Ewen trains evangelists by teaching the Bible to students at Edith Cowan University.
(transcript for public meeting at Edith Cowan Uni, Joondalup Perth, 19/8/20)
Matthew 13:24+ is one of the few parables that come with an explanation. In it Jesus teaches us something about heaven and earth that is not just profound, but highly counter-intuitive. Expect to have your assumptions challenged!
This is how the parable starts,
24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also.
In verse 37 Jesus explains that the man is Jesus Himself, who is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. So it’s supposed to be a picture of heaven on earth except we find that weeds have been sown and are now growing up among the wheat. Jesus tells us the weeds are the sons of the evil one and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.
Before we go further, notice that Jesus makes it absolutely clear here that there is such a thing as good and evil. There is the man who sows good seed and there is the devil who sows weeds. This is why evil exists in this world. Why we have the Holocaust, why we have paedophilia, and why we have corporate raiders. It doesn’t matter if it wears a military uniform or a suit and tie, they are still weeds and weeds are the sons of the evil one as Jesus says in verse 38.
None of this is thought provoking or controversial. No one here would argue with me that child abuse is wrong.
What is surprising is in verse 27.
27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
Anyone who has any experience in gardening will know, the key factor in controlling weeds is to get them when they’re young. Before their roots are established. And so the servants naturally asked if they should go and gather the weeds. But Jesus says in verse 30 to let both grow together until the harvest.
Do you see what Jesus is saying? It’s not just that good and evil co-exist in this world. Jesus says that good and evil must be allowed to co-exist on earth.
Jesus says that good and evil must be allowed to co-exist on earth.
Have you ever wondered if God is all-powerful, why doesn’t He put an end to evil? The answer is here. Jesus says good and evil must be allowed to co-exist on earth. It is only at the end of the age where God will step in so to speak. Look at verse 39.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, 42 and throw them into the fiery furnace.
Think about it. Jesus acknowledges the presence of evil. And Jesus allows evil to grow. It’s mind-boggling to me. We have to ask why. And he tells us right, in verse 29.
29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them.
It is to protect the good that evil must be allowed to exist. Does this surprise you? It’s why this series of talks is called heaven – life’s final surprise. This parable is teaching us something about heaven. That’s what Jesus says at the start, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed.
But what kind of heaven allows evil to exist? The answer is in verse 43.
43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
What does that mean? This is the counter intuitive part. Compare heaven to hell so to speak in verse 42. What’s hell like? Hell is a fiery furnace, in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Ok hell sucks. What’s heaven like? It’s bright? No. It's this. Where Hell’s essence is the fire, Heaven’s essence is the righteous. What makes hell is suffering. But what makes heaven is not the absence of suffering, or some other ethereal beauty or peace or all manner of furry cuddles. It’s the righteous.
It’s so important for this parable that we get this. This means that heaven is not so much a place we go to when we die. Heaven is not a place per say. What’s the essence of heaven? You. The righteous. Do you get it? We always think of heaven as this place where we hopefully go to when we die. While earth is just the boarding lounge where we wait to board the plane that'll take us to our destination. After all, what’s the goal of all religions? To get from this earth to heaven when we die. Isn’t that why you’re a Christian? So that you can go to heaven when you die? Is it?
Don’t think like that. Can you see the implications of what Jesus is saying? Heaven is not the final resting place for good people. It’s not the reward for people who have done good in life. Heaven is the glory of the righteous.
Let me put it this way. What separates the day from the night? The sun in the sky. The sun doesn’t wait for day to start before it rises. Imagine if the sun decides to wait for daytime to arrive before he gets up. He’ll be like come on man, I’m late for work. I’m supposed to be up shining by now. Where are you daytime? No. The sun is what makes the day. The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
This is why good and evil must be allowed to co-exist on earth. Because it’s only when the good seeds grow and at harvest time become the righteous, then they will shine like the sun in heaven.
So what does this mean for us? We are the seed sown by Jesus. We’re not the servants and we’re definitely not the reapers. Look at the emphasis.
So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers
It is not our job to separate the weeds from the wheat. Where are we in the passage? We’re the seed that in verse 43 will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father. Not just kingdom of God or heaven. But of their father. Become a Christian not because you want to go to heaven. Become a Christian because you know God has adopted you into his family.
Imagine Bill Gates decides to adopt a child and so he goes to an orphanage and instead of a tiny baby that's still in its cute and innocent infancy, he finds an older child who has a horrendous track record so to speak and whom was the last person you'd expect to be picked. Bill gates comes along and says I can see you’re a lot of work and adopting you will cost me more than you can imagine. But believe it or not I love you. I will keep loving you. I’m going to adopt you to become my son. Come away from this lousy orphanage and come live in my mansion.
Imagine the child says, not until you prove to me that you really love me. Until I am absolutely convinced not just that you are sincere, and you give me all the answers to every question I haven't even thought of yet. Perhaps only then I’ll consider letting you adopt me. That’s ridiculous! But that’s exactly what we do when we pull back from God in the face of questions like why evil, why suffering, why don’t you pull out the weeds now?
And Jesus says no. Good and evil must be allowed to coexist on earth until the good seed has grown into righteousness. At great cost to himself, God has adopted us into his kingdom, he has made us his good seed so that we can become part of his family.
He who has ears, let him hear.