Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matthew 13:37-38a He replied: “The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed – these are the sons of the kingdom.”
Don’t miss the missions theme here. The seed, in the parable of the sower (13:19), was the word, but in the parable of the wheat and weeds, the seed refers to people, to you and me, believers God scatters throughout the world to influence it.
Our Master said lost sheep are scattered. Thus, to find them, we believers by definition have to scatter. The early church began a wave of huge effectiveness when, after the stoning of Stephen, persecution forced them to scatter (AC 8:1). God wants all to hear of Jesus. We believers should want to satisfy His longing.
We are to be winsome, to woo the lost, to let Jesus’ attracting beauty shine through us. Spend more time kindly sowing wheat than harshly hoeing weeds.
Let’s give ourselves to the good work of influencing the lost. In an offering taken for foreign missions, a young man wrote on a piece of paper and dropped it in the collection plate. The note said, “Myself, John Lewis Shuck.” He did not have money, but what he had, he gave. John Shuck became the first medical missionary to China. Are we willing to put our name on a piece of paper, to say, “Lord, cast us as seeds out in the barren field. Make us productive for You”?
Matthew 13:38b-41 (Holman) “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Therefore just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness.”
The parable of wheat and weeds had helped the Twelve know there would be an interim time between two comings by Messiah. Jesus, when interpreting the parable, dwelt mainly on Messiah’s last coming, the end, the great consummation.
Jesus wanted His disciples to avoid two extremes in their thinking about the end. They were not to expect it right away, but were also not to let the unexpected interim period discourage them, and cause them to think the end wouldn’t happen.
Make no mistake. Have no doubt. However strong and far-flung evil may grow, Jesus will prevail in the end. Jesus was claiming deity for Himself here. Commanding angels is God’s prerogative. Jesus will prove His divine dominion over evil forces when at the end He deals with the weeds by disposing of them.
Matthew 13:42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
These hard words remind us, we need to ask ourselves, will we believe not only His promises, but also His warnings, even if it is highly unpopular to do so?
Many find it hard to reconcile “God is love” with God letting people be tormented in an unquenchable lake of fire day and night forever and ever (MK 9:43; RV 20:10). We must approach this topic humbly, carefully, and gently.
It’s not our place to seek to be more caring than Jesus was. Universalism, for example, defines Christ’s mercy much more sentimentally than the Bible does.
It’s not our place to seek to be harsher than Jesus was. Any preacher who enjoys preaching about Hell should be denied a pulpit. The subject carries its own sadness and horror. We don’t have to try to generate more sorrow and fear.
We are to convey Jesus’ words as well as His emotions about Hell. Jesus, the most compassionate Person ever, the all-knowing One, spoke more of Hell than of Heaven. Thus we too have to speak about it. We also must do it lovingly.
Jesus graciously warned of a place of no companionship and no pleasure, a place where the extreme pain of fire produces anguish past imagination, a place so excruciating that its inhabitants weep and grind their teeth in despair and rage.
Jesus spoke of weeping and gnashing of teeth seven times (MT 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30; Luke 13:28). These and other Scripture verses on perdition are too numerous to ignore. It is impossible to claim to believe the Bible without believing in everlasting retribution. Several thoughts might help us here.
One, USA Americans in general are more prone to accept the idea of Hell than we sometimes think. Hitler haunts our psyche. The very moment we begin to think we can discard notions of retribution due to their being overly harsh, we think of Hitler and others of his ilk. They make it hard not to believe in Hell.
Two, stay close to the precise words Scripture uses. Don’t wax eloquent or be profound on the subject. A lady who had dreamed of hearing Spurgeon preach traveled to London to attend his church. When asked what she thought of the Prince of Preachers, she said she was disappointed because she understood every word he said. Hurray for Spurgeon. State plain truth plainly, without verbosity.
Three, don’t try to invent truth. Convey it. We are not originators of truth. It already exists. We merely explain it. Christianity is not a “make it up as you go” religion. Scriptural truth is non-negotiable. On any issue Jesus or the Bible speak clearly to, truth is to be discovered and accepted, not created or debated.
Four, Hell is not a one-size-fits-all place. Jesus clearly taught there are gradations of punishment in Hell. He told the religious leaders they would receive greater condemnation than others. Those who reject less light will suffer less.
Five, God will be fair. His decisions are always right and just. He who sent His only Son into the world to die for sinners will do right by sinners. In the end, when all the dust settles, no one will be able to accuse God of having been unfair.
Six, Hell is not the only option. According to the next verse, we have a different, and far better, choice.
Matthew 13:43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen.
If you have ears, pay attention! Listen up! There is a Heaven to be enjoyed. In the end, believers will shine like the sun, the most intense radiance the ancients could conceive. They talked of the moon as being beautiful, and spoke of the sun as being powerful, majestic, supreme. Our Master said we who follow Him, though we are far from perfect now, will someday shine like the sun.
In fact, our glory shall outdo the sun’s. Someday even our mighty sun will be eclipsed, it will fade and fall from the sky, but all who know Jesus will shine in the kingdom forever and ever, and will never set. I rejoice in knowing a day will come when we will never again hurt Jesus, but shall perfectly reflect His glory.