24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “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?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’”

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Matthew 13:24-40, 36-43

I’ve heard a lot of questions this year about the end of the world. People are asking if the time for God to return is getting closer with all the turmoil in the world. Tensions are high between countries and it seems like war could break out at any time for any number of reasons. Tensions are also high between people who treat others based on appearance without getting to know them for who they really are. Tensions are even high between every single person because of an enemy invisible to the naked eye. And, with all of this tension, Christians are asking if the time is close, but many times God tells us that we will not be able to predict the exact time he will return as in 1 Thessalonians 5, 1 “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” Since we do not know when Jesus will return, the real question for Christians is how to remain prepared for Jesus’ return at the end of the world.

It is good to be prepared for major events you know are going to happen. When you live in the South, you know that at some point a major storm will come through with rain, hail, lightening, strong winds, even tornadoes or hurricanes, so you prepare with nonperishable food, bottled water, candles, flashlights, an escape plan and shelter. When you are a student, you know you need to have schools supplies ready for the first day of school because your teacher, whether at school or at home, will not be understanding if you are not prepared because you did not get the school supplies on the list. When you find the person you could see yourself marrying, you prepare for marriage with open and honest talks about your plans for the future, so that you can stay in a relationship or end a relationship before a proposal, kids, living together and marriage based on talks about church, kids, carrier, where to live, how to handle conflict, etc. And, when you hit retirement age, you want to be able to look back on a life spent preparing for days without a job, rather than spend retirement years working odd jobs just to make it. It is good to be prepared for an event you know is coming, but what do you do when you are prepared for an event you know is coming and those around you are not prepared?

You have two options when surrounded by people unprepared for an event you are prepared for. When you are in the South and a storm blows in for which you are prepared and your neighbor is not prepared, your two options are to let them stay out in the storm to face harm or to invited them into safety. When you are a prepared student sitting beside an unprepared student, you can watch the unprepared student get into trouble and fall behind on the first day or share a pencil and paper from your overstuffed backpack. When you find that the person you thought was your perfect match for life is not prepared for life with you, you can either kick them to the curb with a sarcastic ‘good luck finding someone who wants that kind of life’ or you can gently ask to go back to being friends praying that you both find someone to settled down with ‘till death do you part.’ When you find someone is not prepared or preparing for retirement, you can watch them lose what they have worked for or give them some helpful tips on saving, the card of your financial advisor or let them stay in your pool house until they get back on their feet. You have two options when an event is coming that you are prepared for and others around you are not prepared for.

In our reading from Matthew 13, Jesus told a parable to prepare the disciples for what the kingdom of heaven would be like. Like we heard last week, Jesus was using parables, earthly situations, to describe his kingdom. In this parable, he spoke about wheat and weeds planted in a field. Jesus told a parable about a man who sowed good seeds into his field, but during the night an enemy sowed weeds among the wheat. In time, both the wheat and weeds sprouted, then 27 “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?’ 28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 29 “‘No,’ he answered.” In this parable, the field is the world, Jesus is the sower of good seed, the devil is the sower of weeds and the servants are Christians. Jesus preached this parable for the sake of those who believe in him. Jesus knows you wonder why he allows evil and unbelief to wreak havoc in the world and why he does not just put an end to evil when he intended only good seed to grow in the world.

Jesus has a plan for the day when he will separate between the wheat and the weeds. In the beginning, God did intend for the world to be free of weeds and filled with people who love him, but that was ruined by the devil and sin. For now, we live in a world mixed with wheat and weeds, believers and unbelievers, and our temptation is to separate between the two. Notice, the servants in the parable did not ask Jesus why he did not separate between the wheat and weeds, but “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ Again, our temptation is to want to separate between believer and unbeliever, rather than let God be the one who separates. We want to be judge in place of God. We want to set up rules and criteria that keep the wicked and evil away from the good and right. And, when we set up those rules that separate, we end up hurting the wheat and the weeds. When you create rules that make you seem better than others, you hurt and destroy the faith of those around you struggling with sin and tempt others to false hope and pride in themselves. Jesus said in Matthew 7, 2 “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” You and I cannot be the ones to separate between believers and unbelievers. Instead, we leave the work of the harvest up to the Lord as Jesus said, 29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 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.’” God is prepared for his harvest, for the Last Day, Judgment Day. He has a plan to use his harvesters, which are the angels, to separate between believer and unbeliever. Jesus shared this parable to give you encouragement to remain prepared for the harvest, not to begin harvesting.

At the end of his parable, Jesus repeated his encouragement from the parable before, 43 … “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”  These words are for you to hear with the ears of faith. By faith this message from Jesus is an encouragement to you to keep focused on the coming harvest. The end of the world will be a terrible day for the unbeliever as Jesus said, 41 “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Yet, for those who believe, Jesus said, 43 “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” You are one of the righteous because of what God has done. When Jesus explained the parable to his disciples, he said, 37 … “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man.” You have been made good, in other words, you have been made righteous, you have been made into one who will shine by the Son of Man, Jesus, as Paul wrote in Romans 3, 22 “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” At the end of the world, God will come to separate between believer and unbeliever. In the book of Joel, God spoke through the prophet Joel describing the end of the world as terrifying for the unbeliever, but he went on to say, 16 … “But the Lord will be a refuge for his people, a stronghold for the people of Israel.” As you face the end of the world waiting to be separated from the devil and the enemy of what is good, the Lord alone is your safe place. It is the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for your sins, and the righteousness he gave you that will bring you to heaven.

Questions often arise in your mind when you face a major event, even one you are prepared for. When you wonder why God has not yet come to separate between believer and unbeliever, even when the world seems to be in such great turmoil, God gives you this encouragement from Romans 8, 26 “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” Prayer is a gift from God while we are still in this world. When you are so overwhelmed that you do not even know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit brings your requests to God and he hears them. We also are given insight how to pray from Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the weeds. Pray that those the Son of Man planted remain his people until they are harvested as his righteous people who will live in the Father’s kingdom. Pray too that the enemies of God hear the Word of God, and that the Holy Spirit calls them to faith. Jesus does not want you to separate yourself from the world, but to live as wheat in it. You have been saved by God’s incredible power to plant good seed. Trust too that his Word will bring many to faith, and then on the last day those who believe will be revealed.

I’ve heard a lot of questions this year about the end of the world. People are asking if the time for God to return is getting closer with all the turmoil in the world, and we are also being tempted to separate ourselves from unbelievers. But, you and I are not called to separate ourselves from the world. Instead, we are called to keep our eyes on the Son of Man, our safe place, refuge and Savior. Therefore, pray he keeps us all prepared for the end of the world, pray he plants more good seed and pray a daily prayer of thanksgiving that the Son of Man prepares you for the harvest. Amen.