multitudes in parables, and He was not talking to them without using a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled saying,” [and here he quotes from Psalm 78,] “‘I will open my mouth in parables. I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world,'” [verse 36.] “Then, He left the multitudes and went into the house.”

 We’re not sure exactly which house that is, but likely a house in Capernaum. And that seems to be where most of his Galilean ministry hubbed out of.

 “And His disciples came to Him.” [So, now, the crowd is no longer there. The disciples are there with Him in this house]. “And they said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

And for the second time, Jesus explains a parable to His disciples. As far as we know, the last time Jesus explained a parable to His disciples. And so, he’s not going to explain the second parable we read this morning. He’s not going to explain the third parable that we read this morning. He’s going to explain the first parable. So, verses 36 and following are actually reaching back to verse 24 and explaining what’s there, but not fully describing what everything might represent, or whatever, which I think is brilliant. And when you watch the way He interprets this parable, you learn something, just even in His style of doing that.

So, they asked, “Explain it to us, the one about the tares and the parable of the weeds in the field.” They didn’t ask about the mustard seed one. They didn’t ask about the leaven one. He answered and said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.” Jesus, most frequently, used self-reference, hearkens back to Daniel chapter seven. He’s basically saying, when He says, “I’m the Son of Man. I’m the Son of the Man. I’m the Son of Man” all the time, He’s basically saying to Jewish leaders in the first century, “I’m the Messiah. I’m the Messiah. I’m the Messiah,” couldn’t make it more clear. We don’t all know that. We don’t all see that. We don’t hear it when we read it, but that’s essentially what a first-century Jewish person would hear.

The field is the world. And as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom. And the tares are the sons of the evil one. And the enemy who sowed them is the devil. And the harvest is the end of the age. And the reapers are angels.

Now, he’s left some elements out. He’s not said what the barn is. When we were kids, we used to go to a campground where it was a Pentecostal camp thing. And it was kind of fun for me and Kim, because, I mean, they really got down in their worship there. And they had what they called, “The Glory Barn.” And I’m not kidding, man, they danced their offering forward, I mean, they had a real… they had a sort of music that you dance forward to and you threw your money in and you go round the back there. And they just kept playing that song forever and ever until they got as much money, I guess, as they wanted. But everybody was dancing, hooting, and hollering. And there’s hay bales everywhere and smell of cows. And there’s a “Glory Barn.”

Jesus doesn’t explain the barn here. It doesn’t mean anything, evidently, in this interpretation of this parable. So, “The reapers are the angels. Therefore, just as the tares are gathered up,” verse 40, “and burned with fire, so shall at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels. They will gather out of His kingdom, all stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness,” seems to be a direct quote from Daniel chapter 12 here – Another time where there’s a connection between Jesus and the Old Testament, another time where we see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament. In some cases, maybe not the prediction of some event itself that will happen or something that will be said, but maybe just He is the ultimate fulfillment, the ultimate mature display of God’s glory in this particular way. It’s interesting how many ways Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.

“And then the angels will cast those weeds into the furnace of fire. In that place, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then, THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN of the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” 

That’s just really a wonderful passage.

Alright, a couple things I want to do. A lot of us are not agriculturally minded or oriented. Here [shows pic] is some wheat and some weed or tares. I believe it’s called the bearded darnel. It’s a certain weed that mixes and their roots underneath the ground will often intertwine. And so, the person who is the owner says, “Don’t go pull them up now.” Why? Because…if you pull up one, you’re going to pull up the other. Their roots are intertwined. And for a while, for a season, let them be. Let them grow together. And then there will come a time when it’s ripe to do it.

The mustard seed is small. Sometimes, it looks like the one on the left, sometimes the one on the right. But it grows to this [shows pic] kind of mustard seed tree/bush, if you want to call it. Jesus doesn’t make much out of the conversation between the landowner and the servants. And in this particular parable, the seed doesn’t represent the word of God, it represents the sons of the kingdom.

So, some of the images that Jesus uses in His parables will change, in terms of what they mean, in that particular parable. It’s important for us to know that. No, the Bible isn’t contradicting itself. No, Jesus isn’t contradicting Himself. Why? Because it’s a parable. It’s not meant to be literal, it’s meant to be figurative to point to something. And sometimes, when He talks about a seed, He’s talking about the word of God. Sometimes, when He talks about a seed, He’s saying, “These are the sons of the kingdom.” So, it’s okay. We just need to understand that.

I love the kingdom of heaven image. We find this 32 times in the gospel of Matthew. It’s usually the “kingdom of God” in the other gospel records. Here in Matthew for some reason, not always, but I think other than maybe four or five times, Matthew says, “the kingdom of heaven.” Some suggest that’s because, as a Jewish writer writing to a Jewish audience, which is what’s suggested, a lot of scholarship, He doesn’t want to use the name, “Yahweh,” or the title, “God.” It’s so sacred to them that He would rather say the kingdom of the heavens or kingdom of heaven.

What is the kingdom of heaven? Before we get into describing it or talking about what this parable or these parables might mean, I think it’s important for us to ask that question. What is this kingdom of heaven? Some of you will know these lyrics, and you might be able to finish this little bit of lyric, “Welcome to Your life. There’s no turning back. Even while we sleep, we will find you. Acting on your best behavior, turn your back on Mother Nature.” Anybody? Oh, good, I love it when I stump the audience. Reach back to 1985. “Everybody Wants To…Rule the World.”

Everybody wants to rule the world; it’s so true. It’s my own design. It’s my own remorse. Help me to decide. Help me make the most of freedom and of pleasure. Nothing ever lasts forever. Everybody wants to rule the world. I listened back to the track. It is a great track. I remember I was a child of the ’80s and enjoyed some of the music of the ’80s, not all of it. But I thought those guys had a great track going there.

But I can’t buy the meaning of the lyrics, if they’re meant to mean what they sound like they mean. I can’t buy that everybody can rule the world. Why? Because everybody wants to, it’s simply going to be the cacophony of my preferences and your preferences. If my story is meant to be preeminent, then your story cannot be preeminent. So, we now have entered into our day and time, the tunnel of the absurd. And there’s a light at the other end, and it seems like, in some cases with our thinking, it’s a train coming at us. We just don’t know that we’ve just wrecked and ruined everything. Everybody wants to rule the world, that’s true, but it will simply cause a society to break down if everybody even tries to rule the world.

I’m so glad that’s not the way reality is. You say, “Well, it can be.” The culture says, “Yes, it can be.”  I’d say, “No, I don’t think it can.”  I think some things can be argued, but they can’t be lived out. Because the red light and the green light and the yellow light out there mean something. And if they don’t mean something out there, I don’t want to drive on the same street with you. The double yellow line means something. If it doesn’t, I do not want to drive on the same street with you. It’s not up to your imagination. It’s not up to my imagination. It actually means something.

And there are those who would like it not to mean anything. They’re that absurd in their thinking. I love what G.K. Chesterton once famously… some of you may have heard this story. He was once asked by one of the papers in London to write in the essay in response to this question, “What is wrong with the world? “ And he just wrote back a two-word answer, “I am.”  I’m what’s wrong with the world. And if we were all more honest about that, I think it would be really, really great.

What’s this “kingdom of heaven” that is mentioned eight times in chapter 13, 32 times throughout Matthew, what does that mean? Certainly, it has to begin with the idea of a kingdom – if a kingdom, then a king; because a kingdom isn’t a kingdom without a king. What is the kingdom of heaven? We say it every week up here. It gives us a little bit of the help defining what it is, right?

What is the Kingdom of Heaven?

Wherever God’s name is hallowed or honored, where God’s righteous reign and rule are respected, where kingdom perspectives, kingdom values, kingdom vision, mission and goals are all embraced.

 This is the way we look at what it means to be a human person. This is the way we look at the world that we live in. This is the way we look at family. This is the way we look at truth. This is the way we look at the church.

And so, it’s important for us, I think, to ask how God sees these things. God’s righteous reign and rule are respected, where kingdom perspectives, kingdom values. This is what’s important. Axiology is that branch of philosophy that deals with values. What is valuable? What is to be desired? And I think my “wanter” gets it wrong sometimes. And I would like to invite you to consider whether your “wanter” might get it wrong sometimes, too. I want now, as I bow before my king, I want Him to change my affections and hearts… my heart, rather, my affections and give me His eyes to see what’s valuable His way. The kingdom vision, the mission, and the goals are all embraced in the Kingdom of Heaven.

So, great question, I think, from this passage for all of us to ask ourselves as we read through it, What kind of world do you really want to live in? And as I was thinking back on that 1985 song, “everybody wants to rule the world,” and I was thinking, Jim does, too. Can I speak of myself from the third person for a moment? Okay.

But I’ll say this Jim, actually, upon further reflection, does not want to live in the world that Jim would rule. Now, can we all be that honest? Because I’m shaped and influenced outside all the time in the culture, I’m shaped and influenced to assert my kingship, to be my king. Even this song, even sweet little, one of the most well-known songs in the entire world on Frozen, that little song. “No right, no wrong. I want to be me,” whatever. Is that right? Is that right? The groove of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World “- it’s a great track, but it’s not great thinking about stuff. It’s not honest.

Alright, so, the parables of the kingdom, just real quick, I’ve got more material than it’s fair for me to try to present in this short amount of time. But here are two kinds of kingdoms. They seem to be in conflict. The nature of the already-but-not-yet kingdom of heaven is also a part of these parables. The astonishing growth and purpose of the kingdom of heaven is mentioned here, which is beautiful, especially in that mustard seed one. The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in His field. And they’re smaller than all the other seeds. But when it’s full grown, it’s larger than the garden plants. It becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.

And some people say, well, the birds of the air: that has to be representative of ravens or some kind of bird that represents Satan. I go, “No, it doesn’t.” It might just be that part of creation finds rest in peace in the tree that has amazingly grown from that tiny little seed into the largest of the plants in the garden. And, well, somebody argues, why didn’t He talk about a big oak tree instead of… Well, because it’s just about the… We can get so nitpicky about all these things. The point is there is this invisible amount of growth that you would never have expected from such a tiny little seed and look at… Its purpose could never have been guessed by the size of the seed. The growth, the increase could never have been guessed by the size of the seed, Jesus says.

And so, we have the increase. And then I love the one with leaven, too. That’s a great one too, because some people will go, “Leaven represents sin in the Bible.” Well, sometimes it does, you’re right. But I don’t think it does in this case. What do you think it means? I think it means influence. I think Jesus is saying that the kingdom of heaven will have an influence, as it’s worked into your life and my life, the society of people that call themselves the church, and the church’s influence in the community that it happens to live and or reside in or witness to.

I think that’s okay. Now, do I know that I’m right and others are wrong about these things? No, I’m speculating. But I invite you to consider it from more than one perspective. The astonishing growth and purpose of the kingdom, the radical influence and impact of the kingdom is here. And the ultimate fate of each kingdom is represented here as well.

We know, with some clarity, what Jesus thought this was all about: The one who sowed the good seed, the Son of Man.

The field is the world. I read a bunch of commentaries that said the field is the church, and that the church is a mixed bag of knuckleheads and really holy people. Well, that’s true, we are some knuckleheads here. And I’m the first guy to put the bumper sticker on the car that says, “Lord, save me from your followers.” I’m with you. I have a love affair, the kind of relationship with the church that most of you do, too, as well. You know that we are not perfect people. And we know, most of us around here, that if we found a perfect church we should NOT join it because we will ruin it. But I don’t think that’s what’s said here. As a matter of fact, the Greek word is “cosmos.” The field Jesus says is the world, cosmos. He could have said “ekklesia,” but He didn’t. He said the field is the world.

In other words, the sons of the kingdom are in the world for a reason. That’s what this parable is teaching us. So, are we, I guess I ask myself and us, are we living out that reason? The weeds are the sons of the evil one. Jesus makes that pretty clear. The enemy who sows them, the devil. The harvesting end of the age, the coming judgment, the harvesting reapers are God’s angels. And by the way, the coming judgment of the Lord, again our faith is forward-looking, and the coming judgment of the Lord is something that I actually will try to persuade you over and over again, this is what we actually all are longing for. Why? You say, because “judgment” sounds like such a harsh word. No, this is the righteous judge setting things right.

And for that, I’m eager. For that, I desire that. I don’t know about you, but I think we would all say we don’t like injustice. We don’t like violence. We don’t like disease. We don’t like death. And here comes the God of the Bible in the person of Jesus pointing us forward to a day when things are going to be set right. I want this. You should want this, too. Don’t allow it to be cast in such a negative way.

We know, with some clarity, also, that the destiny of the weeds is destruction in the furnace and fire. Destiny of the wheat is to be kept safely in their father’s barn until the day that they begin to shine like the sun. I found it interesting that some folks said, “Well, how do they tell the difference, when the harvest is ripe, between the weeds and the wheat?” Look at how the wheat bows its head when it’s ripe. This is where the Christian faith begins, with bowing. The bearded darnel does not do that. The Christian faith begins with bowing. That’s a beautiful picture, a beautiful image of ” Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

And the kingdom of heaven comes in the person of Jesus. And when we live out within His kingdom, when He is our king, it protects us from misplaced hopes, unwanted despair, and unnecessary cynicism. I’d like to be delivered from all three of those. Some people are fascinated with some of that stuff up there, misplaced hope. If you are chronically dissatisfied, I would like to just throw out on the table just for your consideration, what is it you’re hoping for all the time? You might be hoping for some good things, but the question is, are they the thing that can actually provide you with inextinguishable hope?

What about the despair that hangs like a cloud over me sometimes, or us sometimes, or you all the time, if you’re struggling with that? And I’m not just talking about the physically oriented thing. That’s a real legitimate thing. I’m talking about that kind of despair where you don’t even know why you ought to get out bed in the morning, you look at the world around us, you think it’s chaotic and going down the toilet. And you can’t make sense of a reason why you’re alive. And I just want to say to you, the Lord has come to bring us out of that darkness and into the light of His kingdom. And some of it, at least some of it, has to do with the way I’m looking at things. Am I walking and living in His kingdom? Do I trust that He’s the king and He knows what He’s doing?

And then, the unnecessary cynicism, which we’ve talked about so many times. My cynicism is actually the fruit of my arrogance. I know better. I can make fun and be dismissive of. I don’t think you got it right. And so, that leads me to that sort of cynicism. What kind of world do you really want to live in? These are really good questions, I think, to ask ourselves. I love what D Martin Lloyd-Jones says:

 “Christian is a man who should walk through this life as conscious that it is but transient in passing, a kind of preparatory school. He should always know that he’s walking in the presence of God… that he’s going on to meet God. And that thought should determine and control the whole of his life.” 

 And I do think that’s what it means to actually live in God’s kingdom.

Don Carson points out that this particular parable is more about eschatological expectation than it is about ecclesiastical deterioration. I think he’s right there – big words, to be sure. But it’s more about the hope that we have from looking forward and expecting God to live up to His promises. It’s more about that than it is about, let’s be critical right now as we are wheat growing up, and here we are in the church or in the world. And we think that we can just become negative and critical of everybody around us, whether they’re in the church or out of the church, or whatever.

If your heart is beset with criticism all the time, and I’m not just talking about critical thinking, which is a good thing, but I’m just talking about you. If you’ve become the church curmudgeon or the religious curmudgeon and all you can think is the next time you’re going to get to yell, “Get off my lawn,” at everybody, don’t live that way, man. You’d need to be set free from that, because that’s doing nothing but poisoning you and choking all of the good.

By the way, I wish I had time to do another message on this, too, because I’ll tell you what. Look at verse 37. There are four things that happen here really beautiful about the good seed. Alright: It’s sown by Jesus. I love that. They’re sown by the sower. They owe their position in the kingdom of God entirely to His initiative -alright.

And then verse 43 has three other things about the sons of the kingdom. Verse 43, they have God as their father. Not just I believe in the existence of, but no, this is my father. This is the one who loves me because I belong to him, not because I performed well today. They’re called righteous in verse 43, not only right in their relationship to God, but actually in their behavior among their fellows out in the field.

And then that last little bit, one day, we’ll shine like the sun. The glory of the Lord will be reflected from them. And do you understand? We don’t talk about this enough, but this is actually what we were created for, to respond in worship to the glory, the luminous splendor of God, to experience it, to see it, but to also live in it. It’s an amazing thing when you start to ponder it and to pray over it and ask God to show you how you can live, and the “righteous will shine forth as the sun,” so beautiful, in the kingdom of their Father. He has ears to hear, then hear.

Fleming Rutledge, great theologian. She has written many books that I enjoy – many articles I have read. She says, “If the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” as John the Baptist says, and that you’ll find in chapter three, verse two, “then all our other kingdoms are called radically into question, including my own private kingdom and yours.”  In other words, it can’t be two kings. It’s not like shared custody of the kingdom that you have or I have, no; again, the wheat with a bowed head, me with a bowed heart. I have to bow with my affections, my heart. I have to bow intellectually before God. I have to bow in every way before God. And then He is king at that point. Otherwise, I’m resisting His kingship. What kind of world do you really want to live in? Which kingdom do you want to live in? Every kingdom comes with its king. So, choose carefully. It’s important.

For the time being, we still get to choose whether we do it consciously or not. So, I ask you, who or what is your kingdom? What kingdom are you living in? What are your decisive validators that you’ve focused your life upon? Who do you want to be king of your kingdom? I have found, and this is just me, trying to be king is exhausting. It really is. You have to work at it all the time. Because I found very few people want to recognize my kingship. Have you ever noticed that in your own life, Your Majesty? Your Lordship? It doesn’t seem that everyone else wants to play along. It’s exhausting. And even beyond them, there’s you. You can’t even live up to what you think a king ought to be. We need outside help. And hallelujah, praise the Lord, it has been offered to us.

Now, the only question remains, will you bow? If you answer the question, what kind of world do you really want to live in, and you go, “This kingdom of God sounds pretty good. This kingdom of heaven sounds pretty good. I’d like Jesus to be my king,” well, what does that involve? We say it up here every week, don’t we? “Thy kingdom come.”  And His kingdom, by the way, isn’t about the zip code. It’s not about a planet in the universe. It’s about His royal reign, His rule being recognized in my life and in yours. And so, we pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I’m on earth. So, Thy will be done in my heart. Thy will be done in my mind. Thy will be done with my eyes. Thy will be done with my identity; Thy will, not my will. Thy will be done.

Really completely different way of looking at things and Lewis just makes that very simple statement in The Great Divorce. I think one of our men’s groups, by the way, is going through The Great Divorce, even now, one of Lewis’ finest books. There are only two kinds of people in the end, those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says in the end, “Thy will be done.” What kind of world do you really want to live in? Let’s pray:

“Lord, thank You that Your kingdom, as spelled out here in these three parables, is not just about information, but it’s an invitation for us as well. So, I pray, Lord, each of us would hear the invitation from You to us, whether it’s for the first time to enter Your kingdom and come to faith in Jesus, or whether it means that we need to get back to that returning place, return to that place of bowing again, bowing before You morally, bowing before You intellectually, spiritually, leaving everything at Your feet, not trying to be the one in charge ourselves.

You, oh, Lord, are the only one that can actually do that. So, we recognize how this gospel is offering us an opportunity to be what only You can make us, even some who might now be weeds that they might be turned into wheat. Is that possible, Lord? Well, with You, all things are possible. And we believe that. So, we pray that You would move among us, transform and change us into the image of Your dear Son and whose name we pray, amen and amen.”

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