This week, we’re continuing our message series as we go through the parables of Jesus and learn from Him how to truly live life to its fullest.

A parable is a simple story that illustrates a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus said that He taught using parables so that the secrets of His Kingdom would only be understood by those seeking after this revelation.

Some parables encourage us. Some challenge us to become better people. Some help us deepen our faith. Others teach us of realities that most people would rather not think about. This morning, we’re going to learn about such a parable that reveals to us a rather grim reality. This morning, we learn about weeds ‘n fish.

Matthew 13:24-30;36-43;47-51
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.

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.

We don’t like to consider hell. We don’t like to consider that there are people out there who are evil. We don’t like to consider that there are people out there under the control of the devil. None of these things are pleasant to consider nor to discuss, but Jesus did spend a significant amount of time teaching about them and reminding us of this reality. Perhaps the reason that we don’t like to think about such things is because we all were exactly this at one point; evil people under the control of the devil headed straight for hell. Paul wrote to Titus:

Titus 3:1-5
1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

“At one time, we too…” This reminder will help keep our hearts tender, our attitudes peaceable and considerate, and our actions gentle toward people who are anything but. The only thing that makes a Christian different from the one lost is the work of the Holy Spirit within us and nothing of our own.

Beyond this reality, we certainly would not want to think that God would ever permit evil people to prosper let alone to prosper even more than His own people! Asaph struggled with understanding this reality in the same way that we often do and he was both a chief priest and worship leader for the nation of Israel!

Psalm 73:1-17
1 Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.

2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity;
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”

12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.

13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.

15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.

In these two parables about weeds ‘n fish, Jesus taught us this same revelation that Asaph had received long beforehand. God, in His mercy, will allow the wheat and weeds, good and bad fish, follower of Jesus and imposter, to grow together in life. It isn’t until the very end, until our final destiny, that truth is revealed about whether we were wheat or weed, good or bad fish, sheep or goat.

How do we deal with this reality, though? How do we respond when we come to the realization that people who we thought were wheat and a good fish begin to produce the fruits of the flesh and not the fruits of the Spirit? Paul taught young Timothy to respond in this way:

2 Timothy 2:22-26
22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

1. First of all, live out the example. Keep your eyes on your own paper and make sure that you are living your live as you ought to regardless of how others are living. Don’t allow the prospering of the wicket to tempt you to give up doing good. Don’t stoop down to their level thinking that you are doing good in vain. Continue to strive and pursue true righteousness, faith, love, and peace.

23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

2. This can be one of the most challenging things to do. The last person to usually see evil or wickedness in our lives is us. Fighting and arguing with people rarely ever lead to life transformation.

In fact, just like an animal caught in a trap, stirring them up only serves to tighten the grip of that trap. When you approach that animal who is caught, they don’t think for a second that you are the good guy coming to release them from it. No, they are in pain and they are going to make sure that you feel it, too. In a similar way, people who are held captive by Satan aren’t likely to be set free by arguing with them.

How should we respond to set them free from their captivity, then?

25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

3. Gentle instruction coupled with hope. Often, bad fish think that they are good and weeds think that they are wheat. People think that they are doing what is right, think that they are serving Jesus, think that they are representing Him. They are deceived and our prayer for them must be that they come to their senses and escape from their trap. Our prayer must be for God to give us opportunities to help them to see the trap for themselves through gentle instruction.

We also must not give up on them, but patiently maintain hope for their change. If we who possess hope from God that is required for their release choose to give up on them, where will their freedom ever come from? How long did Jesus put up with us in our own foolishness before we chose to escape our trap and give Him our lives to set us free?

Our hearts should not be hardened against them as Asaph’s initially was:

Psalm 73:21-26
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.

but our hearts should break for them as Asaph’s was after he considered their final destiny:

23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

Gifts are not evidences of favor. Abilities are not evidences of maturity. Words are not evidences of identity. In the end, only God knows who we truly are and that is why He alone will judge us. As we grow together, however, fruits may begin to reveal our true identities long before the day of judgment. This, too, is truly the mercy of God in action.

If our identity is revealed to be different from what we claim to be, we have the divine opportunity to be transformed. It is not for our shame that this is revealed, but for our good.

We may be caught in the trap of the devil now deceived to think that we are something that we are not. However, through the gentle instruction and love of others, we can see who we truly are, give ourselves wholly to God, and allow Him to transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. We can become wheat, a good fish, and a sheep.

Paul taught from what I believe to be his personal experiences in leading people to Jesus. Learning from his successes and failures, he taught Timothy that it was gentle instruction that lead people to repentance. He taught that it was God’s loving kindness that leads us to transformation (Romans 2:4). We do our part to be kind and gentle toward people, God does His part to bring about realization of truth and the power to transform.

Life may not always seem fair. Wicked may at times seem to prevail. However, in the end, everything will be set right. All that will matter on that day is our true identity which will unlock for us the door to our final destiny. Either eternal bliss and blessing with Jesus in Heaven or eternal torment and torture in Hell. The choice is ours right here and right now.

By the grace of God, we look to Jesus for truth. We pray His revelation of our true identity in every area of our lives. Even if we may not like what we see or hear, we ask Him to reveal to us anything in our lives that needs the touch of the transforming work of His Holy Spirit. When He shows those things to us, we simply yield those things to Him and allow Him to mold and form us into a better person than we could ever be on our own.

Our prayer comes from this psalm of David:

Psalm 139:23-24
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.