Sunday, May 22, 2011
The Work of The Enemy
The first key to interpreting and understanding the parables is to realize that they have nothing to do with the church age or the church. Many invalid, mixed up, and even ridiculous interpretations and applications have been proffered by mixing these two entities. The Kingdom of Heaven or Kingdom of God and the Church are not the same. Scriptural references to these two entities should not be mixed either.
The second key to interpreting and understanding the parables is to remember that the Jews have been waiting for the restoration of their Kingdom. God had promised to renew or restore the Kingdom in a much grander way. The disciples have come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah that would establish this promised kingdom.
The mediatorial kingdom of Israel had ended. The exact moment of the ending of the historical kingdom of Israel is still being debated. Ezekiel made this startling statement, "Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown...I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it; and it shall be no more until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him." (Ezekiel 21:26-27)
Some theologians place the ending of the kingdom of God at the time Judah went into the Babylonian captivity. Some theologians place the end of the kingdom at the beginning of the New Testament period. Others think that the kingdom ended when the Shekinah-Glory departed from the Temple in Jerusalem. This event was recorded as a prophetic event in Ezekiel chapters 8-11. One of the most tragic statements in Scripture must be Ezekiel 11:23, "And the glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city."
Daniel 10 contains a prophecy of a future mediatorial kingdom of God. A number of other Old Testament passages also address a future mediatorial kingdom of God on earth. However, since it is not the purpose of this series to describe this prophesied future mediatorial kingdom of God but to simply present a series on the parables of the kingdom, I will not take the time to reference those Scriptures.
Jesus has been preaching the good news of the kingdom of God since he left the wilderness after his temptation experience. ("From that time Jesus began to preach saying, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'" Matthew 4:17) The Jews knew their Old Testament. They knew the things associated in and with the promised mediatorial kingdom of God. They knew that this kingdom would bring tremendous blessings and radical changes throughout the earth. For example:
Every need of humanity will be anticipated and provided for (Isaiah 65:24; Psalms 72:6)
Under the Kings government there will be a "feast of fat things." (Isaiah 25:6)
There will be an abundance of salvation (Isaiah 33:6)
The coming kingdom will be have a spiritual dimension (Joel 2:28)
The coming kingdom will be ethical in nature (Isa 40:4)
The coming kingdom will have social effects (Isa 65:23,25)
The coming kingdom will be political in its effects (Isa 2:3-4
The coming kingdom will produce a single language for the world (Zephaniah 3:9)
The coming kingdom will have physical effects (Matthew 6:31-33)
Since Jesus is preaching and teaching that the Kingdom of Heaven, or God was "at hand," the disciples and many in the crowd would be wondering where are the promised blessings? If the kingdom of God has arrived why was it not heralded more triumphantly and visibly? If Jesus is the herald for the kingdom why is the response to him more positive rather than so negative? In other words, where are the signs and blessings that have been promised and we have been waiting for? Why is there still evil, wickedness, calamities, famines, disease, deformity, and oppression?
Jesus gives an answer for those who have spiritual ears to hear his message. Jesus knows that there is going to be a delay in the actual establishment of the kingdom. Jesus tells an incredible story or parable to answer these critics.
First of all, the weed is a plant called the bearded darnel. In the early stages of growth the darnel looked identical to the wheat planted by the farmer. The darnel was so identical to the wheat that it was almost impossible to tell them apart. As a matter of fact, one had to wait until spring when the "heads" of the wheat and darnel appeared showing them to be different. By the time the heads came out, the roots had so wrapped themselves around the roots of the wheat that if one tried to pull out the darnel, one also pulled out the wheat.
Apparently there were three ways a farmer could separate the darnel from his wheat. First, the darnel did not grow as high as the wheat. So the wheat could be harvested over the top of the darnel and then the field was set on fire to kill the darnel. A second way in a small patch of wheat and darnel the women would after they were both harvested would pick out the good seed by hand from the bad seed. Or a in a larger field the farmer could painstakingly harvest and separate the darnel and the wheat plant by plant as he harvested the field. If he did that he would put the wheat in his harvest bag, drop the darnel to the ground to later be burned and destroyed.
Second, this scenario was not made up by Jesus to make a point. This type of thing actually happened. Someone in a dispute with his neighbor or someone who held a grudge fro some wrong doing would awake one morning to discover that darnel had been sown into his wheat field. As a matter of fact the Roman government had severe penalties for those caught doing such a thing. Apparently one of the worst threats a man could make was to say, "I will sow bad seed in your field."
Remember from the first parable the disciples were worried about the lack of response to Jesus and the increasing hostility. Jesus was going to further teach the disciples something they needed to learn. The disciples were concerned about the type of people that Jesus was attracting. The sick, the lame, the deformed, the poor, and the outcasts followed Jesus. The religious leaders, the well-to-do, and the political leaders had nothing to with Jesus. They knew what the future mediatorial kingdom was to be characterized by. They were looking for a moral reformation and a political power.
Also during this time many zealots wanted to gather armies to rise up against Rome and its oppression and reestablish the kingdom on their own. Many were looking for the Messiah in order to rally around him and seize power. There were many who wanted to kill those whom were not with them in addition to known enemies.
Jesus teaches that the kingdom is having its beginning. The final consummation of hte kingdom is not yet, but future. During this delay both good men (wheat) and bad men (darnel) will live side by side. The righteous and the wicked will coexist in this age but will eventually be separated. If one were to try and separate the wheat from the darnel, because the darnel has intertwined itself with the wheat, both will be destroyed. Be patient, wait for God's timing and at the proper time he will separate the wheat from the darnel and destroy the darnel.
This parable has nothing to do with the church. It is not teaching that their are counterfeit Christians who look identical to Christians. It is not teaching that we cannot perform church discipline and put unrepentant sinners out of the church for fear of "up rooting" or destroying true believers. It is true that there are those who are unsaved in the church and even in the pulpit. The scripture makes it clear that we can examine their fruit and no who they are. We are warned to be sober, aware, awake, discerning, on guard, and to mark out those who created division and create obstacles. Since we cannot see into the heart we will not get it right 100% of time. That is why I think the process for discipline is so drawn out. First, one person goes to a person is involved in sin with the desire to see them repent and leave off their sin. If they refuse, then two or three people go to call the sinner to repentance. If the individual refuses yet to repent and leave off their sin, then the church is told, they are cast out of the church, treated as a publican until their is evidence of repentance. This helps in determining wheat and darnel in the church.
This parable is a kingdom parable. The kingdom was near and is now delayed. During this period righteousness and wickedness will coexist. Do not get discouraged! The wicked will not prevail. God will one day return and he will separate the wicked from the righteous and he will destroy the wicked. They will get theirs.
Posted by Gregg Metcalf at 3:00 AM