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Sunday, December 16, 2018

[Matt's Messages] “What Is Really Going On?”

“What Is Really Going On?”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
December 16, 2018 :: Matthew 13:24-43 

In this section of Matthew, we’re learning about Jesus’ parables of the kingdom.

Jesus has begun utilizing parables, riddles, colorful and enigmatic stories in his teaching, and this chapter is chock full of them.

Jesus told His disciples that He was using parables so much because they were the perfect kind of stories to both reveal His kingdom to those who trust and follow Him and to conceal His kingdom from those who do not want it.

For those who want the kingdom, they “get” the parables, and they get the kingdom.

For those who reject the kingdom, they don’t “get” the parables, and they certainly don’t get the kingdom.

In fact, Jesus told a parable to teach that very thing:

The parable of the sower, the seed, and soils.

Which teaches that there are basically two kinds of people:

Those who DON’T “get it,” who don’t receive the kingdom for various reasons. Jesus gave three.

And those who DO “get it,” who do receive the kingdom by receiving the King.

They produce an abundant harvest, so much more than what you might expect.

Well, in verse 24, Jesus tells another parable that involves sowing seed.

But this one is a little different. Because it doesn’t have just one kind of seed. It has two. In fact, there is just one kind of soil, but there are two kinds of seed in this story.

And then in verses 31-32, Jesus tells another parable, also involving a seed.

And then in verse 33, He tells another one.

And then verses 34 and 35 say just how much He taught in parables at this point in His ministry and how that was a fulfillment of Psalm 78, verse 2.

And then later, in verses 36 through 43, Jesus gives the interpretation of the first parable, the one with two different kinds of plants in it.

So that’s what we’re going to look at this morning. Verses 24 through 43.

And we’re going see how these parables relate to Christmas.

And how they relate to our lives today.

So let’s read the first parable and then pray together and then talk about what we see presented here in these stories. Matthew 13, verse 24.

Now, again, pretend that you have never heard this parable before in your life.

You are hearing this for the first time. And you haven’t heard the interpretation of verses 36 through 43.

What might you make of this parable?

Well, you notice that Jesus begins by saying (v.24), “The kingdom of heaven is like [this...]”

He doesn’t mean that the kingdom of heaven is like a man. He means that the kingdom of heaven is like this story. It is like this situation. It is like what is taught by this parable.

And you notice the story itself. V.24 again.

“‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field [That’s what every farmer tries to do.] But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”

Now, who does that?

Matt, have you ever had that one done to you?

Apparently this is a rival farmer.

And it is an act of bio-terrorism (ZNIVSB). If I can ruin your field, the value of my crops will go up.

There was a Roman law against this very thing.

The weeds were probably what is called “darnel” which is actually a poisonous plant. It looks like wheat when it is young, but it’s more obvious when it’s grown to maturity.

The Old English word for this was “tares.” You might have heard of this as the parable of the “wheat and the tares.” Or you could call it the parable of the “Wheat and the Weeds.”

This is what the kingdom of heaven is like.

Here’s what happens next. Verse 26

“When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. [It became obvious that they were there.] 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?' [That’s a very important part of this story. I think it’s the key, those questions.] 'An enemy did this,' he replied. ‘The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' [That makes sense. You might lose everything if you let those weeds take root. You might lose your whole crop! We should wipe them out now!] 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. [I’ve got another plan.] 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.'”

Do you “get it?”

Let’s look at this next one. I think it has a similar point to the story. V.31

“He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches.’”

Do you “get it?”

One more story. V.33

“He told them still another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.’”

“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. 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.’”

Jesus was in a parabolic mode.

At this point in His ministry, it was all parables all the time.

And Matthew recognizes the prophetic pattern of that. Just like Asaph writing Psalm 78 as a kind of riddle. Jesus is teaching using these many parables that both conceal and reveal the kingdom of heaven.

Do you get it?

What does this parable reveal about the kingdom of heaven?

What question is it answering?

Here’s my title for today’s message, “What Is Really Going On?”

I think that’s what Jesus is teaching with these 3 parables.

What is really happening here?

Because things must not be what they seem.

I was reading a really good book by Klyne Snodgrass on the parables this week, and it said that in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, the key question that Jesus is answering is, “How can this be the kingdom?”

Have you ever asked that question when you look out at our world today?

I mean, Christmas happened, right? About 2000 years ago?

The Prince of Peace was born, right?

Well, how come there are so many wars then?

The King of Kings salvation brings, right?

So why isn’t everyone saved?

There’s these unsaved people, too.

How come there’s so many of them?

I think the questions asked by the servants in verse 27 hit it on the head:

“Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

“I want to be respectful here, but are you sure you’re doing it right?”

I mean, I’m not sure yet exactly what the wheat is and what the weeds are symbolically.

But one is obviously good and the other is obviously bad, and an enemy has brought the bad into the good.

So why not fix it NOW?

I mean if the kingdom of heaven is here, why not weed out the bad stuff now?

What is really going on?

Is there something going on I can’t see?

Yes. I think that’s what Jesus is teaching.

That there is more going on than meets the eye with the kingdom of heaven.

Things are not always as they seem.

And these parables tell us what is really going on.

Let’s let Jesus explain the parable to us, and then I’ll try to give three points of new perspective. V.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.’ [What is really going on?] 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 sons of the kingdom [true disciples!]. The weeds are the sons of the evil one [kingdom-rejecters], and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”

What is really going on?

#1. THE KINGDOM HAS COME.

In all three of these parables, the kingdom of heaven has truly begun.

It might not seem like it for various reasons.

For example, there might be so many weeds.

Do you see all of these weeds on the nightly news?

Do you feel all of the weeds on social media?

Do you look out and wonder why are there so many “sons of the evil one?”

And how come the Lord doesn’t just wipe them out?

Does He really know what He’s doing?

“Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?”

It might seem like His field is out of His control.

But it’s not.

Yes, He has an enemy who is at work. “An enemy did this.”

There is an evil force at work in the world, sowing evil seed, trying to ruin the Lord’s good work.

And it might, at times, even seem like the enemy is winning.

But don’t you believe it!

Believe instead that the kingdom has come.

The good seed has been sown.

And don’t miss it because it’s small.

That’s the point, I think about the mustard seed in verse 31.

They knew about the mustard seed. It was tiny. Some are just one millimeter in diameter.

You can’t hardly see it!

But it’s there.

Same with the leaven.  Can you see the leaven?

Can you see the yeast in the dough?

In verse 33, Jesus literally says that the woman “hid” the yeast into like 50 pounds of dough.

Can you see that?

No. But make no mistake. It is in there.

The kingdom of heaven has come.

It may seem unimpressive. It may seem small and inconsequential. It may seem inauspicious as it begins.

It may seem invisible and insignificant.

But don’t underestimate it. The kingdom of heaven has come.

I mean, just think about Christmas, right?

How small did the King of Heaven come?

He came as an embryo miraculously conceived in the womb of a peasant girl in a backwoods nation under the oppressive thumb of Rome!

He came in the form of a servant.

He came as a nobody among nobodies.

But things are not always as they seem.

What is really going?

The kingdom of heaven has come.

The baby born in Bethlehem is the King of Kings.

#2. THE KINGDOM IS COMING.

The kingdom of heaven is arriving, quietly, piece by piece.

The kingdom is growing.

All three of these parables are parables of growth, aren’t they?

V.30, “Let them grow together until harvest.”

V.32, “...yet when it grows...”

V.33, the yeast worked “all through the dough.”

The kingdom is coming.

There is an interval between the arrival of the king and the fullness of the kingdom.

And during that time, the kingdom grows.

More people come under its sway.

More “sons of the kingdom” are sown (v.38).

More good things happen that show that God’s kingdom is arriving.

It may not be obvious.

In fact, it will not be obvious.

But it is inevitable.

And ongoing.

I think a key application of this is to not become impatient.

The harvesters wanted to pull up the weeds right away.

But the Lord of the harvest said, “Wait.”

I think that too often we say (to ourselves if not aloud), “If the Lord knew what He was doing, He would judge those evil people right now.”

“If the Lord knew what He was doing, He would take care of that problem right now.”

But think about it. What if the Lord weeded out all of the weeds while you and I were still weeds?

These parables call for us to be patient.

To believe. To trust that God knows what He is doing.

To see that growth of the kingdom with the eyes of faith.

The Lord is growing His kingdom. He really is.

And He’s doing all around us and in ways that we can’t always see or measure.

And there is great opposition to it.

The weeds are growing, too!

Both are happening at the same time.

The wheat is growing and the weeds are growing.

That’s how I interpret Jesus’ parable.

The good grows and so does the bad at the same time.

The church is growing. And so is the anti-church. They “co-exist.”

And that’s how it’s going to be until Jesus returns.

So we need to be patient and wait for it. This could go on a while.

We need to keep trusting that the kingdom is coming. Bit by bit. Day by day. Person by person. Disciple by disciple. Family by family. Church by church.

It’s coming!

As a pastor of a local church, I take great stock in this truth.

Because it doesn’t always seem like it.

It doesn’t always seem like it.

But this is what’s really going on behind the scenes, in the soil, in the field, in the dough.

The kingdom is coming.

You look at 3 new members. And you say, “Well, that seems small. Just three.”

And we just lost one.

But don’t underestimate what the Lord is doing with those 3!

The Bible says to not despise the day of small beginnings (Zech 4:10).

This is what is really going on!

The kingdom of heaven is coming.

Irresistibly, inexorably, unstoppably.

It’s here. It’s growing. It’s coming.

#3. THE KINGDOM WILL COME.

In all of its fullness.

It may not seem like it now, but that is what is really happening.

The kingdom of heaven will most certainly come in all of its fullness.

And it will be glorious!

Think about these 3 parables.

The mustard seed. So tiny. So small.

But what about when it’s fully grown? V.32

“...it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches!”

If you could see it now!

How about the yeast?

It was hidden.

But what do you have now?

You have enough bread for a feast.

It just grew and grew and now, everybody gets fed.

That’s what’s going to happen.

And the wheat field?

There will be a harvest.

Which is scary thing if you are a weed. V.39 again.

“The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. [The end is most coming.] 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 fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Make no mistake, the end is coming.

Sometimes we get to thinking that this world is all that there is.

But there is coming a day, a judgment day, a sorting day, when everything will be made right.

Justice will be done and will be seen to be done.

And all of those who have rejected the Lord will enter into eternal judgment.

Weeping and gnashing of teeth.

That’s Jesus saying that.

Some people think that Jesus is just meek and mild.

But nobody in the Bible talked about judgment more than Jesus.

It’s coming.

Not on our time table.

Not when we want it.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that it’s never coming.

If you are not yet a believer and follower of Jesus, then this parable is a warning to you to repent while you still can.

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near!”

The Apostle Peter said it this way.

That some people will scoff at the notion that the judgment will come like this one day.

But Peter says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance...Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation” to those who turn to Him.

He is coming.

The judgment is coming.

The sorting is coming.

The great weeding of the field is coming.

You don’t want to get tossed into that furnace.

Repent now before it’s too late.

This same Jesus died on the Cross for the sins of the world so that sinners like you and me don’t have to spend eternity weeping and gnashing our teeth.

Repent.

And put your faith in Jesus Christ.

Because He is going to return some day soon.

And when He does, His kingdom will come in all of its fullness.

And for those who have trusted in Him and have followed Him and have waited for Him and have believed in Him and haven’t stopped working for Him, it will be glorious!

Look at verse 43.

“Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

That’s where John Newton got the idea for the last verse of "Amazing Grace!"

[Correction: I've just learned that that verse is not original to "Amazing Grace" but according to Wikipedia was added in America through oral tradition by slaves. It was originally from a long song titled, "Jerusalem, My Happy Home"]

“When we’ve been there ten thousand years...”

What?

“Bright shining as the sun.”

We cannot imagine!

It’s everything we’ve ever wanted and ever longed for.

The kingdom.

It’s God King ruling and reigning in His majesty over His people over all the world forever.

His blessings will flow as far as the curse is found.

The glory of the Lord will fill the earth like the waters cover the sea!

That’s what really going on.

Don’t believe your five senses or the nightly news if they tell you something different.

Don’t believe your friends or your enemies if they have a different narrative to sell.

Don’t be snookered by the devil or by appearances.

Things are not always as they seem.

No, this is what’s going on.

The kingdom of heaven has come.

Quietly with little fanfare. But as surely as you know anything.

And the kingdom of heaven is coming.

Slowly perhaps. Bit by bit. Piece by piece.

And not without opposition.

There is an enemy at work.

But He is losing and will lose.

The kingdom is growing right under our noses.

And one day the kingdom will come in all of its fullness.

Let’s live now as we truly believed that.

What changes do you need to make to be ready for the kingdom?

Remember what Jesus said about how to live in and for this kingdom in the sermon on the mount?

Upside-down and inside-out.

Flourishing where you least expect it and from the heart.

That’s what it means to be righteous.

And “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear....” ...what is really going on.


Previous Messages in This Series:
01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me
23. Our Greatest Problem
24. Who Does He Think He Is?
25. Special Agents
26. Sheep Among Wolves
27. What To Expect On Your Mission
28. Are You the One?
29. Come to Me
30. The King of Rest
31. So Thankful!
32. Overflow
33. This Wicked Generation

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