Big Idea: The Kingdom's a temporary mess.
Purpose: To understand why the Kingdom seems to struggle alongside evil.
Every Thursday night, police and pastors go out on a community walk just north of here. I joined them last Thursday night. We walked through a park just off Dixon Road. The place was packed with kids and families.
As we walked, I saw pictures that looked a little like the Kingdom:
- Police playing basketball with youth
- Kids going up and laughing and asking about all the police gear
- Pastors knowing Somali kids by name
- Smiles exchanged between strangers looking at these strangers going through, wearing police uniforms and clerical collars
It made me realize how much work has gone on in our community already, and what God is up to. You see evidences of the Kingdom wherever you look.
But you also see other things:
- Banana leaves on the ground, discarded from holding khat (a drug)
- Kids that keep their distance and don't make eye contact
- Reports that this is a high-activity area for police enforcement
You have to wonder how the Kingdom can exist side by side with evil. No matter how much the Kingdom advances, it seems that evil always manages to keep up. A lot of the times it looks like evil is ahead.
Why? If the Kingdom is so powerful, why does evil always seem to be neck-and-neck? It's easy to give up, to accept that evil is just as powerful. This leads to discouragement and sometimes even makes you want to quit. At worst, it leads to a crisis of confidence in God.
You need to listen to this, because you and I can get so used to evil and the Kingdom co-existing that we think that's the way it is. We don't even feel the tension any longer because we've given up on the power of the Kingdom.
Jesus told a story about this tension. It's part of the passage we began looking at last week - stories about the Kingdom. When Jesus wanted to teach about the Kingdom, he knew the most powerful way to communicate what the Kingdom is like is to tell stories.
Jesus told them another parable:"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
"The owner's servants came to him and said, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?'
" 'An enemy did this,' he replied.
"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'
" 'No,' he answered, 'because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.'" (Matthew 13:24-30)
Strange story! Think about the story for a minute, assuming that's all you have. What does this mean? The only hint we have to its meaning is"The kingdom of heaven is like..." How is the kingdom like the man who sowed seed and had an enemy plant weeds?
Evidently the listeners didn't get it either. They asked Jesus for an explanation. He gives one in verses 36-43:
- Farmer = Son of Man (Jesus)
- Field = world (not church as is often assumed)
- Good seed = people in the Kingdom (us)
- Weeds = people of the evil one
- Enemy = devil
- Harvest = end of age
- Harvesters = angels
Note: the field belongs to the farmer. Or, the world belongs to Jesus. The world's not a mess because it belongs to the devil. There's got to be another reason.
If the world belongs to Jesus, and he has begun his Kingdom, why is the world such a mess?
1. The Kingdom exists alongside evil (25-26)
This is the tension. Why do bad things happen? Isn't God in control? Why does the Kingdom look like it's in trouble so much of the time? Jesus tells us: there is a devil, and he is still at work. The Kingdom exists alongside evil. God's people live side by side with people who aren't part of the Kingdom. Satan is active.
2. It's hard to know how to react (27-28)
First reaction: bewilderment
Second reaction: Do something!
3. God delays judgment for the sake of those who will believe (29)
There will be a day that God deals with evil - but that day has not come yet.
4. That judgment will separate evil and good (30, 41-43)
This raises the stakes. Even though things look pretty equal right now, the future couldn't be more different when God judges. See the current reality through harvest eyes.
Don't lower your expectations! The Kingdom will outgrow evil. The Kingdom's a mess - but it's a temporary one.
It looks like evil and the Kingdom are in a neck-and-neck race, but the Kingdom will prevail. We are to be patient, and never underestimate the Kingdom of God.
When someone walks through a park and sees evidence of the Kingdom but also evidence that evil is keeping up, remember - the enemy is working overtime as well. But only because God is holding back on judgment so the Kingdom work will continue.
Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)