HG064.1c-2.e Matthew 13:24-53, Mark 4:30-34
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 uproot 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.’ ” 31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” 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 people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people 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 blazing 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. Whoever has ears, let them hear. 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. 47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked. “Yes,” they replied. 52 He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” 53 When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.
Before us today are seven parables about the Kingdom of Heaven all of which gives us hope and also gives us warning. Hope for those who respond and become sons of the Kingdom but despair to those who do not. These parables are about seeking the lost but also the outcome of those who reject the message.
On Wednesday Billy Graham died. Whilst he was alive he preached to 215 million people at crusades. Of those 3.2 million accepted Christ. These are impressive numbers for a man who preached an uncompromising gospel. He said that if you do not come to faith in Christ then you will be separated from God forever. And whilst the message was preached to so many it was because of the sheer numbers that he preached to that resulted in so many coming to faith. Numbers are my thing and it was then that I realised that fewer than one and a half percent of those he preached to came to faith in Jesus.
I suppose that is why I like the idea of the dragnet in this set of parables that fishes indiscriminately in the sea and therefore drags up everything to the surface and you hope that within it will be something good to eat. But you know you will also pull up all the rubbish, the plastic that we are hearing about, crustaceans, and all sorts of inedible creatures which are good for nothing.
Billy Graham crusades did just that. It was indiscriminate but out of it many people came to faith. I suspect the number was so low because the majority of those who went to hear Billy Graham were already those who went to Church already. I wonder how many of those who went had invited their family, their friends, their colleagues, their neighbours, their hairdressers?
I wonder because it is like the film we just watched week Saturday: The Case for Christ. The film was great for us for it encouraged us in our faith and assured us of the reality of the things we already believe but what of those who do not know Christ? Did we invite anyone else to watch the film with us? I know that some did but they didn’t come. I know that some didn’t and therefore they didn’t come. We must make the most of every opportunity that arises. So, you need to know that an opportunity is still here.
The DVD is available to be lent out but, friends, let us not be selfish, let us invite others to watch with us. It is a great introduction to the faith that is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives.
Friends, brothers, sisters: look at what these parables say. If you are not sons of the Kingdom then you will be thrown away as trash into fire and torment forever.
Once God’s judgment comes, it will be unbearable for those who have not chosen to follow Jesus.
How can we cope to hear that will cast them into the furnace of fire? Twice is it said in our passage today and when things are repeated it is for emphasis.
Why is it so important to tell others if it is not to save them from hell? We are coworkers with God in bringing a harvest into the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to be those sowing the seed.
Last week we read about the parable of the soils where seed was sown into the grounds of peoples’ hearts. We saw that the seed has several responses. Today the Parable of the Tares is also about seed sown, only this time we not only find that seed was sown by the farmer but also by an enemy. So, even when we have sown into good ground and people come to faith in Christ the enemy complicates the work even further by sowing seeds that, when sprouted, look good on the outside but bear no good in themselves.
The enemies’ seeds are found within the walls of the Church too. These seeds look like Christians because, well, they are members, they go to Church, they give their money, their time, they do good deeds. To all intents and purposes they ARE Christian. But is it these things that makes one a Christian? Well, no, it isn’t.
Wheat, we understand, is the good seed sown. But there is a plant that looks like wheat called darnel. The problem with these weeds is that they grow up with the wheat and they look the same for a time but on closer inspection they are not for the ear does not develop. It is only with recent farming methods that these two have been successfully separated at harvest time. Before it was painstaking work done individually but with new machinery they are separated with ease. I wonder whether the fact it is recent that we have separated the two is like a metaphor that the true harvest is nearly here when the angels will come to reap the world with great ease.
So, let us return to what makes a Christian. If it is none of those things we have mentioned then what is it that makes you or I a Christian?Faith in Christ. Putting your trust in Jesus that He died for you and that He was raised from the dead for your salvation is the only thing making you a Christian. There are many who go to Church who have not yet discovered this most basics of steps.
Are you certain you are going to Heaven? If you are a Christian you know! Ask Jesus into you life right now because the furnace of fire is not a picture but reality. But let me tell you that to follow Jesus means to deny self and to take up a cross. If you are not all about Jesus then I have to ask you again to consider whether you are in Christ at all. There is no middle ground here. Jesus was uncompromising about what it was to follow Him and that was to hate everything else except Him. It is the reason why so many stopped following Jesus. The cross was where Jesus gave everything for you and me. He expects everything in return.
(Parable of the Mustard omitted until we come to Luke 13)
And then there is the Parable of the Yeast added to the dough. Some have interpreted this that the yeast is the Word of God that will eventually spread throughout the world and will be heeded to but this cannot be; yeast always represents evil in Scripture. The dough is the pure Word of God but yeast is then added to it by the enemy to compromise and reduce the value of the Word of God. It starts little but soon the whole dough is compromised. Once it is infected it is nigh impossible to for it to be unleavened leading to the opposite of those who have interpreted this wrongly. The Word of God is rejected not just by the world but by the Church too. Jesus asked whether, when He came, He would find faith on the earth. Why? For faith is produced by hearing the Word of God. And if this is compromised how will there be faith? The Apostasy we see today was foretold by Jesus.
What do we need to do? We are not to compromise. Immerse ourselves in His Word and reach out to the lost: for the growth of the Kingdom of God is not just the tree adding layers of bark but producing new branches – new converts – new Churches: for the Kingdom of God doesn’t just grow spiritually but numerically – and we are to preach the Word in season and out of season not losing any opportunity to further the Kingdom of God for both the Lord’s glory, for the benefit of the Church, and the benefit of the one saved. But time is short. Judgement is on its way.
Let me finish today with two highly misunderstood parables: that of the treasure in the field and the pearl of great price. Who is the treasure and who is the pearl? Most believe this to be Jesus. It is said that we have wondered at such a Saviour, such a redeemer that we have sold all to follow Him but I submit that this is wrong. The treasure and the pearl is us and it is Jesus who sold all in order to buy us, to redeem us. He doesn’t want anyone to be lost and He has done everything for us to know Him for we are priceless to Him. Will we join Him first in Praise to His name for ourselves and then in this venture to save the lost, to reach every household in Manselton with the Gospel?
33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
36 For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.