Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-42
Open your Bibles to read in Matthew chapter 13, starting in verse 24.
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, ‘Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? From whence then hath it tares?’
He said unto them, ‘An enemy hath done this.’
The servants said unto him, ‘Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?’
But he said, ‘Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
And then Jesus interpreted that parable for the disciples and for us in verse 36.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, “Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.”
He answered and said unto them, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Back in the February issue of the New York Times book review on the front page they reviewed a book that by its title caught my attention immediately. The title of this book is, ‘Why Did the Heavens Not Darken’ written by Arne Mayer. Now this is not a religious book and it is not written from a religious standpoint. The man who wrote it is not necessarily a professing Christian nor would he profess to be a very religious man. The book deals with the Holocaust, the “Final Solution”.
The opening words of the article are these, “Given the enormity of the crimes perpetrated by Nazi Germany during World War II the title of Arne Mayer’s new book raises the question that many people will have asked themselves as they remember and try to comprehend the Holocaust. Our task would be less difficult and agonizing if the heavens had actually darkened. Since they did not, we must search for the answer elsewhere.”
Now it was interesting to me because this is not a religious book, not necessarily written by a religious man, has no religious purpose to it; and yet, in a sense, God is indicted by the very title. “Why did the heavens not darken?” is the same thing as saying they should have. Which is the same thing as saying, “Why didn’t God do something?”. It is amazing that even people who do not themselves profess to be Christians have built into them some kind of sense of justice that God surely should have done something. Why did the heavens not darken? Why didn’t God at least show his disfavor? I mean the heavens didn’t even grow dark. Maybe it would have been too much to expect God to come down and have ended the whole thing, but at least He could have frowned a little bit by letting the heavens darken. That way at least we would know that God was saying that He didn’t like what was going on. But for all practical purposes, God ignored the whole business.
Therefore, the author is saying the explanation of what happened is not to be found in God and God has nothing to say about it so we have to look elsewhere. Actually the author is asking the same question that the servants in our parable are asking. They said, “Lord, were do all these tares come from?”
It is the ‘Parable of the Wheat and Tares’. I think it is interesting and significant that later on when they ask the Lord to explain this parable to them you will notice they don’t say anything about the wheat. They say, “Lord, what is the parable of the tares?” Now the parable was a parable of the wheat and the tares, the good and the bad. But what stuck in their minds was, “Give us an explanation of the tares.”
The fact of the matter is that there is good and evil in the world, but nobody ever questions the good. Nobody ever says, “Why is there good in the world?” Have you ever noticed that? Instead they always say, “Why is there evil in the world?” The only time we question God is when something bad happens; like insurance companies…all of these hurricanes, tornados, and other “acts of God”. We never seem to question God when anything good is going on.
Several years ago in our home town there was a young man that was killed in an automobile accident. He was not a Christian and none of his family were Christians. But one of the members of our staff was asked to take care of the funeral. So he went by the home of the mother where the family was gathered together to make preparations. As he prepared to leave he said, “Could we have just a word of prayer?”
The mother burst out and said, “No! Absolutely not! No praying in this house. God killed my son so there will be no praying in this house.”
When he told me this story later I said, “You know, I bet it’s the first thought she’s given to God in years. I’ll bet that when that boy was born she didn’t say, ‘Praise God He’s given me a son.’ But when something happens to him, now God comes on the scene.”
The disciples aren’t interested about the wheat. R. C. Sproul says we sing the song Amazing Grace but it’s not Grace that we are amazed at; we think we deserve that. It’s justice that we’re amazed at. Nobody ever says, “Why is there good in the world?” We always say, “Why is there evil in the world?” And it’s a good question. You see it’s a question that Christians ask. I’ve said many times that being a Christian gives you problems that you otherwise would not have. Faith and believing can be a burden.
We talk about all the wrong that’s in the world and how can it be that God can stand by and let the Holocaust happen. How can God stand by and let thousands and thousands of people die and children starve to death? You and I question and try to reconcile this. How can there be a good God?
If I were an atheist it wouldn’t give me a problem at all. I would say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles; that’s the way life is; welcome to the real world. There is no justice. There is no God anyway. Some people are lucky and some are not.” You could go on and you wouldn’t have a problem at all about it. But the moment you believe in God and put your faith in a good, righteous, holy, and sovereign God; you have a problem. The atheists have a very good argument folks. If there is a God then why is there so much evil in the world?
Where did these tares come from?
“Lord, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?”
“Well then, where did these tares come from?”
Have you ever asked yourself that question?
“Lord, I’ve sowed good seed in my home; so where did these tares come from?”
I was in a meeting not long ago and there was a young man giving his testimony. He talked about how wonderful it was to have a Christian mom and dad; and how wonderful it was that his mother didn’t work at an outside job. His mom and dad were there and he thanked them publicly. He went into long detail about how it was the influences in the home that made him what he was; the fact that he was a Christian in the service of the Lord. It was interesting, yet there was another young man there who was serving the Lord whose home was broken and he had lived under a bridge. How do you explain that? How do you explain that here is a young man who doesn’t have all the things the books say that a child has to have? Yet look at what God does in his life. We’ve all seen parents that have done everything that they know to do. They read their Bible, go to church, pray, and tithe. It’s the most puzzling question of all. “Lord, I’ve done nothing but sow good seed in the lives of my children. Where did these tares come from?”
I want us to look at this mystery today; this story or parable about the wheat and the tares. What I’m doing today is sort of laying a groundwork and a little preparation for what I want to be talking to you about in my sessions with you during these days. I believe that we will be far down the road in understanding the mystery of where these tares come from and why is it that you and I can spend our time sowing good seed and yet tares come up in the same field; if we can understand what Jesus is talking about here.
Now one thing we need to understand is that this parable does not have to do with lost church members. A great many of us as preachers will take this parable about the wheat and tares and we’ll picture it as wheat and tares growing up, the saved and the lost, in the church and therefore we need to get all these lost church members saved. Well, that may be true but it is not at all what Jesus is talking about in this parable. In the first place, the field is not the church; the field is the world. In the second place, Jesus doesn’t say to try and change the tares into wheat; he says to leave them alone and let them burn at the end of the time. So he’s not talking about lost church members. No, what Jesus is doing is actually giving us a pretty good picture of how things are in the world. This is the world as you and I live in it. The field is the world and the tares are the children of the enemy; and the enemy is the devil. This is the way it is in the world and it is going to be this way until the harvest, the end of time.
There are three things that Jesus said and around these three statements we’ll build our message. First, he said “an enemy has done this.” Secondly, he said “let them grow together.” Number three, he said “until the harvest”. We will look at those three expressions.
An Enemy Has Done This
First of all Jesus said, “An enemy has done this.” So the first thing is ‘the enemy’. In trying to understand why our world is arranged as it is and how I can live the Christian life in the midst of it. The first thing Jesus says that you need to realize is that there is an enemy. Now look again at the parable in verse 25 Jesus said, “A man sowed seed in his field and while men slept his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. So that when the tares sprung up the servants were surprised.” (Matthew 13:24b-27) Now why were they surprised? Well, they were surprised at the extent of the tares; the poisonous seeds.
As a matter of fact, it was against the law in the days of the Roman Empire to sow tares in a good field because they would choke out the good seed and also they were poisonous if they were eaten. So what Jesus says here is that a man has his field, which is the world, and he sows good seed but at the same time while men sleep his enemy comes and he sows tares among the wheat and goes his way. Now you can put it down as a constant fixed rule that wherever the Lord sows good seed, the devil will be there to sow bad seed. All throughout your life, put it down, every time you sow good seed the enemy will be there to sow bad seed right along beside.
The language of these words is very interesting. When it says he sowed tares among the wheat, the Greek idea there is ‘he sowed tares on top of and among the wheat.’ In other words, they were thickly sown; he just didn’t drop a few tares here and there; but he took them and he intertwined them. The devil never takes his seed over here in a far country away from everyone else and does all his work over there. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if we could have zones like this; over here is the good zone and over there is the evil zone. Over here is all the wheat and this is where God works, and over there is all the devil and that is where he works. Sometimes we think that our life and our world are divided like that. But I have news for you. You know where the devil does his greatest work? It’s not over there in some far country out there. He does his greatest work right there in the midst of the wheat; right on top of it; intermingled with it. You can rest assured that every time you sow the good seed of the Word of God, you sow the good seed of influence and godly help in your life, the enemy is going to be there to sow the bad seed. And he does it at night when men sleep and then he goes away.
Now what is it that Jesus is saying? Jesus is saying that the devil wants to do it in such a way that people won’t catch it until it’s too late. The only way you know that it’s happened is when it’s too late because the tares have sprung up. He says, “Now if you try to separate the tares you’ll tear out some of the wheat too.” It’s too late to do anything about it now. The devil works while men sleep and he runs away so that the explanation for what’s happened will be hidden.
You see a great demonstration and illustration of this in our society. How the greatest minds of our society try to find the explanations for what’s wrong with our society. If you want to watch the wisdom of fools, all you have to do is watch and read and listen to the great minds, the great educators, the great philosophers, the great psychologists, and the great politicians of our day as they try to explain why things are as they are. I don’t think I’ve heard a one of them say, “The devil did this.” No, the explanation is hidden. They say, “What we need is better education systems, we need sex education, we need this and we need that. And this way we will keep all the tares out.” No, there is an enemy moving around about us and he is the one that is doing it.
What Jesus is saying is that sin and evil and failure are not an accident. It isn’t something that happens because I’m immature or green at my job of living. It is sown deliberately and purposefully by the devil himself. So Jesus said the first thing you have to understand is that you have an enemy. You just put it down that while you are sowing wheat; he’s coming behind you sowing tares, in the very same place.
Let Them Grow Together
First of all you have the enemy. Secondly you have the enigma. When the servants see this they say, “Master where did these tares come from? You sowed good seed.”
He said, “An enemy has done this.”
They said, “Oh, do you want us to go out there right now and start separating the wheat from the tares and get rid of the tares?”
Now, agriculturally this is what you would do. This is the normal and right thing you would do. This is important for us to understand. You weed your garden, you clean it out, so that wheat will have plenty of room, and moisture, and fertilizer, and soil to grow. Of course, that’s the natural and right thing to do. You do this in your garden; you do it in your home; you do it in your church; you do it in the world. “Lord, do you want us to go right now and get rid of all the evil?” It seems like the right thing to do.
“Do you want us to get rid of the tares?”
And notice what Jesus says, he says, “Let them be. Let them grow together.”
“But Lord, they are so confusing because they look so much alike and it’s wrong for them to be there. And you don’t want the devil to get by with this. Lord, don’t you want us to clean it out and get rid of all the tares?”
He said, “No, let them grow together.”
One of the great mysteries and ambiguities of life is the fact that good and evil are inseparable. In the same field where there is good, there is also evil. In the same person in whom there is great creativity there is also destruction. The same fire that warms can burn. The same water that can quench the thirst can drown. The way our world is organized and the way God is letting it run itself is that good and evil are inseparably bound together. And you cannot separate them.
This is why I believe that the life that you and I live is a tension filled life, a tension filled world. All of your life and my life there are going to be conflicts, there’s going to be that tension that is there, the antagonism that is there. There’s going to be good, but there’s also going to be evil. And so there is tension in my life. Because even as Paul said, “While I want to do good, evil is present with me; evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7) At the very same time I’m trying to do something good for God, at the same time there is a downward pull in my life.
I know how it is supposed to be. I know that I am holy in Christ and that I am complete in Christ. Yet, at the same time I know that I am weak, and failing, and I sin. How do you balance this? You don’t. There’s tension all the way through your life.
The false gospel that is being preached today is the idea that you can have an experience in which all tension is removed and you sweep away everything wrong in the world and you have instant paradise and instant heaven. That is a false gospel.
All the days of our life we are going to run into it. “God, what a mystery this is. Lord, why don’t you get rid of it?”
“Let it grow together!”
An interesting thing, well not all that interesting I guess, happened in the last month. My wife had a watch. I gave her that watch for our 30th wedding anniversary. It was worth some money so we had it insured, but the great worth was the sentiment there. She came home one day after shopping and she realized that her watch was not on her arm. It had fallen off somewhere. She tried to retrace her steps and called all the stores that she had been in and we ran an ad in the paper. But it’s gone. So I called the insurance man and told him that the watch was lost. But I wondered, “How in the world could you just lose a watch like that without even knowing it.”
Well a couple of weeks ago we were in Las Vegas for the Southern Baptist Convention. I have a gold bracelet that my wife gave me as an anniversary present several years ago. It is worth a little bit of money so it’s insured, but the great worth is the sentiment behind it because my wife gave it to me as an anniversary present. Well I came back to my room from the Monday night session and my bracelet was gone. It had just slipped off. How could that happen? I called my insurance man and I said, “I don’t know really how to say this, but I lost my gold bracelet in Las Vegas.” Now I tell you that hurt and grieved me. My wife was torn up because she lost the watch and I was torn up because I lost the bracelet.
Well we left Dallas Friday and spent the night in Amarillo and drove in to here on Saturday. Sunday morning we are out at a church preaching. On Kaye’s 40th birthday I gave her a diamond and she wears it on a gold necklace. She wears it 24 hours a day; it’s just a part of her. And she has a habit of just reaching up there once in a while and straightens it. So in the middle of the service Sunday morning she reached up there to straighten it and it was gone. We looked in the car. We went back to the motel and even had them move the furniture. We looked all over. Then I called my insurance man…
The insurance is going to pay for all that, but those things can’t be replaced. And I couldn’t sleep Sunday night. I just couldn’t get it off my mind; I was depressed and sad because those things had meant so much. I said, “How in the world can you have something that you wear for years and is a part of your life and it can be gone and you don’t even know it?” I thought, “My, how fragile are the things that you have. They can be taken in just a moment.”
I couldn’t sleep and at about 3:30 A.M. I went to bed. Kaye was already asleep. I crawled into bed and I took hold of her hand for just a moment; I thought, “Just as easily as I lost my bracelet, and the necklace, and the watch…just that easily I could lose you. This person that means more to me than life itself can just slip away and there’s not a thing that I can do about it.” And then she began to snore. You see, that’s what I mean; good and bad in the same place.
Why is it so, Lord? Why is it so that the things that are so dear to us can slip away so easily? You can trust God and still get hurt.
Jesus says, “Let them grow together.”
“But Lord, I don’t want to let them grow together. No good can come of it.”
“Let them grow together!”
What Jesus is saying is, “Son, there is a judgment beyond your judgment.”
I look at the situation and I think it needs some alterations. My judgment says get rid of the tares. Everybody knows that. It makes sense. That’s good agricultural sense and that’s good moral sense.
God said, “No, there is a judgment that is higher than your judgment and you cannot always judge properly by what you see.”
Because, you see, good and bad run on parallel tracks and they usually arrive about the same time. I think many of us view the Christian life in a way that right now some bad things are happening and there are some weaknesses in my life and I have a lot of interruptions. But, “Oh boy, I’ll be glad one of these days when I get all this stuff behind me and I can settle down and get on with my life. One of these days I’ll have nothing but good coming down the pike. Right now it’s just a lot of bad stuff, one thing after another, but one of these days when somehow I get spiritual enough; when somehow I get mature enough; one of these days it’s just going to be good stuff.”
And that’s the way you are supposed to be. That’s the way the Christian life is, because that’s the way it looks to those people who write all the books. Let me tell you something. The Lord has given me the privilege of knowing a whole lot of people who are writing those books. And I’ve got news for you; they are not doing any better than you are!
We say, “Well, there comes a time when suddenly there’s nothing but good coming down the pike.”
It doesn’t happen that way. Faith isn’t the power to change things to the way you want them. Faith is the courage to face things as they are.
Someone said to me, “You know what life is?”
“It’s what happens while you’re waiting for life to start.”
And so we say, “As soon as I get through this thing, then I can really get down to living my life. As soon as I get through school; as soon as I get my kids raised; as soon as I get through with this thing, then there will be nothing but good coming down the pike.”
I want to tell you something, it never works that way. Good and bad grow together, they are intertwined inseparably together. Good and bad travel on parallel tracks and they usually arrive at about the same time. And there is a judgment beyond our judgment.
I don’t know of anything that illustrates this any better than what a woman told me in Missouri. One night after a meeting, I had been preaching along this line, and she came up and she said, “Let me tell you what happened. Some years ago our daughter got involved with a young man that we felt had some real character flaws. We encouraged her at first to not have anything to do with him; then we urged her to not have anything to do with him.”
But, like happens so often, the girl just fell in love with the boy and got involved with him and married him. The unfortunate thing is that the parents were right. The boy did have some serious character flaws. A few years and two babies later, he abandoned her. I have never had anything like that happen in my life and I can’t imagine how that would hurt if that happened to one of my children. But I do know that it would hurt terribly, I cannot imagine. And she talked about the pain they went through. They were on the church staff, to make it even worse, because with your own church staff everybody knows you’re supposed to have all your family together and everything is supposed to be right. And so there was the stigma attached to the grief, the guilt as well as the grief. And she talked about the pain of her daughter being abandoned.
When I hear stories like that, I’d give anything if I could be God for a day. Wouldn’t you? You know what I would do? I would go to those parents and I’d say, “Listen, I know you’ve wept and you’ve cried and your hearts have been broken over this. But I tell you what, I am God for a day and I have the power to reverse the whole situation. I can make it as though it never happened. She will never meet or marry that boy. He will never abandon her. You will be saved those years of tears, and heartache, and shame, and disgrace that you feel has come upon you. Would you like for me to do that? I need to say one thing before you give me your answer. If I reverse the whole process and make it so that you never go through that thing, you do understand of course, that you will have to give up those two grandbabies.”
I’ll ask you grandparents here, what would your answer be? The answer would probably be, “I wouldn’t take anything for those grandkids.” Then how in the world can you say that life was out of control and that God was on vacation and that what happened between your daughter and that boy was all evil and all bad? How can you separate it?
Good and bad are so inseparably entwined that you can’t separate the one from the other. How can you say, “Let’s separate the bad from the good?” Jesus said, “No, let them grow together.” It’s a mystery to me as to why God will let it go on that way. But that’s the way that it works. Yet out of that tragedy comes life.
Until the Harvest
One final word: ‘The end.’ Jesus says in verse 30 to, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:30)
‘The end’: let them grow together UNTIL THE TIME OF HARVEST. Now, just let me mention two or three quick things. Number one: I’ve got news for you, the master is not at all worried about the tares.
“But don’t you think we ought to rip the tares out?”
“No, let them grow together.”
“Well, what if the tares quench the wheat and get in the way? Aren’t you concerned and worried about it?”
No, he may be concerned about it; but he’s not worried about it.
“Let them grow together until the time of harvest.”
The Lord is not worried about the tares. The Lord is not nearly as worried about the evil as you and I are worried about it. He is concerned, but he isn’t worried because he knows that there is coming a harvest. It also tells me that God is still in sovereign control. I think it’s significant that the Bible calls this ‘his field’; God’s field. I mean the devil may be sowing in it, but I want you to know that he is a trespasser. God hasn’t lost control. God hasn’t relinquished one bit of his sovereignty. And this is something you have to keep reminding yourself of because you look out there into your own life, and into the life of a lot of others that we see today, and it looks like somehow God’s lost control.
“Lord, the tares are taking over!”
“I’m not worried about the tares. I’m still in control.”
Don’t worry yourself to death trying to answer every mystery and solve every enigma. Just wait until the harvest and it will all come out.
But you know that there is one other thing that just strikes me about this.
They said, “Master, you want us to tear out the tares.”
He said, “Oh no, don’t do that. For in doing that you are liable to tear up some of the wheat too.”
“Alright now master, if I understand you correctly, the reason you don’t want us to tear out the tares is because in tearing out the tares we might also tear up some of the wheat?”
He said, “Yes, you know that you can’t always tell what tares look like. Some of you may think that is a tare, but it may be wheat; and some of that wheat may be a tare. So I don’t want you to tear out the tares because you are liable to hurt the wheat.”
“In other words, Master, you’re telling us that the reason you don’t tear out the tares now is for the good of the wheat?”
“Lord, are you saying to me that in this world as it is functioning and operating now that I would be better off if the evil is left here? Are you trying to tell me the only reason you do not immediately right now jerk up the tares and do away with the evil is for the good of the wheat?”
“Trust me. You’re better off with the tares than you would be without them.”
Let’s pray together: Father, for all that we have heard and felt this morning we give you thanks. And no matter where we start in this book, from either end, we all seem to come together in the same places. My text this morning could have been the text that my brother preached last night, Romans 8:28. Lord I pray that during these days our hearts would be open and our ears be tuned in to hear what you have to say to us. Thank you for this time together today. In Jesus name, Amen.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2005