Sermon title:  MEMORABLE STORIES WITH POWERFUL MESSAGES

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

    Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, July 15, 2018

 

 

 

 

Millions of people

have been turned away from faith in God

as a result of the clergy sex abuse scandal.

The scandal broke when investigative reporters

from The Boston Globe

uncovered a pattern

of pedophile priests

and a cover-up

extending all the way to the Vatican.

 

The shocking details that came to light

undermined the faith

of millions of people.

 

Others lost faith

and turned away from Christianity

when certain popular television evangelists

were exposed as charlatans.

They were exposed as living in luxury

and failing to practice what they preached.

 

Were these events just unrelated coincidences?

 

Or, was there some force behind

both of these faith-destroying scandals?

 

Was there a sinister plot,

thousands of years old,

that put both pedophile priests

and charlatan televangelists

into the churches?

 

The parables of Jesus hold the answer.

 

As we continue to go through the 4 Gospels,

looking at everything our Lord Jesus said and did

while here upon the earth,

Matthew Chapter 13 introduces us[  OPEN  ]

to several of Jesus’ parables,

or stories that illustrate a point.

 

Our Responsive Reading this morning

covered the Parable of the Weeds in the Field,

along with the way Jesus explained it.

 

But the 13th Chapter of Matthew also includes

a few other parables—

some of them as short as a single verse.

 

We saw last week

how Jesus sat down in a boat

so that he could face the large crowds

that had gathered on the shore

to hear him speak.

 

But, wherever Jesus spoke to crowds of people,

he taught using parables.

 

This was foretold in the Old Testament at Psalm 78:2,

and Matthew 13 quotes that Psalm,

beginning in Matthew 13, Verse 34,

where it says,

“Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd

in parables;

he did not say anything to them

without using a parable.

 

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet:

‘I will open my mouth in parables,

I will utter things hidden

since the creation of the world.’”

 

These illustrative stories

made deep truths come alive,

using familiar scenes

about ordinary situations in life.

 

They also brought about a separation

of people into two groups.

 

It separated those who weren’t really interested

in their relationship with God,

from people who cared enough

to come to Jesus privately,

after the crowds were dismissed,

to ask his explanation

of what the parables meant.

 

Many of the parables were about

“the kingdom of heaven”—

and the Church that Jesus came to establish.

 

One of the shortest of these illustrative stories—

just part of a single verse—

is found at Matthew 13, Verse 33.

It says,

 

33 He told them still another parable:

"The kingdom of heaven is like yeast

that a woman took and mixed into

a large amount of flour

until it worked all through the dough."

 

Today, most of us buy our bread at the grocery store.

 

But, back then, it was common to bake your own bread.

 

And yeast is the essential ingredient

that makes the dough rise.

Without yeast, bread would be flat as a pancake or a pizza crust.

 

And the amazing thing about yeast is that,

when you mix it with flour,

it spreads until all the flour is leavened.

 

Everyone in Jesus’ audience knew well how yeast would spread

and change the dough.

 

So, Jesus used this story

of the woman adding yeast to her dough

to illustrate how the Church

would infiltrate and spread through the world.

It pictured how Christian influence

would spread through the whole world

and would change the whole world.

----------------------------

 

In Matthew Chapter 13, Verses 31 and 32,

our Lord used another brief parable

to illustrate the same thing.

This is the Parable of the Mustard Seed.

 

Beginning in Matthew 13:31, Jesus said,

 

"The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,

which a man took and planted in his field.

 

Though it is the smallest of all your seeds,

yet when it grows,

it is the largest of garden plants

and becomes a tree,

so that the birds of the air

come and perch in its branches."

 

This parable, too, illustrates

how the Church would grow

from the tiny beginning of Jesus and the 12 Apostles

to fill the whole earth.

 

A mustard seed is so tiny

you can hardly see it.

 

On a printed page,

a mustard seed is like the period at the end of a sentence.

 

But such a tiny seed

grows into a huge plant—

a plant that is like a tree,

so big that birds can come perch in its branches.

 

Jesus was then preaching to a small crowd by the sea shore

but his preaching would eventually lead to

Christian churches in every country of the world

and more than a billion people

naming Jesus as their Lord.

----------------------------

 

So, those are a couple of the parables found in Matthew Chapter 13.

 

But the parable that explains

why there are pedophile priests

and why there are charlatan evangelists

is the one that we read this morning

in our Responsive Reading:

the Parable of the Weeds in the Field.

 

It begins in Matthew 13, Verse 24,

where it says,

 

24 Jesus told them another parable:

"The kingdom of heaven

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.

 

25 But while everyone was sleeping,

his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat,

and went away.

26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads,

then the weeds also appeared.

 

27 The owner's servants came to him and said,

'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field?

Where then did the weeds come from?'

 

28 'An enemy did this,' he replied.

"The servants asked him,

'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

 

29 'No,' he answered,

'because while you are pulling the weeds,

you may root up the wheat with them.

 

30 Let both grow together until the harvest.

At that time I will tell the harvesters:

First collect the weeds

and tie them in bundles to be burned;

then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

 

How does that explain

why there are pedophile priests

and why there are charlatan televangelists?

 

To understand that,

we need not just the parable,

but also Jesus’ explanation of what the story meant.

 

But, remember, most people in Jesus’ audience

were unappreciative,

and just went home after hearing his illustrations,

without bothering to find out the meaning.

Only his disciples bothered to find out.

 

So, beginning at Verse 36, we read,

 

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house.

His disciples came to him and said,

"Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."

 

37 He answered,

"The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.

38 The field is the world,

and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom.

 

The weeds are the sons of the evil one,

39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil.

 

The harvest is the end of the age,

and the harvesters are angels.

 

40 As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.

 

41 The Son of Man will send out his angels,

and they will weed out of his kingdom

everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

 

42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun

in the kingdom of their Father.

He who has ears, let him hear.

 

So, Christ sowed good seed,

which, he explained, are the “sons of the kingdom.”

 

These are born-again believers,

adopted as God’s children.

 

That’s who Jesus put into his kingdom—into his Church.

 

But Satan the devil planted weeds in the Church—

“sons of the evil one”—

pretend ‘Christians’

who are really followers of the devil,

instead of followers of Christ.

 

We read about these “weeds”

in the rest of the New Testament,

when the Apostles are struggling against

enemies inside the churches.

 

And we read about these “weeds”

in today’s news headlines,

when pedophile priests are found preying on young children

and when charlatan ‘Christian’ celebrities are exposed.

 

The New Testament letters of the Apostles

give us several examples

of weed-like false Christians

who were planted in the early Church

by the devil:

 

In 3rd John—a very brief letter[  OPEN  ]

toward the end of the New Testament—

after 1st and 2nd John, and just before Jude and Revelation—

in 3rd John,

we read about one example—

a false Christian named Diotrephes

who opposed the work of the Apostles.

 

At 3rd John, beginning at Verse 9,

the Apostle John says,

9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes,

who loves to be first,

will have nothing to do with us.

 

10 So if I come,

I will call attention to what he is doing,

gossiping maliciously about us.

 

Not satisfied with that,

he refuses to welcome the brothers.

He also stops those who want to do so

and puts them out of the church.

 

Who would behave like that?—

except a false Christian,

a weed planted by the devil

to disrupt the church!

 

In the letter of Jude—[  OPEN  ]

right after 3rd John, and right before Revelation—

we find another example

where Satan planted weeds among the wheat.

 

Jude starts off his letter

by greeting fellow Christians,

and wishing them blessings.

 

But then in Verse 3, he changes his tone,

and beginning in Jude 1:3, he says,

 

3 Dear friends,

although I was very eager to write to you

about the salvation we share,

I felt I had to write and

urge you to contend for the faith

that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

 

4 For certain men   (here are the “weeds”)

whose condemnation was written about long ago

have secretly slipped in among you.

They are godless men,

who change the grace of our God

into a license for immorality

and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

 

Those “certain men” who “secretly slipped in among you

were weeds planted in the church by the devil,

just like in Jesus’ parable.

 

Even though they pretended to be Christians,

Jude describes them as “godless men.

 

He says they “change the grace of our God

into a license for immorality.

 

So, these false Christians

must have talked a lot about God’s grace.

 

They must have been saying, “We’re saved by grace,”

while they continued living immoral lives.

 

Those weeds planted by the devil

continued to grow in the churches

down through the centuries.

 

But, the harvest time will come

at the end of the age,

when, as Jesus said in Matthew 13:41,

 

“41 The Son of Man will send out his angels,

and they will weed out of his kingdom

everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

 

42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

In Galatians, Chapter 1,

the Apostle Paul writes to the Galatian church,

about false Christians in the church

who were trying to mislead them.

 

It’s found at Galatians 1, Verses 6 and 7,

and it’s an example of Satan’s weeds sown among the wheat.

 

Beginning at Galatians 1:6, Paul writes to that church,

 

6 I am astonished

that you are so quickly deserting

the one who called you by the grace of Christ

and are turning to a different gospel--

7 which is really no gospel at all.

 

Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion

and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

 

Yes, that’s something you’d expect from false Christians

planted by the devil in the Galatian church.

 

They were preaching a different gospel,

throwing the church into confusion,

and trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

 

And we see the same thing happening today

in churches where the devil has planted weeds among the wheat.

 

The perverted ‘gospel’ today

teaches forgiveness without repentance—

free acceptance into the church of people practicing sin,

without calling them to repent.

 

We see that in the churches that now fly the rainbow flag

and who approve of immoral lifestyles

that the Bible condemns.

 

But the time is coming, as Jesus said,

“ at the end of the age.

 when

41 The Son of Man will send out his angels,

and they will weed out of his kingdom

everything that causes sin and all who do evil.

42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

In the meantime,

churches exercise church discipline

and take action to expose corrupt practices

and to correct teachers of false doctrine.

 

The Apostles did what they could

to expose false teachers

and to counteract their teaching.

 

And we do the same today.

 

But Jesus’ parable showed that

the weeds that the devil planted in the churches

would continue to grow

alongside the true Christians

until the harvest time—

the end of the age.

 

And that’s why we still have

pedophile priests

and charlatan evangelists

and other corrupt individuals in the churches.

 

But our Lord Jesus illustrated in another parable—

this one at Matthew 13, Verse 47,[  OPEN  ]

that there will be a separation at the end of the age.

 

This parable, too,

is printed in our bulletin insert.

 

And, beginning at Matthew 13:47, Jesus said,

 

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven

is like a net that was let down into the lake

and caught all kinds of fish.

 

When it was full,

the fishermen pulled it up on the shore.

Then they sat down

and collected the good fish in baskets,

but threw the bad away.

 

This is how it will be at the end of the age.

 

The angels will come

and separate the wicked from the righteous

and throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.“

 

So, now there are all kinds of fish in the churches—

good fish, as well as bad fish.

 

And the full separation won’t occur

until the end of the age.

 

At that time, Jesus said,

The angels will come

and separate the wicked from the righteous

and throw them into the fiery furnace.

 

But, until then, there are still bad fish

parading around as if they were real Christians—

including pedophiles and charlatans.

 

I’d rather not have to preach about them,

or even to think about them.

 

I feel like Jude did,

when he wrote, as we read a moment ago,

that he was very eager to write about

the salvation we share.

 

But, he said, as we read at Jude Verses 3 & 4,[  OPEN  ]

 

I felt I had to write and

urge you to contend for the faith

that was once for all entrusted to the saints.

 

4 For certain men

whose condemnation was written about long ago

have secretly slipped in among you.

 

They are godless men,

who change the grace of our God

into a license for immorality.”

 

And our Lord Jesus gave us this parable

to make sure we got the point

that it was Satan the devil

who planted such false Christians in the churches.

---------------------

 

But there are 2 more very brief parables in Matthew, Chapter 13,

and these are much more up-beat

and positive in their tone.

 

They’re found in Matthew 13, beginning at Verse 44,

and again these are also printed in our bulletin insert.

There Jesus said,

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure

hidden in a field.

When a man found it, he hid it again,

and then in his joy went

and sold all he had and bought that field.

 

Again, the kingdom of heaven

is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.

When he found one of great value,

he went away

and sold everything he had and bought it.”

 

If we appreciate what Jesus has done for us,

the kingdom of heaven is like that for us.

 

If we were actively seeking

for the meaning of life,

and then found Jesus,

we are like the pearl merchant

who finally found that one pearl of great value.

 

He appreciated it so much,

he sold everything he had, so that he could buy it.

 

The kingdom of God

is worth giving up everything else.

 

Many of us, though, were more like that man

who just stumbled upon this treasure hidden in a field.

 

But, he too, appreciated the value of what he found.

 

He, too, sold everything he had,

so that he could buy that field,

and make the treasure hidden in it his own.

 

We may not have been actively seeking,

but we found Jesus, anyway—or rather, he found us.

 

And we appreciate what he’s done for us.

 

We appreciate it so much,

that we’d give up everything else in life

just to hold onto Jesus.

 

And, happily, that’s what we have here in this church.

 

Immanuel Baptist Church is filled with the good seed Jesus planted.

 

This church is filled with the good fish

that the angels keep when they sort through the net.

 

This church is filled with those

who take great joy and delight

in the kingdom of God,

and who treasure Jesus

above the things of this world.