Subject: Leaving “Who’s Who” To Jesus
Scripture: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ” (Matthew 13:24-30)
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is one that I’ve not heard enough in church all my life. Yet, it is one of Jesus’ most interesting parables because it is designed to render Christians silent when it comes to how the church has so often “cast judgment” on church attendees and so-called believers all throughout church history. We want so badly to declare, like the game of “Duck, Duck, Goose,” who’s “saved” and who’s “damned.” We want to say “Who’s Who in Heaven,” that is, who is eligible for glory, and “Who’s Who in Hell,” that is, who doesn’t make it to glory and ends up in Hell fire, but that’s not for us to decide. That determination belongs to God and God alone. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares doesn’t permit us to declare someone saved or damned because it tells us, in effect, that we are too short-sighted to properly evaluate every man or woman for who he or she really is.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares is as follows: the owner of the field sowed good seed (wheat) into the field, but an enemy came and sowed tares into the field alongside the wheat. The servants discover the tares and question their owner’s good seed sowing. He tells them “an enemy has done this.” They want to uproot the tares but the owner rejects the idea, saying that they may uproot some of the wheat along with the tares if they uproot now. Instead, they should wait until the future time at harvest, when all will be revealed and all will be separated.
Jesus later goes on to explain, like the Parable of the Sower, what His teaching in the Wheat and Tares is all about:
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (Matthew 13:36-43)
Now here is where Jesus explains the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. In verse 38, Jesus lays out all the parties involved: “38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.” The field refers to the world, the place where both the sons of God and the sons of the devil meet. Notice that the Parable of the Wheat and Tares does not take place in a church. The field is not the church, so those who want to just examine the church should take a step back. Jesus puts the wheat and tares of the parable in the world, in a neutral place where everyone exists together. Christians, like unbelievers, are in the world, but we are not “of the world.”
In the Parable, the servants see the tares with their own eyes and inquire that the owner grant them permission to go remove the tares. The owner does not. His reason has nothing to do with not wanting to uproot the tares, but rather, that some of the wheat may be uprooted as well:
The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. (Matthew 13:28-29)
Now, here’s the emphasis of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares: Jesus is concerned that by uprooting the tares, some of the wheat, some of the sons of the kingdom, are destroyed in the process. This is why He tells the servants to wait until harvest time. Did you notice that? Jesus was not concerned about the tares, the sons of the devil. He knows that there will be “tares” in the world, as we know it to be true, and He doesn’t concern Himself with uprooting the tares. The tares are the “chaff” that will be burned up in the end. What Jesus does concern Himself with, however, are the sons of the kingdom, the wheat crops, that could be uprooted with the tares. What does this mean? If Jesus was to declare judgment now and to declare the end at this time, some of the “wheat” would actually be “tares” and would be destroyed, lost, without a Savior. Jesus, foreknowing all things, omniscient of the end, knows that some of the “tares” or rather, the seeming “tares,” are actually “wheat,” and He doesn’t want them destroyed until they grow and blossom as sons of the kingdom. He corrects the servants because, in their zeal to usher in the coming age, they’d rather uproot those “wheat” crops rather than be patient and let the wheat blossom as such. They’d rather lose a few sons of the kingdom to Satan and Hell, rather than wait and allow those sons of the kingdom to show their true colors. Their impatience, Jesus says in so many words, could cost Heaven souls that truly belong to the Lord. This is why the Lord says to wait until harvest time when all will be revealed.
If we, in our judgmental selves, can find ourselves in the Parable, we don’t need to focus on the wheat and the tares; rather, we need to see ourselves in the judgmental servants who were so trusting of their senses that they believed they could see and adequately distinguish the wheat from the tares. But our Lord could see better than they, for He knew that for some “wheat” crops, the time was not yet ripe for them to be seen for who they truly are. The servants were short-sighted, and we believers are today. Instead of relying on the end to reveal all, how many of us spend our time talking about who’s “in” and who’s “out,” who’s “saved” and who’s “unsaved”? So many Christians are judgmental in this fashion. We think that because someone comes to church, he or she is “saved” while someone who works Sundays and doesn’t show his or her face in three years is “unsaved.” And yet, the end will surprise all of us, for Scripture says that the righteous will “scarcely be saved” (1 Peter 4:17-18), a phrase that should scare us all. In the end, a room of 1000 righteous people may only yield 250 as “wheat” crops while the other 750 will be “tares.” In our zeal to be self-righteous and judge others, we may just awake to find that we, like those of Matthew 7:21-23, have called Jesus “Lord, Lord” but have not done the things He commanded us to do. In our desire to determine who’s fit and who’s not, we may find that we ourselves have been, to use Paul’s word in 1 Corinthians 9:23, “disqualified” from the heavenly race. While we are judging others, we should be judging ourselves first. Let us not be so perceptive of the “mote” and “beam” in someone else’s eye while overlooking the “log” that is in our own.
In the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, we see not only the short-sightedness of man and the omniscience of God (who is greater than ourselves), but also the heartbeat of God: He wants none to be lost, but all to come to repentance. He doesn’t want any of the tares to remain tares, but desires that they be transformed into “wheat” and become sons of the kingdom. He desires that the wicked turn to Him, repent of their sins, and be saved from the wrath that is coming upon the world. In other words, He wants the tares to become wheat, so He has delayed His coming to give the sons of Satan more time to repent — and the sons of the kingdom more time to also work through their own sin struggles and lifestyle inconsistencies. Peter says it best:
Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), 2 that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, 3 knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” 5 For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, 6 by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 7 But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
8 But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:1-9)
Calvinist James White says in his debates that 2 Peter 3:9 is talking about the believers in Peter’s letter: God doesn’t want any of the believers lost. But he has yet to realize that such a statement works against him and Calvinism. If God doesn’t want any of the believers to be lost, then that implies that believers can be lost — which means that apostasy or falling away is a genuine doctrine of the faith and not a matter of bad biblical interpretation. If believers can be lost, then that means that, like Matthew 7:21-23, some Christians will get to the end and call Jesus Lord while they have done nothing Christ commanded. To bring it back to the Parable of the Wheat and Tares, some of the tares, as Jesus implies, will be “wheat” in the end, but some of the “wheat” will ultimately be “tares” (a tragic thought, no doubt).
The end will certainly surprise us because there will be tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, murderers, adulterers, thieves, swindlers, and even LGBT persons who will end up in the kingdom of God. Some of us heterosexuals who have never drank, smoked, slept around, committed perjury, have abstained from sexual relations outside of marriage, have never taken God’s name in vain, have given our money to charity and paid our tithes regularly, attended church at every possible event, etc., and are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, will find ourselves “on the outside looking in.” We will be the ones standing outside the gate or the door, knocking and saying, “Lord, Lord, open unto us.”
It is a chilling thought, but it should be. We should understand that our estimation of ourselves and where we stand with God, and the divine perspective on where we stand with God, are two different evaluations: one is human, the other is divine. And in the end, the divine evaluation is all that matters. No matter how many humans think the better of us and beg and plead with Jesus to “open the gate and let them in,” Jesus is the one who determines who makes it in and who doesn’t.
And since He is the determiner of who makes it and who doesn’t, the divine perspective is the only one that matters, to be honest. What I think of you, what you think of me, and what you and I think of other church members and Christians is irrelevant because, when they stand before God, our word won’t help or harm them, either way. Our word means nothing now, and it will mean even less than nothing on the Day of Judgment. Only God will have the very last say-so. With that said, it is our job to point people to Jesus and tell them to please Him if they want access to His Heaven and eternity with Him. It is HIS job to judge, not ours. It is HIS job to determine if they’re headed to Heaven or Hell, not ours. It is His job to say “yay” or “nay,” not ours. He hasn’t given us the power to decide the eternal fate of any soul. What He has called us to do is to go into the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15), to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).
The same God that didn’t want the servants to judge is the same God that doesn’t want us to judge. Let us not be so presumptuous as to think we have “the inside track” on “Who’s Who In Heaven” and “Who’s Who In Hell.” We are called to evangelize, to be a witness, to testify of what Christ has done. In a court of law, the witness doesn’t get to be the judge; he or she is only the witness, and the judge is the one who makes the ruling. That’s how it will be at the end of time: Christ will be the judge calling the shots, and our witness will either work for us or against us at judgment. And if we take the time we have on earth to call men and women to Christ, all while working on ourselves, getting our lives straight, examining ourselves to see if we’re in the faith, making our preparations to meet the Lord so that we don’t end up in the same situation as the five foolish virgins, we won’t have time to play judge and jury. The judgment you mete out to others will be your own judgment. We want God to grant us grace in the end despite what we have done; His grace plays no favorites. As He gives grace to us, He will give that same grace to others. Let’s live a life reliant on His grace instead of casting judgment and throwing stones.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 NKJV
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
“Stay Connected” by Jackie McCullough
“I Shall Not Be Moved” by Rev. F.C. Barnes
“I Shall Not Be Moved” by Colorado Mass Choir
“Put Oil In Your Vessel” by Debra Snipes
“Some Day” (Slim & The Supreme Angels)