Today’s Reading: Matthew 12:22-37, 13:24-30, 36-43, 47-52; Mark 3:20-30; Luke 8:1-3, 11:14-23
“A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad…For whatever is in your heart determines what you say. A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.” – Matthew 12:33-35
Good and evil. Jesus spoke of these two opposites many times, often in the context of judgment – judging what is evil and what is good, dividing the two and separating them into two distinct places, heaven and hell. The disciples asked Jesus a question that we often hear in different forms today, including in the 2014 movie “God’s Not Dead” – Why does God allow evil to continue to impact the world leaving behind a trail of hurt, pain, sickness, and death?
Here is another story Jesus told: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.
The farmer’s workers went to him and said, ‘Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’
‘An enemy has done this!’ the farmer exclaimed.
‘Should we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
‘No,’ he replied, ‘you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’” – Matthew 13:24-30
God has not wiped evil off the face of the earth because He is not willing that any should perish. There are many who have yet to accept the gift of salvation and God is patiently beckoning them to Himself. God loves His children and desires for their destiny to be heaven and not hell, but He gives them free will – the choice between good and evil, between serving Him or serving themselves.
Peter understood what Jesus was teaching. Later he wrote: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
God does not want anyone to be destroyed, or to perish. We do not like to talk about hell. It’s uncomfortable. We have softened our talk on hell enough that there are many who doubt its reality. But Jesus did not back down from speaking about the judgment day or the harvest when good and evil will be separated. The reality of this coming separation should not quiet our discussion, instead we should be busy planting seeds and spreading the gospel in order to save others from being “thrown into the fire.”
His disciples said, “Please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field.”
Jesus replied, “The Son of Man is the farmer who plants the good seed. The field is the world, and the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom. The weeds are the people who belong to the evil one. The enemy who planted the weeds among the wheat is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world, and the harvesters are the angels.
“Just as the weeds are sorted out and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will remove from his Kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. And the angels will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” – Matthew 13:36b-43
“Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of every kind. When the net was full, they dragged it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw the bad ones away. That is the way it will be at the end of the world. The angels will come and separate the wicked people from the righteous, throwing the wicked into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Do you understand all these things?” – Matt. 13:47-51
In the meantime, we live in an imperfect world where evil and good coexist. In the meantime, we have a choice to either be influenced by the evil around us or to cling to the good. In the meantime, we have a responsibility to overcome evil and spread the good news to those around us.
“Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” – Matthew 12:30
Father God, as we see the farmers out in the fields, remind us of our calling. Help us to see that there are those around us who need us to reach out and save them from the influence of this world. Let us not become so comfortable in our own salvation that we are no longer uncomfortable with the knowledge that others are without salvation. As we see spring turning into summer, flowers blooming and crops growing, remind us that you, God, can make great change in the lives of the unsaved around us, just as you are transforming our lives. Amen.