“The Conflict of the Kingdom”     Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43     October 25, 2009


SI:  Matthew 13 is a collection of Jesus’ parables known as his kingdom parables.

Jesus told many other parables, but these are grouped together for a particular

   reason.  They are parables aimed at believers, to help us see more clearly

   what it means to live in the kingdom of God.


In these parables Jesus explains what God’s kingdom is, and how you get in,

   and how things work in the kingdom, and what the values are,

   and what future of the kingdom is.

Jesus called these things the secrets, the mysteries of the kingdom. 

   He told his disciples that to the degree you understand the kingdom of God,

   and make your decisions based upon it, you will be blessed.

Jesus says:  Blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.


The reason you will be blessed is because the kingdom of God is reality.

   It’s the way things really are.  And as you conform your life and expectations

   to God’s reality, you will inevitably be blessed.


INTRO:  Years ago I knew a man in our church in Florida

   who was such a thoughtful and deep Christian,

   that I once asked him how he came to faith in Jesus Christ.

This was the story he told me.  He said—When I was a young man, I was agnostic.

   I was drafted and sent to Vietnam.  And I saw such terrible things there,

   that I knew there had to be a God.  Had to be someone who would judge evil.

   There had to be someone who would set things right.

I began to pray that God would reveal himself to me.

   Shortly after that I met a Christian, and he told me about Jesus Christ.


The reason his story has stuck with me all these years is because just a day

   or two before our conversation, I had read an article by a man who was an atheist.

He said that his atheism began when he was a solider in Vietnam.

   He saw such suffering that he came to the conclusion that there cannot be a God.

   Because if there was a God, he would not allow such things to happen.


I thought at the time—Isn’t that fascinating!

   Two men confronted with evil—the evils of war. 

One concluded there is no God—no supreme Judge who will set things right. 

   The other man came to the opposite conclusion.

   There must be a God.  And he must be good. 

   And he will one day judge evil and bring it to an end.

And he was found by that God and gave his life to him.


Don’t have to go to war to be confronted with evil. 

   It’s plain to see that this world is broken.

Even though there is much goodness and beauty still in creation—

   it’s broken by sickness and death and the horrible things people do to each other.

And everyone, at some point in their lives, will wrestle with the deep questions:

   Why is there evil?  What did God have to do with the way things are? 

   Why doesn’t he do something?

There is that phrase in 2 Thessalonians, “the mystery of iniquity.”

   And indeed evil does raise some of the most perplexing questions.


That’s what this parable is about.  Jesus second kingdom parable is about evil.

   His first kingdom parable, parable of the sower, is about the Gospel.

   Might say parable of the sower is about how you get into the Kingdom of Heaven.

His second parable reveals that there is a rival kingdom—a kingdom of evil—

   that is opposed to all the Christ is doing in the world.

And just as it is important to know about the Kingdom of Heaven,

   it is important to know about this other kingdom.

Because your understanding of evil, your response to it,

   can drive you to God, or away from him. 

Just like the two men I mentioned a moment ago.


One saw the kingdom of evil, and gained a biblical understanding of it,

   and turned to Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

The other saw evil, didn’t understand the spiritual aspect of it,

   misunderstood it, misinterpreted it—and ended up denying God,

   and therefore without hope in facing evil.


So let’s look at what our Lord says about evil and the kingdom of heaven.

For you note-takers, notice that his parable is like a 3 act play.

   Three acts correspond to the three truths Christ reveals.

Act I       The Sowing

Act II      The Growing

Act III     The Mowing


Let’s look at each.

Act I  The Sowing

Jesus said:  “A man sowed good seed in his field.”

   He tells us that he is the sower.  The sower is the Son of Man.

   That’s a title for the Messiah from Daniel 7.  Jesus sows in the world.

The seeds are the children of the kingdom.

   In the first parable, the seed is the Word of God, here it’s the children of God.


But, Jesus says, there is another sowing that goes on.

   “But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.”

  The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the weeds are the sons of the evil one.

So the wheat and the weeds sprouted at the same time.

   The servants saw the weeds and they said to themselves, this is no accident.

   There’s something wrong here.  Our master didn’t do this.  Come to him and ask:

“Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  How then does it have weeds?”


And what is his answer to them?  An enemy has done this.

Lord, why is there evil in the world? 

   God, if you are the all-good, all-powerful, all-seeing Master of this world.

   If you have created it, and as the farmer in the parable, you tend it, why evil?

Why is there sickness and suffering and hatred and meanness and death?

   That’s the question that the servants of the Master ask.

And it’s one of the most troubling of all questions—

   especially when you are faced with evil, or when you see others suffering.


Jesus’ answer, and the answer found throughout Scripture is:

   “An enemy did this—the enemy is the Devil.”

There is a personal, supernatural, evil being, called the Devil.

   He sows evil in the world.  That evil is most clearly seen in the hearts of men.

   These men are sons of the evil one. 

From the very beginning of the Bible, this is the explanation given for evil.

   In the Garden of Eden, God’s perfect creation, Adam and Eve in harmony,

   The serpent comes, tempts them to eat the forbidden fruit, and evil enters.


The Bible never presents evil as an impersonal force.  It’s always personal.

   It’s from the Devil—a spiritual being older, stronger, more intelligent than man. 

When God created universe, two orders of intelligent beings—men and angels

   We know that there was a fall, a rebellion, in the angelic realm. 

Those fallen angels called demons, evil spirits. 

   Their leader is the Devil or Satan. 

Jesus makes clear in this parable that the source of the evil we see in the world,

   and especially the control it has over the hearts and lives of men,

   is from the enemy, the devil.  He has sown seeds of evil in God’s good world.

There are two important applications from this teaching:

1.  You must be satisfied with Jesus’ answer.

   For many people, even for some Christians, this is not a satisfying answer.

   In fact, they say, Jesus’ answer is not an answer at all.


Because the only thing this answer does is push it back one more step.

   Why is there evil?  The devil.  OK, well, why is there a devil?

   If God is good, and he made the angels all good, then where did evil come from?

And if God is sovereign and eternal and his divine decrees determine all things—

   then why did he even create that angel who would became the Devil?

Some professing Christians have gone so far as to deny God is sovereign.

   And to say that evil was somehow a surprise to God or outside of his control.

   They feel like that is the only way they can preserve God’s goodness.


There is certainly nothing wrong with asking that deeper question:

   If God is all good and all powerful and all knowing, then why is their evil at all?

But the only answer that the Bible gives to that question is the one like we find

   in Psalm 115:3  “Our God is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases.”

   Tying to push beyond that, see secret counsels of God is futile.

The point is this, if Jesus had wanted to give another explanation, he would have.

   Instead he said, Are you troubled by the presence of evil?  There is a Devil.

   In that answer, he has given us something very practical.  Second application.


2.  You must see that the brokenness of the world has a spiritual dimension

   so it will take a spiritual cure. 

The Jews who heard Jesus believed their problem was strictly political.

   Roman oppression.  So they wanted a Messiah who would bring political solution.

Many people today think their biggest problem is psychological.

   If only I could get things right in my psyche and emotions—messed up childhood,

   then things in my life would be right.  Or it might be financial, or relational.

Or any number of things. 


Christian sees that all of those play a role but also sees that brokenness and

   suffering and evil are deeper than politics, economics, and psychology.

There is an enemy sowing seeds of evil.  Evil ultimately has a spiritual dimension.

   And God is going to deal with it.  That’s our hope.

Act II  The Growing

The devil has sown evil in the world.  It has taken root in hearts of men,

   it’s spoiling God’s creation.  God will certainly deal with evil right away.

The servants ask the Master:  Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?

   Surely you do, Lord.  You can’t allow these seeds of evil to stay in your field.

   What was Jesus answer?  No, leave them alone.  Let them grow.  Why?!


The Christian sees opposition to God in so many places, so much evil.

   Why doesn’t God do something about the evil?

   Why doesn’t he let us rip those weeds out of the field?

This is Jesus answer:  “No, lest in gathering the weeds, you root up the wheat

   along with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.”


That was a fierce debate over this parable in the early church—the 200s and 300s.

   In fact, it was such a fierce debate that it split the church.

The issue was this:  How should the church treat professing Christians who

   caved in to persecution to save their lives.  But then when the persecution was

   over, they said they were sorry and wanted back in the church.


There were two groups, the Novatians and the Donatists who said:

   They cannot be re-admitted.

   They have denied the faith.  They have proved to be false.

   If we let them in, we will no longer have a pure church.

St. Augustine and others pointed to this parable and said:

   If these people repent and profess faith in Christ, then we must let in

   even if some who let back in are not true Christians.

In your zeal for a pure church, you will root up tender wheat with weeds.


Donatists didn’t buy it.  You’ve misinterpreted the parable.

   Jesus says the field is the world.  Doesn’t say the field is the church.

   He’s forbidding Christians from using warfare to advance Christianity.

This parable has nothing to do with how we treat people in the church.


Augustine said:  No, Jesus calls this a parable of the kingdom.  Church visible

   expression of his kingdom.  By calling the field the world, simply saying that

   the church is in the world and the Gospel goes into the whole world.

Eventually Augustine won.  Those who denied the faith, came back with

   repentance, re-affirmation and were allowed to take Communion.


Who was right?  Augustine or Donatists?

   Augustine was right—but not because of his interpretation of “the field.”

He was right because he understood the central virtue that Christ is emphasizing—


Lord, why aren’t you doing something about evil?  I am.  But not now.  Be patient.

   Because if I destroy all evil now, then I will destroy people I’m planning to save.

   So for a time, you are going to have to be patient.


Jesus came to restore all of creation.  He came to deal with evil at it’s very core. 

   He came to deal with sin and death and the power of the devil.

And just as that has worked it’s way into human history—

   so Jesus is working it out through history—and that takes time.


He planted his kingdom of grace through the cross.

   And since that time, his kingdom has been growing, people being born again,

   Hearts that were evil, recaptured and changed by the Holy Spirit.

It takes years for men and women to be brought into kingdom, years to mature.

   Look beyond individuals to nations.  You see the growth of kingdom over time.

   So far it’s been 2,000 years.  There has been birth, growth, setbacks,

   apparent deaths, re-germination.

There are times and places it looks like the kingdom of evil is winning

   But Kingdom of God growing and maturing.  Why is God patient? 

   Because he wants many to come to salvation.

So he’s not going to wipe out evil till he achieves the full victory he has planned.


Once when Jesus was going through Samaria, he was treated disrespectfully

   in one of the villages.  Do you remember what the disciples asked him?

   “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy them?”

And Jesus rebuked them.  Because now is not the time for him to wipe out evil.

   He had other plans for Samaria.  “You will be my witness in Jerusalem,

   and Judea, and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.”


Application is that you must be patient as Christ is patient.

Christian a person of incredible patience and stability.

   He’s not a zealot, expecting change tomorrow, condemning people, churches.

   He’s not a pessimist.  Saying this is hopeless.  Writing people off.

Christians believe in the slow and steady growth of the kingdom.

   Like a good farmer, not overly excited about what appears to be a good crop.

   And not overly alarmed at bad weather.

Jesus is not saying, Don’t fight evil. 

   Of course Christians have to fight evil.

   But his point is—Be patient.  God is at work.  This is the growing time.

Be patient with people:  Spiritual growth and change not overnight,

   look for evidences of spiritual life, pray for them, nurture them,

   remember that Christ is patient with you.

Be patient with people in your family and your church especially.

   Don’t be overwhelmed with the evil you still see in them.


Be patient with yourself.  Aren’t you glad God is? 

   When you see evil in yourself, old habits and attitudes, and you say,

   Lord, I want to change tomorrow—remember, it doesn’t usually happen that way. 

You grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, weeding, putting off lifetime.


Be patient with the structures of the world: 

Political, civic, business, economic, cultural structures do have evil in them.

   Christians see that evil and get hopes up that they can be changed easily.

If only we have a good election, get the right people in charge.

   That’s what the disciples thought too.  But Jesus says—be patient.

Don’t put your hopes in quick changes, quick fixes for evil.

   Certainly work for justice in all of those structures—

   but know that your hope is the slow growth of the kingdom of God.


















Act III  The Mowing

Lord, why is there evil in your kingdom?  The devil did this.

Lord, why don’t you do something about evil?  Be patient.  I am

Lord, what is your plan for dealing with evil?  There is going to be a harvest.

   “The harvest is the end of the age.”


The age Jesus is talking about is this age.  This unique time we are living in

   between Jesus first coming in humility and his second coming in glory.

It’s called the Gospel Age, the Age of Grace.  Could call it the Age of Patience.

   We’ve seen the resurrection.  And the power of the new life has broken into

   history.  And there are great spiritual forces at work.


But still, in this age the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan are growing

   side by side—the wheat and the weeds.  But it won’t always be like that.

In God’s timing this age of grace and growing will end. 

   And there will be a mowing.  A harvest. 

   All people, the quick and the dead, will be gathered before Him.

And there will be a great separation—weeds for burning, wheat for storing.


The Day of Judgment will be for some a great and glorious day.

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

   You will become all that God created you to be—reflect Jesus Christ

For others “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

   a day of doom, the condemning weight of selfishness and rebellion,

   realization that the day of grace has passed.


And this is where all the questions about evil come home.

   Because when you realize that there will be a mowing and a separation.

   The questions that comes home is—where will I be on that day?

Will I shine like the sun in the kingdom of my Father

   or will there be for me weeping and gnashing of teeth? 

   What about the evil in my own heart?  Has it been dealt with?


There is an element of this parable that is frightening.

   Lose this a bit in modern translations when it says wheat and weeds.

The good old King James Version is best—the wheat and the tares.

   Because a tare is not just any weed.  It’s a degenerate wheat that looks like

   wheat, grows like wheat.  That’s why the farmer can’t pull it out. 

But when it is fully grown, it produces no grain.  The head is empty.

One of the main strategies of the devil, plant people who look like Christians.

   People who live by Christian principles, decent people, moral people.

   Consider themselves Christians.  But they are planted in the church by the devil.  They can be anywhere.  An old saying goes: 

   “When you look for the devil, don’t forget to look in the pulpit.”

So what is the difference?  How do you know if you are wheat or tares?


Real Christian are planted by Christ 

   Sons of the kingdom, have been born again by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The outside power of God came into you life, and opened spiritual eyes to truth.

   There may have been times you tried to straighten out your life,

   but this is completely different.  It’s the miracle of new mind and new life.

A real Christian knows it’s only by the grace of God am I forgiven and made new.

   I’m a miracle.  The only explanation for who I am, and what I have become,

   is the power of God.  One proof you are a Christian, you are amazed at yourself.


And not only are real Christians planted by Christ,

  they grow into the likeness of Christ.  They produce fruit.

The counterfeit moral person does not.  He does not grow in this way.

   So a Christian grows.  You might not grow as much as you want, but do grow.

   Could say many things about growth, but comes down to two things.


Grow in your awareness of your sins.  See more and more, evil in own heart.

   This is a universal experience of true Christians.

Take a peek into the private lives of great men and women of God,

   and you see people growing in awareness of their sinfulness.

As Paul says:  I am the chief of sinners.


But as a Christian, you are simultaneously growing in your assurance

   of the love of God the Father.

The psychology of the Christian absolutely unique.

   More I see how wicked I am, more loved I know I am by the Father.

   So you find yourself getting humbler, and feeling more loved and confident.


You may hear this and say:  I’m afraid.  I may be counterfeit.

   I’ve confused a moral life and religion with the real life of God.

Praise God if you feel that way.  You are waking up.

   The seed is going in deep.  Nail it down today.

   You enter the kingdom by repentance and faith.

This morning.  Before you dare come to the Table, before conviction passes,

   Repent of your sins.  Ask God’s forgiveness through Christ.

   And then trust Jesus.  Plead with him to save you—and he will.

Pray, Lord Jesus, forgive my sins and save me.  I give myself to you.

   Come into my heart. 

You enter his kingdom by repentance and faith.

   Give yourself to Christ now, so that you will not stand before

   Him in judgment later. 


CONC:  In just a moment, going to sing Martin Luther’s hymn,

A Mighty Fortress.  Probably no better hymn expressing biblical view

   of the conflict between the Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of Evil—

   and the sowing, growing, and mowing that Jesus promises.


But the truly great part of Luther’s legacy, and legacy of the Reformation,

   is that by faith in Christ alone, we are brought out of Satan’s kingdom,

   and into the Kingdom of our heavenly Father.


For years Luther lived as a counterfeit Christian.  He lived as a tare among wheat.

   He thought it was through morality and religion that he had life.

   He said:  “If ever a monk could be saved by his monkery it was I.”


Then his eyes were opened to the message of grace.  Romans 1:17.

   “The righteous man will live by faith.”  In that moment, seed was planted,

   and he became a son of God.  Deeply aware of his sin, and amazed at the

   love of God for him.


That’s what Jesus wants to do in your life.  Now is age of grace.

   The Lord is even now holding back his harvesting angels.

   They are eager to gather the tares for burning and the wheat for the barn.

Book of Revelation tells us the martyrs in heaven are saying:

   Lord, how much longer till judgment, when you wipe out evil forever.

   He replies:  Be patient.  Wait a little longer.  I have people to save.

Don’t dely.  Now is the day of grace.  Give your life to Jesus—

   and you will shine like the sun in the kingdom of your Father.