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Tares, Birds, Leaven, and the Church Mt. 13:24 - 35

September 27, 2015 Speaker: Jim Galli Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 13:24–13:35

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24Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

31He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”

33He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

34All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable.

35This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES;
I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”

Feeling a little overwhelmed right now. There is so much here, and my fear is to not do these important truths justice.

Last week and the week before we introduced a couple of concepts about these parables.

They resulted from Jesus changing course after the leaders in Israel accused Him of having a connection with Satan. He does His tricks because Satan is the power source.

That marked a turning point. The offer of the Kingdom to Israel is suspended. Jesus turns to the nations, and these parables are describing an age where the good news of the Kingdom will go beyond Israel, to the church.

You'll recall that we said the church age was a mystery. Never before revealed truth. No one saw this coming. Thus Saint Matthew takes us to an obscure Psalm of Asaph to describe what is unfolding;

35This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
“I WILL OPEN MY MOUTH IN PARABLES;
I WILL UTTER THINGS HIDDEN SINCE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD.”

The church age, hidden since the foundation of the world, now being revealed in these parables.

We also said that the church age from beginning to end is a strange mix of good and evil.

While Satan remains, the church is never completely pure. There is always this mixture of good and evil together.

Some day, Satan will be deposed. Locked in prison, and all the evil influence will be gone from this world. Christ the Lord will reign and it will be as glorious as Eden. Any remaining evil will be crushed with a rod of iron. Glorious purity and beauty will reign.

But not now. Right now, the world is the realm of Satan and evil. It has pleased God that His church has to somehow exist on Satan's turf. And the result is that Satan is going to do anything and everything to hold back the Kingdom of God.

Persecution is one way. But corruption from the inside out is far more damaging. And that's what we're viewing in these 3 parables.

Now, let's talk philosophy and strategy for just a moment. From Satan's perspective.

God has instituted His Kingdom, His authority to reign, in Satan's world, and the final words of the Lord's prayer come into play, whether Satan likes it or not.

The church is an invasion into Satan's kingdom. An enclave of people who have come out of Satan's rule and crossed over to be under God's direct sovereign rule in their lives. That's a direct threat to Satan, and he hates it!

In that situation, think again of the final lines of the Lord's prayer that He gave to His disciples in the sermon on the mount. The words become alive in this context of Satan chafing under God setting up a Kingdom of His rule right in the middle of Satan's real estate.

. . . and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. In other words, the prayer is for intervention. Deliver us from what Satan would like to do to us. Keep us safe, somehow, as we camp right in the middle of Satan's territory.

How's He going to accomplish that? This is where Satan dwells. Earth is held by an evil tenant. Satan does have some sovereignty here. But, then comes these final words; We can pray that prayer because we stand on this final truth; for, or because, Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the Glory forever, Amen.

Satan is the tenant ruler of this world, but God has him on a tight leash. Like the waves of the sea, he can go thus far and then the gates are barred. Do you remember the text about the sea in Job. It becomes a picture of Satan, and his limits.

Job 38:9 When I made a cloud its garment And thick darkness its swaddling band, 10And I placed boundaries on it And set a bolt and doors, 11And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop '?

That's what the Almighty says to Satan. Thus far shall you come, but no farther.

God will plant His Kingdom, His authority to reign in this world, and it's going to encompass the church, but for purposes of His Glory, He is going to allow Satan to make trouble for it. But, there will be limits.

And that explains these 3 parables. Satanic influence, inside the very walls of God's kingdom. How does he do that? Back to our discussion of philosophy and strategy.

In modern science, we have a better understanding of something that until 200 years ago was simply called consumption. We call it cancer. And how cancer works is, it takes over a cell or cells, corrupts the information, and reproduces itself until finally deadness overtakes life.

That's our picture. That's the picture in these 3 parables. God puts His kingdom in this world, but He allows Satan access against it. We don't get to ask why. Somehow, God is glorified in this, ultimately. He gives us everything we need in this book to combat the cancer. He limits the cancer when we pray. We have every provision needed to be healthy and happy, at our disposal. His Book, and prayer. X2

So, Satan has different ways to attack, but one of the main ones is to take advantage of the religious vacuum that men are born with. We are born into a fallen sinful world, but we have built into us a need to worship. That is something we're created with. It's there. A cavity that needs to be filled.

Now, think about what I'm going to say next.

There are only 2 religions in this world. The religion of human achievement, and the religion of Divine Accomplishment.

Human achievement in all of it's forms and styles and packages says, I can be good enough to get to God. I can pick myself up by my bootstraps and do enough righteous things that God is going to think I'm really something. He may need to make a 4rth position in the trinity . . . for me. I can work at it until I'm that righteous.

Think about all the other religions out there. Then think about some of them that claim to be connected to Christ. Mormonism. Roman Catholicism. Eastern Orthodox. And a host of christians, so called, in myriads of other churches, so called, that are doing works of righteousness to gain God.

That's the seed that Satan planted. Or at least one of them. There are some other schemes also that I want to include this morning, but this is a major theme for Him. The religion of human achievement. Self righteousness. Works salvation.

See how it fits in this parable.

24Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26“But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

Let me paint this picture for you so that it jumps off the page, if I can.

Wheat and tares. Some of the older translations have darnel. And if you look up darnel in Wikipedia, you get this;

Lolium temulentum, typically known as darnel, poison darnel, darnel ryegrass or cockle, is an annual plant that forms part of the Poaceae family and part of the Lolium genus. The plant stem can grow up to one meter tall, with inflorescence in the ears and purple grain. It has a global distribution.

Darnel usually grows in the same production zones as wheat and is considered a weed. The similarity between these two plants is so great that in some regions, darnel is referred to as "false wheat". It bears a close resemblance to wheat until the ear appears. The spikes of darnel are more slender than those of wheat. The spikelets are oriented edgeways to the rachis and have only a single glume, while those of wheat are oriented with the flat side to the rachis and have two glumes. The wheat will also appear brown when ripe, whereas the darnel is black.

Darnel can be infected by an endophytic fungus of the genus Neotyphodium, and the endophyte-produced, insecticidal loline alkaloids were first isolated from this plant. The French word for darnel is ivraie (from Latin ebriacus, intoxicated), which expresses the drunken nausea from eating the infected plant, which can be fatal. The French name echoes the scientific name, Latin temulentus "drunk."

Only Jesus could come up with a picture so perfect for us. He probably created darnel so He could give us this picture 4,000 years later. Just like He created sheep dumb and helpless so we could understand our relationship to Him.

The stuff is so identical you can't tell the difference until the grains pop out. Even better, it makes you drunk, then it kills you. Only Jesus could devise such a story. But then again, He has the advantage that He created it in the first place.

False religion that looks almost identical to the real thing, it has properties that make it's adherents drunk, reason flees from them, and ultimately, it kills them.

And that's what Satan does. False religion that is so deceptively similar, even the christians are confused by it. Not until the fruit appears can you tell any difference at all. Then judgement day comes and you've got people standing there saying, but Lord, Lord, we did this in your name, and we did that in your name, and He says, Depart from me, I never knew you.

27“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.

Did something this bizarre ever happen? This sounds far fetched. The truth is there are laws on the ancient books against this very act and the penalties associated with it. You hate your neighbor. You want him to go broke and go away. Wreck his crop.

We'll see in Jesus explanation of the tare's that He says the field is the world.

Some expositors are adamant that this is not the church! It's the world. OK, but, it's a picture of the authority of God to reign, the Kingdom of God, in the world. And for our purposes, that's the church. Now the parable itself can span beyond the church. Tribulation saints perhaps, anywhere God's reign breaks in on Satan's turf. But the most logical and easy way to understand this is, it's the church. Good and evil growing together under a big tent (or a big tree if you will) until judgement comes.

Now the reason people don't want this to be the church is because of the verses 28 - 30. The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ 29“But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest;

And good teachers will say, if you make this the church, then you have to jettison church discipline, church purity, etc etc etc.

No, no, no,no. I don't see it that way. The picture is good enough that we can see that what we have here is not black and white. It's shades of gray.

The church is to battle against black and white issues. It is to keep itself pure. Jude says we earnestly contend for the "once for all delivered to the saints" faith. We fight for purity in the church. Days are coming where we may have to put our money where our mouth is.

But in this picture Jesus gives us, where there are 256 shades of gray and no. 234 is a christian, and no. 235 is not, we're out of our realm. We can't shave that fine. And when the church has made that error, there has been negative consequences.

Think about the church at Ephesus. Begun by Paul and Timothy. Very likely grown to maturity by Apollos. Then it was where the apostle John made his home. And with all of that rock star benefit of great leadership, they were resolved to never ever ever let any evil in. But look what happened to them.

Rev. 2:1- 7 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

2‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; 3and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. 4‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. 6‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.

It's OK to hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Jesus hates them too. It's OK to put the false apostles out. It's not OK to go so far you lose your love. This is a delicate line.

I've been doing this less than a year and a half, and already I've heard from some that I'm too lax and others that I'm too lean. We don't want to pull up the christians by the roots while we're expelling the pretend christians. There's a possibility they might look identical. One has the Spirit of God living inside him, the other does not. I'm not the Holy Spirit inspector. I'm going to leave that alone.

In 1st Corinthians 13 Paul says love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. For the sake of love we let the tares grow along with the wheat. You can't run the church like the Spanish Inquisition. Love suffers when you get too close to that line. Who's in, who's out.

Now black and white issues, we're going to get vocal. And if I catch the guy throwing the false gospel seed, I'm going to be all over him.

and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

God's going to send His angels to do the harvest. His holy ones.

Let's talk for a minute about the bad seed that the enemy broadcast all over the Lord's field. We can follow it even before the new testament writers were finished in the first century.

In Acts, things are so hopeful. Paul sounds the first alarm even before we're out of Acts though.

Acts 20:28 - 32 “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31“Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul is barely out of town before the wolves start in on the flock. False teachers. False doctrine. Doctrine that stops short of the free gift of the precious blood of Jesus. Stops short, or adds to it. Either one is deadly.

Then you start reading the epistles and you find out the judaizers were dogging Pauls steps. Following him everywhere he went. Spoiling the good seed with bad seed. Jesus is OK, but there's more to it. He's not enough. You have to supply good works to your faith. Faith is OK but it takes faith plus works to get to heaven. That's what the Catholic church teaches today.

They were telling the gentile christians you have to convert to judaism. Be circumcised. Follow the jewish law to the letter. Then add Jesus to all of that. Darnel.

By the time you get to the final books of the New Testament, there is a lot of concern by Peter and Jude and John the apostle, about false teachers. The main theme of II Peter and Jude is false teachers. Most of Pauls epistles are dealing with correcting problems brought in by false teachers.

Listen to Paul rip into the Galatians after they started buying into the bad seed stuff. Gal. 3:1 - 2 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?…

You go after the false teachers. You go after the bad doctrine. You warn the flock about the bad stuff and do your best to teach them the good stuff. But you stop short of pulling up the tares. They look too much like the wheat. You could get it wrong.

Besides, maybe God will be gracious and the tares will sit under good teaching long enough to realize, hey, I'm incomplete. I need the Holy Spirit of God living within me. I think that happens some times.

False teachers, false doctrine, and the result, people who believe they are in the kingdom when they aren't have dogged the church down through the centuries. From the first century until now, this parable describes the church.

Sometimes it gets so you can barely see the true church at all in the midst of the tares.

Listen to the next 2 parables in this context.

31He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”

Do you realize if the boat that the 12 disciples and Jesus were in when the mega storm came and was capsizing it, if that boat had sunk, the entire kingdom of God on earth was over.

That's how tiny the beginnings are. 12 men and Jesus. Against Satan's world.

Now we have to stop here and waste time for a minute because the people who want to claim the Bible is full of errors will go here and say, SEE, Jesus either doesn't know what He's talking about, or worse, He does and modifies the truth to fit his ignorant audience. Lose, lose. Mustard seed is not the smallest seed. Jesus is wrong.

So, I guess Jesus could have said, 'listen up while I give you a geography lesson. There's a place a thousand miles away called the rain forest, and there are orchids there with seeds smaller than dust particles, but . . . '

Now listen; In the context of the Holy Land, in the subcontext of farmers who have seed bags and broadcast seed, see it there; which a man took and sowed in his field; in that context, which is what they would have understood Him to be talking about, the mustard seed is by far the tiniest seed that a middle eastern horticulturalist sowing crops would have ever had to deal with. By far.

And they did. Mustard was a common crop for them. They used it medicinally and also as an herb.

In that part of the world, black mustard, if it was in a spot where it got water, and people left it alone, it could grow 10+ feet in height and spread out quite a large canopy. There are images on google if you're interested.

Jesus point is simple. Tiny beginnings. Large results. So big the birds can build nests in it.

The term the birds of the air, and the idea of those birds nesting within a host tree appears many times in the old testement. In every case the tree is a great kingdom, and the birds are the peoples resting in the branches of the kingdom.

It doesn't always have to represent evil. In Psalm 104 the birds are mentioned because God cares for them. He sustains them. And in the Sermon on the mount, Jesus visits that idea. God feeds the birds in their season. He knows when their spirits leave them and they fall to the earth in death.

But in the context of these parables, Jesus has just said the birds are representative of Satan. His world. The picture of movement in the air. The birds of the air. So contextually it would be a problem here to shift gears and say, these birds are good birds.

So, I think again, the birds represent evil influence. The church has at times gotten so mixed up and comfortable in the world that you couldn't tell the church from the state from the king from the pope. The Holy Roman empire. Church and state all mixed up together. To this day, the popes title is pontifus maximus.

This mustard bush becomes a tree, like the trees of the old testament that are kingdoms. Bigger than a normal mustard bush. Un-naturally large. It becomes a kingdom force in the world. But the problem is, the world, and it's evil, is quite comfortable living in it's shade. Living in it's brances.

The picture is of small beginnings that grow to an ungainly size and the church becomes the host of evil influence. The church married to the world.

33He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

Again we have small beginnings. Three peck measures is what a ranch wife would prepare for a small army of workers to all have some. More than we would prepare in our kitchens for our families. There's poundage. And she puts just a tiny bit of leaven in, and waits. The leaven travels throughout the bread dough until the whole thing fills up with gas pockets and becomes fluffy nice bread.

Leaven in itself isn't always evil. The jews had a wedding ritual where the bride took some of her mother's leaven into her new home. The picture is that the influence of the parents home will be brought into the new family that the marriage has created. All the good things brought into the new family.

But it is a picture of influence that re-creates itself and travels throughout it's host, until that influence is everywhere. It has the same properties as cancer. It travels throughout the host.

Here though, I believe we have an image of evil influence permeating the church until the whole thing is leavened.

That isn't a popular interpretation. But leaven almost always pictures the influence of evil. Beware of the what of the pharisees. leaven. And that leaven was Hypocrisy. Evil influence. Cancer. Paul says, a little leaven, leavens the whole lump of dough. He was talking about evil influence mixed in with the pure.

This is a difficult and unpopular view. An awfully negative view of the church. And yet, if we look at the letters to the seven churches and take the view that those letters are also a cryptic time line for the ages of the church, where does the church wind up in the final letter.

Laodicea. The luke warm church. The church that Jesus spews out of His mouth.

I'm only going to pose the question. Does the church continue to sink into luke warm "moralistic, therapeutic deism" until finally the leaven is finished leavening and God raptures His faithful ones and spews out the rest?

Like a basket of summer fruit you forgot to throw out before you went on a 2 week vacation, and when you get home the stuff is sickening greenish mush that you carry, basket and all, to the garbage can.

I've only been inside a couple of mega churches. But I can read, and what I'm seeing is that in America we have this warehouse mentality now. Mom and pop businesses are over. We want the warehouse. We want to get lost inside there with everything the giant warehouse can offer. Sams club. Costco.

And the idea has carried over with the population explosion into our churches. Mega church 101. And there's a "formula" that they follow to make that happen. They are hip. Hipster church. They are young. They are brash. They are worldly. And the comforts of the world are employed. Get your coffee. If it's nice out, sit on the patio at sidewalk cafe tables and listen to the rock and roll band. The preacher will be done before the coffee is gone. Don't worry about him.

The world is comfortable inside those places. No gospel. No doctrine. No standards. No accountability. No real worship. No prayer.

One final No. When the rapture happens, no ones going up. Business as usual next week. And OH! it is a business. Gazillions of dollars.

Sadly, that's a picture of contemporary christianity in our culture. The church is leavened. The birds are comfy in it's branches. The field is ripe, but the fruit will make you drunk and ultimately kill you.

Now, my world is small. I think there are some healthy places. South Korea is sending out some real missionaries. The global south may have some positive church. That's what I hear.

If you looked at a globe and followed the church in all the regions where Paul planted it, all the way to Rome. Leavened. Dead. Then it traveled throughout Europe, everywhere the Roman empire reached on both sides of the mediteranean sea, up into old Russia and all the way to Persia. All dead.

Then it crossed over to this continent and thrived for a couple of hundred years. Great missionary movements emanating from Scotland and Wales and Britain and the United States. Almost all leavened. Almost all dead. We're watching the final remains crumble before our eyes.

I hear there are still some hot spots on the globe. I don't have any real knowledge. I hope it's true.

What does this rather pessimistic picture I've painted using Jesus parables mean to us this morning?

It means that the church, at the end, is a dangerous place for real christians. It means that it's OK for us to not be mega. We want to study this book and look as much like the church Jesus wrote the letter to at Philadelphia as possible. We want to realize the dangers of false teaching and friendship with this world.

In other words, we want to be an anomaly. Not a normal 2015 American church. An abnormality for today. A first century church.

How do we do that? The same way they did. We get serious about this book. We muscle up with this book so that when the false comes, it's instantly recognizable. Foreign to this book. Foreign to us.

And then we pray. The Lord's prayer that He gave us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. US. This church. In a dangerous world. Full of leaven that wants to creep in. Deliver us from evil. Why? Because; Thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory Forever. Amen.

One final thing we need to do. Look inside your hearts. Is the Holy Spirit dwelling there. Do you have that down payment, the Spirit of God, that says, this person is Mine. This one belongs to Me. I've removed their sins, on the cross, and given them My spirit as a down payment of the Glory that is to come. If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.

The leaven is out there. It wants to come in. Vigilence is required. Spirit filled. Serious about this book. People of prayer.