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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » John Bradshaw » John Bradshaw - Lessons for All Time: The Wheat and the Tares

John Bradshaw - Lessons for All Time: The Wheat and the Tares

John Bradshaw - Lessons for All Time; The Wheat and the Tares
John Bradshaw - Lessons for All Time; The Wheat and the Tares
TOPICS: Parables of Jesus

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. In his book "Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking," author Malcolm Gladwell shares a fascinating story. In 1985, the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles spent $10 million buying a kouros, a Greek statue of a young man. Of course, before you spend $10 million on a piece of art, you want to make sure you're not buying a fake. And so the Getty had a team of scientists and lawyers check out the statue. They said they believed the statue was real. It was an original. After buying it, the Getty then showed it to art experts and historians, and one of them immediately said, "It's a fake".

One group of experts were so convinced, they okayed the museum to spend $10 million. In 2018, that's the equivalent of almost $25 million. And it turned out to be a phoney. How does a museum and its team of experts get taken by a fake? Well, it's not always easy to tell something fake from something genuine. It's one thing to misread a work of art, but there are times that people turned out to be other than what they claimed. Hannah Snell was an English woman in the 18th century who faked that she was a man so that she could become a soldier. She served three years in the military without anyone ever discovering that she was a woman and not a man. Women faked being men on occasion to fight in the American Civil War.

In the late 1980s, a German music producer named Frank Farian put together a new pop band. He hired two dancers named Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan to front the band. Rob and Fab looked like pop stars, and the band, Milli Vanilli, sold millions of records. In 1980 they won the Grammy award for Best New Artist. Rob and Fab, however, didn't sing on any of the band's recordings. They didn't even sing at the Grammy awards. They mimed everything, while other musicians did the real work in the studio. Milli Vanilli was not Milli Vanilli. It was one of the most notorious cases of lip-syncing in pop music history. So why is it that nobody noticed? Simple answer: it's just not that easy. Sometimes it's hard to know who's fake and who's genuine, or what's fake and what's genuine. Jesus spoke to this in the parable of the wheat and the tares. We look at this today as part of our ongoing series, "Lessons for All Time".

Let's take our Bibles, let's look at the parable. It's found in Matthew, chapter 13, and the parable begins in verse 24: "Another parable He put forth to them, saying: 'The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 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"? He said to them, "An enemy has done this". The servants said to him, "Do you want us to go and gather them up"? But he said, "No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the 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.'"'"

Now, this is something that used to happen in Jesus' day. Someone would have a field of wheat growing, and an enemy, wanting to cause problems, might sneak in a spread the seed of weeds. The weeds would grow and choke the good seed and cause all kinds of problems for the landowner. It's thought that the tare, or the weed, mentioned in this parable is darnel, lolium temulentum, sometimes referred to as "false wheat," which can be fatal if it's eaten. So let's take a look at the story, this parable. And remember what a parable is: it's a short story used to teach a moral or religious lesson. Not everything in a parable has a parallel or a meaning. But many of the details of a parable are shared so that they might convey some important spiritual truth.

Now, what are the spiritual truths that Jesus is teaching in this parable? Now, keep in mind, earlier in Matthew, chapter 13, there's another parable dealing with seed. It's the parable of the sower who went forth to sow. Here, the kingdom of God, now, that's the kingdom of divine grace on earth; you could call it God's work of salvation on behalf of humanity. The kingdom of God is compared to a man who sowed seed. In that parable, the seed fell on four different types of ground: first the wayside, then on stony ground, then there was some seed that was choked by thorns, and then there was the good ground, where the seed flourished.

Now, in the parable of the wheat and the tares, the seed is compromised by weeds that threaten it in a variety of ways. Let's look at it now. We read that a man sowed good seed in his field. So do we know who that is? Well, we do know who that is, because this is one of those very helpful parables where Jesus explains what the various things mean. His disciples come to Him in verse 36 and they say, "...explain to us the parable of the tares of the field". And so He told them that He is the sower. He went on to say, "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 enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels." That's Matthew 13:38 and 39.

Now, this is a lesson in which Jesus talks about an attack by an enemy, where Satan introduces into the church people who are not converted. Then Jesus points to the end of the age when angels will separate the true followers of God from, from the pretenders, from the Milli Vanilli Christians. So Jesus says this: here's the reality. I sow good seed, but the enemy comes and sows weeds in my field. And the challenge is, when the wheat appears, and then the tares grow among the wheat, you can't necessarily tell the two apart very easily.

Now, this is a commentary on what we experience in church. Have you ever noticed that? In the church you get the good Christians, and then the hypocrites, those who aren't really genuine believers. Here's what's interesting; let me ask you a question. Which one are you? Now, must of us are going to say, "I'm the real thing". We might humbly suggest that, well, we do have our faults, and well, we could do better, but we like to think that we are wheat, while the other ones, some of them at least, are tares. Natural enough, I guess. And what does Jesus say here? Someone says, "Let us pull up the tares so they don't damage the wheat," which seems like a good idea. If there are phonies there, why not uproot them and get rid of them? But there's more to the story, much more. I'll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, the servants of a wheat farmer tell him that there are weeds growing in his wheat field. They suggest pulling them up. He says, "No, don't do that, because if you attempt to pull up the tares you'll likely pull up wheat with it". And that's a real thing. This man knew that just as it isn't easy to tell the difference between wheat and weeds, especially darnel, which is indistinguishable from wheat when it's young, it isn't always easy to tell the difference between a genuine believer in God and someone who is not genuine. And it's true that there's plenty that goes on in Christianity that doesn't represent the principles of Christ.

A number of media outlets reported that a church meeting in Macon, Georgia, being held to discuss the pastor's future, got way out of control. As people were preparing to vote at the meeting, voices were raised; people were pushed; chairs were toppled; punches were thrown. It was pandemonium, even though there were sheriff's deputies there at the meeting. Bad behavior in church? Yes, unfortunately, it happens. A church treasurer stole $415,000 from a church in Knoxville, Tennessee. A pastor and his wife in Alexandria, Virginia, were convicted of operating a $2 million fraud scheme which allegedly bilked business investors and church members. And we're not surprised when those who profess Christ act as though they don't possess Christ. For one thing, people are faulty.

Now, it ought to be remembered that God isn't faulty. Jude, verse 24, says that God "is able to keep you from falling". But if we allow ourselves to drift, if we fail to maintain a real connection with God, in a moment of weakness or temptation, if we don't turn to God, or if we run from God, we're going to get people, even church members, people who know better, making poor choices. In the Bible, you've got Ananias and Sapphira lying about a pledge they made to God, stealing from God. Malachi wrote about people who robbed God by failing to return tithes and offerings. Simon Magus tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts, chapter 8. Judas was a disciple of Jesus who ultimately betrayed Jesus, while even Peter denied his Lord and Savior.

So there's no shortage of faulty believers. So why is Jesus saying, "Don't try to pull up the tares, because you'll likely pull up some of the wheat along with it"? Well, for one thing, it is biblical to take a stand against sin, where there's open sin, open rebellion against God in the church, it's sometimes appropriate, in fact, you could say often appropriate, to take action against the sinner. That's true. But here, Jesus is saying that in many cases you can't really tell who's who, who's genuine and who's not. And the danger is that if you try to play God, try to decide who the real Christians are, you could end up doing some real lasting damage. Often happens. Often what people need is to be helped up, rather than helped out.

A person has a problem with pride, or has some type of substance issue, or maybe just doesn't appear to be as Christian as some other people wish. You know, the person on the fringes, maybe one who's inconsistent in coming to church. Too often there's somebody looking down their nose at that person, ready to declare that that person isn't as good a Christian as he or she should be. A little like the parable of the two men praying in the temple. One recites his virtues as he sees them, and he thanks God that he's not like the other guy. The other one, a publican, a tax collector, simply prays and says, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner". That's Luke 18:13. And then Jesus says, in the next verse, "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other".

It seems sometimes that there's no shortage of judgmental people in the church, and that's not what you characterize the church. It should be that people feel safe in the church. Church should be a place where people can, can grow. If Jesus came into the world to save sinners, sinners ought to be welcome in church. You know, the Bible talks about a woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons. Imagine if Jesus gave up on her to begin with. One woman was taken in adultery and brought to Jesus, and there were men there ready to stone her. But Jesus says in John 8 and verse 11, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more".

You know, one of the wonderful things about God is that God is not in a hurry to condemn. I think that's the complete opposite of the picture that many people have of God. That's what God is really like. Psalm 103, verse 8, says, "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy". In one psalm alone, Psalm 136, it says, "His mercy endures forever," twenty-six times. And that ought to tell us something. Now, that's not to say that God is all mercy and no judgment. The parable ends with some serious judgment. But God is saying, "You humans can't always tell who is genuine and who isn't. So don't try to. Leave the judging with Me". And that is really good advice.

A friend of mine tells the story of going to a revival meeting when he was young, looking rough, and people thought, as he found out later, there was no way in the world somebody like him could ever become a Christian. And, of course, he did. He became a minister of the gospel, showing again that people only know so much about what's really going on inside somebody's heart. The time I showed up in church for the first time, you would not have thought I was going to stay. I looked like somebody who was lost and had only stepped inside the church to shelter from the cold. But you know what happened? No one judged me. No one quizzed me. There was no 20 questions. No one made me feel unwelcome. Instead, I was loved into the church, and loved into the arms of God.

Remember that kouros that Getty purchased in the 1980s? Ten million dollars at the time, and the best judgment of a group of experts was that it was original. Genuine. When in actuality it was a fake. Jesus says, "let both grow together until the harvest". Don't waste your time trying to determine what's going in someone's heart. And keep this in mind: there are probably a lot of people in the church that you and I think are model Christians, but, perhaps underneath, that's not the case. My expectation is that you had met the pastor of that little church in Irvington, Indiana, you'd have thought he was a fine man. And even if you didn't, I doubt that you'd have suspected him of being the kingpin of a multi-million-dollar synthetic drug ring that manufactured ten tons of drugs. We can't tell. In trying to do so, we do a lot of damage.

Now, again, there are times that the church has to take a stand about various things. Your treasurer embezzles $415,000, that's one thing. But trying to figure out who's genuine and who's not, who belongs, who should be cast out? I'll tell you this: if the congregation is doing the work that God has given them to do, ministering in the community, making a difference in people's lives, sharing Jesus with others, sharing the gospel, if the congregation is doing those things, there won't be time for judging. People who are doing God's work typically don't waste their time being small-minded.

So does that mean there'll be less than perfect people in the church? Well, if you're in the church, you already know that there are less-than-perfect people in the church, because you are in it. But what the parable tells us is that beyond the imperfect, "growing slowly but surely" people in church, Satan loves to crowd unconverted people into the church, because it makes the church look bad. It reflects negatively on Christ, causes people to say, "If that's what Christians are like, then I don't want to be one". That's too bad. Of course, there's some weakness in that thinking. In fact, there's considerable weakness in that thinking. I'll share more in just a moment.

Thanks for joining me today on It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. In the parable of the wheat and the tares, an enemy plants weeds in a man's wheat field. And because you can't tell the difference between wheat and darnel, the field owner can't weed out the tares without jeopardizing the actual wheat. There's a danger that in pulling up the weeds, you'll pull up a good amount of the wheat. And I think it's important we notice something here. Jesus isn't saying that the weeds can't be dealt with. He's simply saying there's a wrong time and a right time. He says He will leave it to angels to finally separate the genuine from the phony. But I'll tell you this: it's important to notice that Jesus is very clear when He says the wheat and the tares will definitely be separated.

Now, notice what Jesus said. Jesus said this in Matthew, chapter 13. He said, "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.'" That's Matthew 13, verse 30. This is where it gets serious. Notice this: while Jesus says we shouldn't judge, while we shouldn't try to do the work of the Holy Spirit and decide who's a true Christian and who's not, He tells us just as plainly that there's coming a time of separation, a time of gathering as well. There's coming a time when there will be no more opportunity to repent. The tares will be tares, and that's that.

You know, the gospel's so wonderful. You can be the worst sinner, and God is willing to forgive you. More than willing. God really wants to forgive you. God wants to see you come to Him in faith. Jesus said in Luke 19 and verse 10, "For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost". Isn't that outstanding? And so what does God do? He calls you; He reveals His love to you; He blesses you. He says, "If you're carrying guilt, shame, sin, if you're carrying condemnation, give it to Me". God says, "Jesus died for you". God tells you that He wants you to be saved. But that separation-it's final. Today we can repent. Tomorrow might well be too late. One of those tomorrows, one soon tomorrow, I believe, it's going to be too late for everyone.

In Revelation chapter 22, verses 11 and 12, Jesus put it this way: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And, behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be". Now, that's not a fear thing. That's just reality. One day there's going to be a harvest, spiritually speaking. Today, the lost have the opportunity to repent. On that day, they won't.

So let me ask you, how is it with you? You know what the devil does. You know, there are tons of people in the world today who are living entirely without reference to God. Not necessarily bad people; they're just not saved people. They're just busy with life, with work, with sport, with doing their own thing. Culturally they were never Christians, and they just never found a reason to be. But then there's another group of people who know something about God. They're not willing to let God into their heart. They might pray occasionally; they might agree that the Bible, might even tell you the Bible is a good book. They might even say God's book. They might go to church. And then, or even often, they might go to church but they've not surrendered their lives to Jesus. Is that you? If you haven't, when will you do so?

Friend, God loves you. More than anything, God wants you to be saved, to be with Him forever. There'll be a harvest one day. The lost, lost forever. What's going to happen is this: between now and the return of Jesus, the world is going to plunge deeper and deeper and deeper into dysfunction. And that separation between right and wrong is going to become more pronounced. There'll be a shifting. Where are you being shifting? The good news is that the wheat is going to be gathered into His barn, Jesus said.

One day soon, we'll be safe from sin. One day soon we'll be out of the reach of temptation. One day soon we'll be in a place with no rejection or marginalization or mistreatment or injustice or indignity. One day soon, the wheat will be with Jesus. The saved will be with Jesus. One day soon. You choose Jesus today, and you can believe that you'll be with Him then. Be with Him now, and you'll be with Him forever. What does Jesus tell us in this parable? Don't do His work of judging. Don't worry about that. God will take care of that. But He will take care of that. One day, finally, sinners and saints will be separated. You'll be either on one side or the other.

What side are you on? Can we settle it? Jesus is on the side of the saved. Jesus is with the redeemed. Jesus is on the side of eternity. And Jesus is on your side. That's why He came from heaven to earth. He came for you, to call you, to reach out to you, to show you in His life what God was like to convince you that He'd taken care of your sins, and to invite you to choose Him, to team up with Him, to welcome Him into your heart. Can you do that now? One day this world ends. One day Jesus comes back. One day there's no tomorrow. On that day, you can be safe with Jesus, by being safe with Jesus now.

Our Father in Heaven, we thank You that one day You're going to gather all those that are Yours, and nevermore will they be touched by sin or temptation or trial or discouragement. And so we want to choose Jesus today, so we can know now that we are Yours, You are ours, and we can know that throughout eternity we'll be with You where You are. For now we are in this world, this world tainted by sin. In the parable, Jesus taught us an enemy has done this. The reason for sin in the world is the enemy has done it. The reason for people who are separated from You, an enemy has done it. The reason for sin and death and sickness and sadness, an enemy has done it. You present us with a choice between the enemy and You, the one who loves this world immeasurably.

Friend, could you choose Jesus now? Would you do that? Will you say in your heart, or even out loud, wherever you are:

Jesus, I choose You as my Lord and Savior. I want You in my heart. Live Your life in me.

That's our prayer, friend, and as we pray it, know that you are a child of God. God wants you to grow with Him forever and ever.

We thank You, Father. We trust in You, we believe in You, and we give our lives to You again. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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