Side by Side - Matthew 13:24–30, 34-43

James Tillis was a heavyweight boxer in the 1980s. They called him “Quick” Tillis. He was the first fighter ever to go the distance with Mike Tyson when Tyson was in his prime. Tillis was from Oklahoma, but he went to Chicago to pursue his heavyweight title dreams. He went there full of hope and excitement, and he has said that on the day he arrived, he put his suitcase down by his side, looked up at the 1450 foot Sears Tower, and said “Chicago, I’m going to conquer you.”

 
Side by Side  Matthew - 13:24–30, 34-43
 

However, when he looked down again to the suitcase by his side, it was gone. Whether true or not, Tillis’ story is relatable. We set out with great hope, but discouragement is right by our side. The world works that way. Good and evil, side by side. Light and darkness side by side. And we all are discouraged by or afraid of the evil so near to us. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus has overcome evil; however, Jesus also allows evil to remain in the world for a time. And so, his people must endure evil, discouragement and suffering alongside us.

But we can take heart and be strengthened knowing that Jesus has overcome it if we understand certain things that Jesus has told us about the presence of evil. What are those things? I’ve listed them on page 6 and 7 of the worship guide. First, Sin will exist side by side with righteousness in the world until the end. And second, in the end, sin will be removed forever, but righteousness will remain. So, let’s look together at these.

This is another parable told to the large crowd, which Jesus later explains only to his disciples. In short, a sower spreads seed, but the ground is not the focus of the story. This farmer has an enemy who secretly sows weeds in the farmer’s field. At first glance, it seems like a small problem. Just pull the weeds. Case closed. The problem is that these weeds were most likely what botanists call “lolium temulentum,” also known as darnel, or poison darnel. It looks very much like wheat and is difficult to differentiate from wheat, especially in the early stages of growth.

So, these weeds are popping up alongside the wheat and you can’t always tell them apart; however, in the parable, the servants realize there are weeds. They question the master - the sower - and he quickly tells them it is the work of an enemy. When explaining the parable to his disciples, Jesus breaks it down like this: Verse[37] “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”The sower is Jesus himself.

“Son of Man” is an OT reference from the book of Daniel. The prophet Daniel said had a vision in which “with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man (a human)…[14] And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

It was a messianic vision. The powerful Messiah in Daniel is also a meek sower of seed, spreading his gospel message, calling for repentance and faith. Notice verse [38] The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven” has broken into our world with the coming of Jesus Christ. His great works and preaching signified the kingdom. We understand his “kingdom” to be his reign and rule over the hearts and lives of people, but, of course, Jesus rules all things because he is God.

Jesus reigns in the heart of a believer; he also reigns in general over the whole world, even though, as we see throughout Scripture, evil is still present and Satan has some power. If by faith through God’s grace you trust in Christ, you are this good seed, a child of God, and whether male or female, you have the rights of the firstborn son of the king.

Verses 38-39, “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. Jesus is planting seed, and in that way, he has “sons” or “offspring.” But also, Satan is planting seed and therefore has “sons.” In this sense, Satan has offspring, which fits perfectly with what see throughout the Bible. We see it, first, in Genesis 3 in the OT, near the beginning of the Scriptures. Adam and Eve are tempted by Satan, they fall into sin, it is discovered by God, and they stand, side by side with Satan, in judgment before God Almighty.

Speaking to Satan, God says: [15] I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Adam and Eve are cast from the garden, and the very next thing we see, in Genesis 4, is the conflict between their sons Cain and Abel. Cain and Abel are blood brothers, same mother, but in a very real sense, in the sense Jesus describes here in Matthew 13, they are from different families. Abel is the seed, offspring, son of the woman, and of righteousness, and Cain is the seed of the serpent, the son of Satan, the son of unrighteousness. Cain does the work of Satan. How so? In jealousy, he murders his godly brother Abel. This is the first reference in Scripture of “seed theology,” a conflict between these seeds that runs throughout history. Continually, it is the unrighteous against the righteous. But not only did he foretell enmity, hostility, animosity, hatred, but also, God says the two seeds would wound each other.

The seed of the serpent would strike a heel wound. Painful, but not fatal. However, the woman’s seed would strike a deadly blow, a head wound, to the serpent’s seed. This is the first glimpse of the gospel and Jesus’ triumph over Satan at the cross. Afterwards, the conflict is apparent over and over in the Bible. For instance, why did the Egyptian king Pharaoh order the death of the Hebrew baby boys in Exodus 1? On one level, Pharaoh wanted to control the Hebrew population.

But on a deeper level, Satan sought to eliminate the seed of the woman who would one day strike a mortal blow against him. Why did Saul try to kill David? Why did the nations hate Israel? Psalm 2, [2] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed.” Why did Herod attempt to kill all of the Hebrew baby boys born around the same time as Jesus? Because of the conflict God foretold in Genesis 3. This conflict reached its pinnacle at the cross. Satan thought he had him. In fact, it appeared that he did. Jesus died! But it was a short-lived victory.

Have you ever seen a sporting event where one team seems to have won, and so, they storm the field or court to celebrate, but the officials stop them, because the game is not, in fact, over? Then the team that thought they won winds up losing. There are some great YouTube videos of this happening. But something like this happened to Satan at the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sin and death were defeated. And yet things must play out according to God’s plans - Jesus says so here in Matthew 13. The seed of Satan exists side by side with the seed of Christ like the wheat and the weeds.

Now, right before Jesus’ explanation of the parable there are two curious verses. Notice verse [34] All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. [35] This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Matthew is quoting Psalm 78 in the OT, a historical psalm, part of Israel’s wisdom tradition. This is how the younger generations were told of the great things God had done in the past. In verse 2 of Psalm 78, before recounting God’s mighty works, the psalmist says he will speak in parables. “Parable” did not always mean “fable.” Parables could include wise sayings known as proverbs, or in this case, poetry. The author, Asaph, writes in a poetic structure. Matthew tells us that Jesus’ use of parables fulfilled this Psalm 78 “prophecy.”

Asaph was, in fact, a prophet. 2 Chronicles 29 in the OT says so. But as Asaph retells the past of Israel, he is also telling us about God, and his great power and love, and how even though God demonstrated these things, many Israelites rejected him. In fact, over and over, God displayed power and love and sent prophets to speak truth, but many Israelites did not listen or care. And yet Asaph says at the end that God raised up a good shepherd his people, king David. God gave opportunity after opportunity, his Word went out to everyone. But if Asaph is clear about what God did, how were these things “hidden” at that time? The events were “hidden” in that they had a deeper meaning not yet revealed. They pointed toward something even more redemptive. This is a thread running through Matthew’s gospel.

Those OT events foreshadowed and explained the saving work of Jesus Christ. Just as so many Israelites rejected God despite His great power and love which they observed, many Jews rejected Jesus despite the great power and love on display in his life and ministry. Like so many in OT Israel, these first century Jews were hardening their hearts to obviously divine power and truth, and so Jesus spoke in parables as judgment against them, as judgment against the seed of the enemy. Jesus classifies his opponents that way. He says to the Pharisees in John ch. 8, “You are of your father the devil.” Though Hebrew by birth, many were sons of the evil one. Their wickedness proved it. Jesus endure this conflict for his entire earthly life. So must God’s people in the present day.

The book of Revelation at the end of the NT confirms that this battle between the seed of righteousness and the seed of unrighteousness will go on until the end. Do you find yourself discouraged, perhaps losing hope, as you face the evil around you? Does it cause you to doubt that God is truly in control? Are you shocked and saddened when someone in the church falls away? That is understandable. Jesus anticipated our discouragement, hence the parable. But we can take heart. Because not only is Jesus lord over these things, but he will remove all unrighteousness in the end. He will bring the justice we long for.

In Jesus’ parable, he says that when the master points out that the weeds are the result of an enemy’s work, the servants respond by saying, verse 28, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ In other words, “Should we weed the field?” Great question. But notice verse [29] he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest.”

In verse 39, Jesus clarifies: “The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. This is not a story about preachers and believers who sow the Word of Jesus and watch for a harvest of people who respond with faith during this life. This parable refers to the last day, the final judgment. That day is harvest time, and the angels, or reapers, will “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”Again, Jesus explains, verse [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. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

This is an obvious reference to hell and the punishment of that place. But notice there in verse 41, “all causes of sin and all law-breakers.” God will remove the seed of the serpent (the weeds) but in addition, he will remove all unrighteousness. The weeds are only part of the problem. Those with true faith in Christ are part of the solution, but we are also part of the problem. We are sinners too, and though born again, our sin has not been completely eradicated. No matter how long you have been a professing Christian, or how much you have done for God, you are a sinner. And one day, when Jesus returns to make all things new, he will finish what he has begun in you. Look again at verse [43] Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

This parable explains so much about what we see in the world, but also, in the church. It is true that Jesus says, “the field is the world,” not “the field is the church.” We cannot go throughout the gospel of Matthew replacing “kingdom of heaven” with “church,” but the church is in the world, and there will be both believers and non-believers in the membership of the church, in what we call “the visible church,” those who have made a profession of faith in Jesus and the children of those people. In fact, understanding this parable of Jesus may help you understand the behavior of some people, even some pastors, within the church. Some church members can turn out to be weeds.

Some say all the right things and are received as members, but time tells a different story. Their true colors begin to show. And for that reason, my obligation before God Almighty is to issue Jesus’ call again on each Lord’s Day: the call to renounce sin and turn from it and put all hope and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of sinners. Preachers must continually urge everyone be sure that they have received and rested upon Jesus alone for salvation as He is offered in the Gospel! It is Jesus who has conquered evil and will sustain us in the face of evil until he finally removes all evil from our presence, even the evil still present within each one of us.

And when he does, on the last day, we will be side by side with our God forever. We are side by side with him now, as he has put His Spirit within us. But he will remove all sin, and that vision of the last day described in the last chapter of the Bible will be fulfilled, Revelation 21, [3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. [4] He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Have you trusted in Jesus Christ? Do you have him by your side? Trust him today.

Let’s pray together.