The Gospel of Matthew: The Messiah of Promise 13:24-43

Parables of Jesus

Preached @ Anchor Community Church on March 22nd 2015

“When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we must remind ourselves that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting is the full outworking of those events. We wait with patience, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come with a lighted candle, but like people in early morning who know that the sun has arisen and are now waiting for the full brightness of midday.”

NT Wright

Intro

Why does God allow evil? Does He not care? Is He not able to act on His creation? Parables are not direct answers, and there is certainly no “Magic Bullet” answer to that question. But another question does arise within that question. What evil would we like eradicated? Our parable today helps us think through that question as followers of Jesus. That question can never be answered in a skeptics mind, because the human default is really self-centered and anti-god centered. We struggle to see anything other than from our own perspective.

As a reminder the Gospel of Matthew emphasizes the promised Messiah. It is more thematic than sequential. It is also known for it’s five discourse that are placed in the gospel to move it forward, taking from what just happened and moving through to the next act of the story Matthew is telling us about Jesus and His ministry.

1st Discourse (Ch. 5-7) Kingdom Living

2nd Discourse (Ch. 10) The Missional Mandate

3rd Discourse (Ch. 13) Kingdom Disciples

4th Discourse (Ch. 18Community Based Disciples

5th Discourse (Ch. 24-25) The Final End Game

Big Picture: God’s Kingdom will dominate any other authority on God’s timing and agenda

Our parables today are about Waiting (His Timing) and Perspective (His Agenda)

Today, we see Three Parables that Jesus tells to highlight this truth that His Kingdom will dominate, but it will not dominate on our timing and on our agendas.

From the Head…

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30; 36b-42)

Probably one of the hardest things to learn in regard to God’s relationship with His creation, is His timing is never our timing. When we want revenge, or action, God seems inactive, and out of touch. It is His patience that we often view as uncaring, yet the bible is replete with verses reminding us of God’s patience with His very fallen creation.

It is important to note here, that although the church definitely can have people in it that are not regenerate, this parable is discussing the world. The fact is, Jesus does tell us to “Weed” out those that are in sin, and demonstrating by their actions that they are non-believers (See Matthew 18; 1 Corinthians 5). Here Jesus reminds His disciples that if He were to truly destroy the weeds, He’d be destroying even the “good” wheat. We are all about “Justice” and “Judgment” for others, but not ourselves. Israel; was waiting for a Messiah to save them physically from their enemies (Rome), and they believed this Messiah would deliver that to them militarily and establish their kingdom; but that’s the way the world acts, not God. It is clear, God will come in judgment, but Jesus first came as a servant, in love, preparing the way for His people to know God and relate to Him the way we were all created to do.

If God were to truly “Judge” the world, we’d all be in trouble. It is only by His grace that we are saved!

Notice the two “seeds” here. In the parable of the sower, the seeds were the word of God, but not here. The seeds mentioned are God’s ‘righteous” and those that Satan owns and are ‘evil” (Matthew 13:37-39). This is not a formula for, “We are righteous and you are evil.” It’s a formula for realizing that God is at work, and it is He that makes anyone righteous. God is growing His church, by calling His people for His glory.

It also demonstrates that the gospel and evil run concurrently. It shouldn’t be a surprise to those believers that evil is a reality in this fallen world, and the fact is, it can’t always be seen as obvious, because it can look just like the real thing. The weeds Jesus is talking about is “Darnel,” which is a weed that looks just like the wheat that was planted. That’s why you have to sift the wheat to get the ‘chaff” out. There are a lot of parables and biblical stories with that imagery, reminding us that God will deal with evil on His timing.

Therefore, opposition and persecution shouldn’t surprise us. In the meanwhile, His gospel is bearing fruit (v. 38b), and God will take care of business when He is ready (v. 42). This demonstrates God’s grace and patience, not His uncaring attitude toward human suffering.

The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32)

The next two parables agree with the patience of the first, but add nuances that give us an incredible picture of God’s Kingdom. His Kingdom is “Like” a small seed that grows slowly into an incredible tree. While Israel was looking for a big splash military campaign, God planned a seemingly innocuous approach. One that appeared insignificant at first; one that ended in the brutal death of its leader. But there is a lot more to this parable that Jesus is drawing from. Jesus’ words appear to be an allusion to Daniel 4:220-21, which says, “The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21 whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived.” Daniel goes on to explain that he is talking about Nebuchadnezzar, and the fact that he is growing strong and attempting to build a tree to heaven (Much like the tower of babel), like many leaders before him that want to rule as the one true leader in the world. Daniel reminds him that he would be judged for his arrogance.

What’s more interesting is the use of this imagery of the tree in Daniel, in the garden in Genesis 1-3, and now in Jesus’ parable. In that day there was an ongoing mythology referred to by many as the “Axis Mundi,” which basically mean the center of the world. The axis mundi in religious mythology is the “World center or the connection between Heaven and Earth.” It carried the idea that a particular religion, ideology, military campaign would rule the earth as the true axis mundi; Jesus uses that concept out of Daniel and local mythology to demonstrate that His Kingdom is that final kingdom. What mankind was after via force, Jesus offers via love, sacrifice and His own death! He is the fulfillment of that hope!

The Parable of the Leaven Bread (Matthew 13:33-35)

This parable is similar to the Mustard Seed Parable in that it again demonstrates that what begins in a “Hidden” fashion ends with real results. Humanity can’t always understand what God is doing, because we are finite individuals trying to figure out an infinite, eternal being. We are arrogant in that reality. Hopefully we can begin to realize that some things of God are secret, and we can’t always know what the next turn is. God isn’t our fortuneteller, to guide us in the perfect choices in life.

Verses 33-35 once again shows that Jesus uses parables fro very specific purposes. In Matthew 13:11-13 we learned He does to hide His truth from skeptics that have hardened their hearts, but in this passage He reminds us of the positive side, that He speaks in parables so that those who have eras to hear will hear. He reveals Himself, without which we would have any shot of knowing His plan and His saving grace in our lives. He has that right to allow some to continue in their unbelief, while He awakens other out of their unbelief.

…to the Heart

Too often, we want to use God for our own desires. We want Him to guide us in all of our decisions, not realizing that sometimes He guides us into harder times for our own growth. We can’t know everything that god knows, and He has no plans to reveal everything to us (Deuteronomy 29:29).

But we are called to wait and display this hope in our lives of His presence and His final coming. Our lack of faith and vision can nullify that. We are not called to wait with no hope, but as one writer put it…

When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights, we must remind ourselves that he has already done so, and that what we are now awaiting is the full outworking of those events. We wait with patience, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come with a lighted candle, but like people in early morning who know that the sun has arisen and are now waiting for the full brightness of midday.

Our hope is a great one. What God has put in motion will come to fruition “… and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (See Philippians 1:6). That “Good Work” is to reflect His love and glory. Verse 43 Reminds us what we are and what we will be. To this CS Lewis quips,

… every human being…if you saw them now as one day they will be, will either make you recoil in horror or would strongly tempt you to worship them.

God is going to deal with evil, and He is going to make us whole, so that our glory is a true reflection of His real glory in the universe.

Questions To Ponder

1. What is the significance of these parables?

2. Are they comforting? Why? Why not?

3. What does this say about a lot of the bad stuff we have all seen in churches?

4. What does this say about the gospel?

5. What does this tell us about the role of the church in the gospel?

6. What does this say about the patience of God?

For Further Reading

A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, Craig S. Keener

The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, Michael J. Wilkins

The Gospel According to Matthew, Leon Morris

Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, New Testament 1A, ed. Manlio Simonetti

Sermon On the Mount; Sinclair Ferguson

 

 

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About Anchor Long Beach

I'm the lead pastor here @ Anchor Community Church. Check us out @ http://www.anchorlongbeach.com and on Sundays @ 10:30 @Gant Elementary across the street from Long Beach State. I love sports, philosophy, theology and discussing interesting topics. So here are some of my thoughts, I hope to hear some of yours, but be nice :)

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