A Parable of Life and Transformation
Matthew 13:31-32, A Message by Pastor Eric Chang
Today we continue our exposition of the Lord’s teaching. Remember that last time we studied this very important Parable of the Weeds and the Wheat, or more accurately, the Darnel and the Wheat. And so, I would like to briefly sum up what we learned, before we continue, since there are points of some importance in that parable we have not yet dealt with.
Summary of the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel
First let me summarize what we learned last time. We saw in Mt 13:24f in this Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel, that the Lord Jesus is saying that in the kingdom of God, there are two kinds of plants. The one kind of plant is the wheat which the Lord Jesus has sown. We saw in his own explanation of that parable that this wheat represents the sons of the kingdom, that is, the children of God (Mt 13:38). And after the Lord Jesus has sown this seed in the world – the field is the world – the devil comes along and sows among the wheat. He sows weeds, not just any kind of weeds but weeds known as darnel, or the bearded darnel.
We saw, first of all, that these weeds do not represent unbelievers, that is to say, people who have never heard nor received the Gospel in any sense whatsoever. These weeds represent people who are inside the church. A tragic situation! Darnel were sown by the devil after the good seed (the wheat) had been sown. (Unbelievers were in the world long before the Christians appeared.) These are not ordinary unbelievers. Darnel are sown after – it is very important to observe this – after the wheat has already been sown, and they are sown not anywhere else in the world, but precisely, into and among the wheat.
We noticed, secondly, that darnel look very much like wheat. In fact, they are indistinguishable from wheat in the early stages of their growth. That is why we see in the parable, in v26, that it was only when the plants came up and began to bear fruit that the servants realized that there was not just wheat in the field, there were also darnel in the field.
We saw, too, that darnel, because they are so hard to distinguish from wheat, represent the kind of people who are in the church who look like Christians – who have the outward behavior of Christians. They know all the right things to say; they talk like Christians – but they are not Christians. They have the semblance of being Christians, but are not Christians. As Paul says in Timothy [2 Tim 3:5], they have the form of godliness but they deny the power of it. They do not have the life inside of them. They only have the outward appearance of godliness. They behave like Christians; they look like Christians in their outward behavior, but not in their heart. These are the darnel. It was only when the darnel brought forth fruit that they [the servants of the householder] realized that these were not wheat. As the Lord Jesus says, “By their fruit you shall know them” [Mt 7:16-paraphrased], meaning their spiritual fruit, if any. That is very important to observe.
We realized one more thing about darnel. It is not only that they look like wheat, but they grow among wheat, which they in fact do, in all the Middle Eastern countries even today. They do not grow in the wild; they grow among the wheat. That is where they grow! Some even think that they are a degenerate form of wheat, although other specialists disagree because they are structurally different.
We noticed, too, that the grain that the darnel produced is in fact poisonous. Anybody who eats the darnel mistaking it for wheat will end up with a whole list of symptoms, including nausea and convulsions. It also results in sleepiness, drowsiness and even in death. In other words, the darnel is poisonous!
So, all these show us that the Lord Jesus, in this prophetic parable, is saying that where God is working, Satan will also work. Where God is bringing forth life, Satan is busy bringing forth death.
Are You Wheat or Darnel?
And then we concluded last time as we asked the question: “Are you wheat or are you darnel?” Do not satisfy yourself by saying: “I am in the church”, “I am a church member”, “I’m very active in the church”, “I’ve been baptized” and all this. That is no consolation. Remember: the darnel are all inside the church. They are in there, as we saw in other parables of the Lord Jesus. Time and again, you have the situation in which those who are not genuine Christians are found in the church. And not only that, they are found in abundance because, of course, when Satan sowed darnel among the wheat, he did not just sow one or two. Why did he sow darnel? Do you know what his purpose is? It is very easy to understand. His purpose was really to choke the wheat. As it says in this parable, it was done by an enemy. Why does the enemy do it? To spoil the crop! To choke the wheat! It is so that this growth coming on top of the seed – of the good seed – will choke it, just as we saw in the Parable of the Sower, where some of these seeds were choked. They had a genuine response to the Gospel, but they were choked by the thorns that surrounded them. [Mt 13:7,22]
We ask ourselves this question: Do you know whether you are wheat or whether you are darnel? The fact that you are in the church itself proves nothing. There are two different kinds of life in there: one is the life of the seed of the wheat; the other is the life of the darnel. One comes from God; the other from the devil.
We saw that darnel represent evildoers and how ‘evildoers’ and ‘sons of the devil’ are used in the Bible. We found, maybe to our shock and to our surprise, that these names were reserved for religious people! We saw that the word there, “Depart from me, evildoers!” [Mt 7:23] was not addressed to unbelievers who had never heard the Gospel. It was addressed to people who cast out demons in Jesus’ name, who did mighty works in Jesus’ name, who did healing miracles and things of this sort in Jesus’ name. People who do these kinds of things must have a certain faith in Jesus. So, what went wrong? The Lord Jesus tells us what went wrong. They did miracles, but they did not obey the will of the Father. “Not all who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord’…” – notice they even addressed Jesus as ‘Lord’ – “will be entering the kingdom of heaven” – in that final harvest – “but those who do the will of my Father.” [Mt 7:21] Note: “…those who do the will of my Father.” Thus, unless we learn to do God’s will – unless we are committed to doing his will, unless we are totally committed to him – we are in danger of finding ourselves to be darnel!
We also saw the distinction between two kinds of people in the church. There is the kind of person who wants Jesus as Savior only. They do not want him as Lord; they just want him as Savior. “You save me; you get me to heaven. That is all I want.” “Jesus is there to do something for me.” If that is the way you think, then you are in danger of being a darnel! They want to have eternal life; they want to have salvation, but they do not want to do God’s will. That is why they do not want Jesus to be Lord in their life.
We saw that A.W. Tozer, this great servant of God, in his book called The Root of the Righteous, said that this is the great heresy of the church today, to teach Jesus as Savior without teaching him as Lord at the same time. He too showed that unless he is Lord, he cannot be your Savior. He is only Savior to those to whom he is Lord. That is why in the Bible you will find that Jesus is always spoken of as ‘Lord and Savior’, in that order. Lord first and then Savior! You do not have him as Savior without having him as Lord.
We saw that today, so often in the teaching of the church, evangelists and pastors like to say, “Accept Jesus as Savior.” Not a word is said about “Lord”. The preaching of the Lordship of Christ is reserved only for consecration meetings, for devotional meetings, meetings of the ‘higher life’. First, you become some sort of a Christian, and later, you become a ‘higher type’ of Christian when you consecrate yourself to the Lord. This is entirely un-Scriptural. Unless Jesus is Lord right from the beginning, he is not your Savior at all, because then you are not doing the Father’s will. And the Lord says that those who do not do the Father’s will not find salvation in him. They will not enter the kingdom, that is, the kingdom in that final stage of the harvest. All this is exceedingly important for us to understand and it is very basic to understanding this matter of salvation.
Why Does God Not Separate the Darnel from the Wheat?
But then we ask the question, “If this is so, if the church is a ‘mixed’ church, a church in which good and bad are mixed, why does God tolerate this? Why does God not separate the weeds from the wheat? Why does he not tear the weeds out? Why does he not allow his servants to go and pull them up? Well, consider carefully. The answer to this question depends on whether you have understood what the weeds are, what the darnel are. In the first place, we have seen already just how difficult it is to distinguish between a darnel and a wheat. If you are going to go out and pull, which one are you going to pull? Do you know which is wheat and which is darnel?
We saw in the tragic case in John Chapter 8 last time that these Pharisees and Jews thought themselves to be sons of God because they were sons of Abraham. [v31f] They thought that they were. But the Lord Jesus said to them, “You are of your father the devil.” Now that is a shock! “You are of your father the devil.” Why? His answer was straightforward and simple. “If you were sons of Abraham, spiritually speaking, and therefore sons of God, you would do what Abraham did.” That is how we know. You would live and behave as Abraham lived. He was a man of faith, a man of total commitment to God. When God said, “Go,” he went, asking no questions. Whatever God said to him, he did. He was a man of faith, which as we saw in the Bible, is a total commitment. He simply obeyed God totally. The Lord Jesus is saying to the Jews, “Don’t say to yourselves, or don’t think to yourselves you are sons of God. You are not, because you do not do the Father’s will.” You see, it is exactly the same teaching as in Mt 7:21f. Exactly the same thing! If we are God’s children, we would be doing his will. The Spirit of God in us would motivate us to live the kind of life that he lived.
But how can you see whether a person is doing the Father’s will or not? The Lord Jesus can see that, but can you? Well, to some extent we can, but we cannot be that sure. It is not up to us to judge. I cannot say to you, “Well, you know you did one or two things not right, and I don’t think that’s very good. Therefore I have decided that you are not a son of God. You are a weed. You are a darnel; you are not a wheat.” It is not for me to judge. I cannot judge that. There are many Christians today who do not do God’s will in their lives. They do not live under God’s kingship. They do whatever they want to do. They do not even behave like Christians to a great extent, but they have not committed any serious sins, like these people in Mt 7:21f who say “Lord, Lord,” but do not do the Father’s will. They did not commit any crimes. They did not commit murder. They did not commit adultery. You cannot deal with them in church discipline because they have not done anything terribly serious. But the same is true, of course, of most non-Christians. They also did not commit murder. They also did not commit adultery. They lived reasonably decent lives, when you look at them from the outside. What can you say? On what basis will you exclude them from the church? If you put them through a test of faith [and ask], “Do you believe in the name of Jesus?” darnel would say, “Yes”, just as those people in Mt 7:21 said, “Lord, Lord,” but they did not do the Father’s will. Everybody can say “Lord, Lord.” The Israelites said the same thing. In Isaiah, it says this, “This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” [Is 29:13] You see, they have “the form of godliness”. So, how are you going to judge them? How are you going to remove them from the church? On what basis can you remove them? So, once you understand the nature of darnel, you can see that you simply cannot remove them. Firstly, it is because they are so hard to distinguish. Secondly, it is because it is not up to us to judge. It is my task to preach the Gospel; it is not my task to judge people.
Darnel Cause Harm, Yet Allowed to Remain for a Purpose
But do they cause harm? Sure, they cause harm to the church! They cause great harm to the church. In what way do they harm the church? Notice the way they cause damage. It is not by anything they do outwardly. If you look at the field of wheat with the darnel in it, the darnel are not doing anything to the wheat, are they? The darnel stands there and the wheat stands there. Nobody is hurting each other. The darnel is not hurting the wheat. They say, “I have not done anything.” That is right! That is the whole problem. So, where is the damage being done? Well, the parable tells us: the damage is being done underground, invisibly, by the roots. The roots are causing the damage. Why? For one thing, they are removing the nourishment from the wheat. They are soaking up the nourishment that the wheat could use, and so, to some extent, slowing down the growth of the wheat. Some of these roots might even succeed in choking some of the wheat, as we saw in the Parable of the Sower. These darnel really do cause damage. They hinder the general witness of the church. The church should be shining out much more brightly than it is. Why is it not shining? Well, look at the church; it is full of darnel. It is very hard to shine with all these darnel in it.
But how can we remove it? The parable here tells us, if you pull up the darnel, what you will do is that you might pull up the wheat with it because the wheat has its roots tangled with the darnel. They are so close together that if you pull up one, you might pull up the other. In the very attempt to remove all the false Christians from the church, you could damage an awful lot of true Christians. That is not what the Lord wants. He does not want one true Christian, one true disciple to be damaged. He cares for every one of them. So, what can we do? We cannot do anything! We cannot do anything. We just have to wait for the Judgment. We have to wait for the harvest when the Lord himself will separate out the wheat from the darnel. Until then, we have to wait.
But then, you might say, rather impatiently, “Yes, we cannot do anything about this, but why does God not do something about it? I mean, we cannot remove the darnel from the wheat, okay, I understand the situation. It is hard for me to distinguish: the roots are entangled, I might hurt some of the wheat, and so forth. So, why not God do something about it? Why is he there doing nothing about it? Why does he not strike down these phony Christians? Why does he not purge his church so that the church will truly become what it should be right now?” Oh, how we long for that! Like the disciples, we want to call down fire from heaven. We want to say, “Burn these darnel up! Well, there are ways of dealing with darnel. I mean, maybe God could devise a special kind of bug, and this bug would only attack darnel and would not attack wheat. You have heard of this biological warfare against this kind of pests, so why not devise some kind of bug? I mean, that is not beyond the capabilities of God, to devise a bug that will go and chew up all the darnel and leave all the wheat standing. In this way, the darnel will be destroyed and the wheat will not be uprooted.” That is the way we think. Why does he leave the darnel there? He does not seem to do anything about it!
Ponder for a moment. Has God not got a purpose in all this? What purpose? Well, we find first and foremost that whereas the darnel do, in fact, become a trial to the wheat, what does the wheat have to do? The wheat, in the struggle to survive against the darnel, become a stronger type of wheat. The struggle for survival, the struggle to live has a strengthening effect. We have always seen these illustrations: the tree that grows up on the mountains, blown by every fierce wind. It always has powerful roots. It is strong. It can withstand disease. It can withstand the weather. But the tree in sheltered places – the storm comes unexpectedly and it falls down, because it has never learned to put its roots deep down to anchor upon the rock. You see, for us, trials are unpleasant. We do not like trials. We do not like sufferings.
We do not like to be tested by fellow Christians. We say, “I’m willing to take all this from non-Christians. Let the non-Christians do what they like to me, but I don’t want to be persecuted by people who call themselves Christians!” Now, if you have followed the Biblical teaching so far, you will know, brothers and sisters. I say it to you, dearly beloved, you will know that those who will torment you most, who will persecute you most bitterly, will be those people who call themselves Christians. It has always been the case down through the centuries. You will suffer most at the hands of those who call themselves Christians. I want to say to you, beloved brothers and sisters, as I have said many times to those before, understand this thing well. Understand it very well because unless you understand it, you may fall. This is why the Lord told us, “You are going to have trials. There are darnel amongst the wheat and they will test your patience no end. They may choke you if you are not careful. So, put your roots down deep. Draw deep upon my grace because my grace is sufficient for you.”
When I was a young Christian, I nearly went down. I was hardly a few months old as a Christian when I saw the behavior of certain Christians. Many of you know that I never wanted to become a Christian in the first place; it was because I was disgusted by Christians. How many people have had a similar experience? I never cease to meet these non-Christians who tell me “Well, I don’t want to have anything to do with Christians because I have seen the Christians and they disgust me.” I have complete sympathy for these non-Christians because that was exactly the way I felt. I did not want to become a Christian because the Christians disgusted me. The way they behaved was even below that of non-Christians. They are not even as good as non-Christians. I know non-Christians who are nicer than Christians, who are more considerate than Christians, who are more generous than Christians. I am sure you know those non-Christians, too. So, no wonder the non-Christians say, “Who wants to become a Christian? Look at these Christians!” I have complete sympathy for them. I know exactly how they feel. I never wanted to become a Christian because of such people. Until I began to look at Jesus! I do not look at these so-called Christians anymore. I look at Jesus. “Ah! Now I begin to understand. My heart is attracted to him.
After I’d become a Christian, I lived with a certain Christian lady, an elderly lady. Oh, dear me! I think more than once, I nearly decided I had had enough. That is enough of Christianity for me. This person has been a Christian for 20 years. I have been a Christian for two months. Look at the way she behaves. Disgraceful! I thought like this until the Lord said, “You fix your eye on me. You draw your grace from me. My grace is sufficient for you. [2 Cor 12:9] Just follow me. The church has all kinds of other people in it; don’t you worry about them. What’s that to you?” It is like the words he said to Peter [in Jn 21:22], “You follow me. Never mind what happens to them or what they do.”
I know that for us it is hard to think of this. You say, “But… but, they have been Christians longer than me. Shouldn’t I have an example in them?” Yes, you should, but unfortunately, often you will not have an example. They may or may not be darnel. They may be wheat, but very weak and sickly, or they may be darnel. That is not for me to judge. I do not know. God will separate them one day. As for me, I will keep my eyes on Jesus.
All through my Christian life, I have had the same problem. I have not had much problem with non-Christians. I have suffered a little persecution from the Communists, but that is nothing much compared to problems we have with ‘Christians’ – people who simply do not do God’s will, who do not live under God’s kingship. Yes, in due time I was able to see that many of them were darnel. One after the other, they fell away. As John said, “They went out from us because they were not of us.” [1 Jn 2:19] They fell away. People who used to be active youth leaders – they used to be loud in the churches; they used to organize this and organize that – where are they today? Nowhere! Far from the Lord! They do not even pretend to be Christians anymore, which is just as well for the church. But unfortunately, there are others who still call themselves Christians though they do not live in this total commitment to Christ. It is these who give us an awful lot of headaches. So, bear this in mind then.
We ask then: Why does God not destroy them all? Oh, no! God has a purpose. They are there – they test us; they try us – but thanks be to God because so we will learn to put our roots down deeper; so we will draw more completely upon his grace; so we will learn to look to him who is the author and finisher, the perfecter of our faith. So, we may do not like this way of doing things. As for us, we would like to remove the darnel, but for God, he has a purpose to leave them in.
God’s Purpose Cannot be Defeated
This, of course, answers the same question: Why did God not prevent Satan from sowing the darnel in the first place? The answer would be exactly the same. Whether he allows Satan to sow the darnel, or whether, Satan having sown the darnel, God destroys the darnel – either way, it comes to the same thing. The fact is that he allows the darnel to be in his field for the present time.
Of course, this may not make very good agricultural sense. But the Lord Jesus here is not here to teach agriculture; he is teaching spiritual truth. I doubt that many farmers would like to sow darnel among their wheat to produce a strong crop of wheat. Here, you can see the parables are not here to teach us agricultural logic. They are here to teach us spiritual reality. In the field, it may not work like this, but in the spiritual life, it does work like this.
So, let us also realize one thing, if we begin to get discouraged. When we look at the church today, we look around and we ask: How will this church ever be the light of the world? What hope is there in a church like this – full of people who simply are so superficial, at least, or perhaps not even genuine Christians? We feel so discouraged. Do not be discouraged! The Lord is Lord of the harvest. He knows what he is doing. Do not worry about the harvest. He will fulfill his purpose. Thus, we see at the end of this parable the fact that there is a great harvest. The wheat are brought in and God’s purpose is accomplished – not only in spite of the darnel, but in a certain way, because of it. He produces a strong, vigorous crop of wheat.
Now, as it were, to reinforce this very important point of the fact that God’s purpose cannot be defeated, in case we become discouraged, he gives the next parable, which we will deal with now briefly before we close.
The Parable of the Mustard Seed – Power of the Seed
The next parable is called the Parable of the Grain of Mustard Seed. It follows precisely in order to provide us with the encouragement that we need after a parable like the Wheat and the Darnel. It is because, looking at a parable like that, as I said, we might well become discouraged and say, “Well, what future has the church got when it is such a mixed bunch?” Well, here then is the Lord’s reply in Mt 13:31-32:
Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
What does all this mean? The Lord Jesus speaks constantly in parables, but for those who know the Word of God, there is no great problem in understanding them. “The kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field.” Notice, the first thing is, again, we have a parable concerning ‘the seed.’ It is very important to notice this. There are so many parables about ‘the seed.’ We have the Parable of the Sower, we have the Parable of the Growing Seed [Mk 4.26f], we have the Parable of the Darnel and the Wheat, and now we have another parable of the seed. This time it is a mustard seed. The reason the mustard seed is chosen is because it is the smallest of all seeds sown by people.
Now, that last qualifying phrase is very important. In case you have studied a little botany, you might start getting wise in your own mind and saying, “Aha! Wait a minute! The mustard seed is very small, yet it is not the smallest of all seeds in the world.” Oh, yes, OK, we grant you that you know something about botany, but that is not the Lord’s point. The mustard seed is indeed not the smallest seed that exists, but the smallest seed that any person sows in Palestine. That is what we are talking about. It is the smallest seed that a farmer sows. It is not a statement that it is the smallest seed that ever exists. Somebody might say, “Ah, but the poppy seed is smaller.” Yes, but the farmers in Palestine do not sow poppies and they do not smoke opium. Therefore, to tell me that the poppy seed is smaller is quite beside the point of this parable. The point here simply is that this is the smallest seed that the Palestinian farmer sows.
The Power Within the Seed – Death, Resurrection and Life
But now, let us pause for a moment to consider this matter of the seed, because now we realize how many parables there are in which the Lord Jesus speaks of seed and there is a very good reason for it. I would like to pause for a moment to ponder upon the significance of the seed. The seed is something wonderful! The more you understand the Lord’s teaching concerning the seed, the more you will understand the whole Scriptural teaching of salvation. In other words, if you want to understand the Scriptural teaching of salvation, you must understand the Lord’s teaching on the seed.
The seed is sown into the ground; it dies or disintegrates in a certain way; it germinates; it bursts its body and it rises again! Marvelous! A whole picture of death, of burial, of death and resurrection! It is marvelous! Thus, new life comes forth literally from the burial, the death and resurrection of the seed. So, the Lord Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is like a grain of seed….” It may be very small, small as a mustard seed if you like, but it is sown into the ground; it disappears from view; it is buried in there; it dies and it rises again in new life! And so, in the same way, the Lord Jesus died, was buried. He seems to have gone. Finished! Yet he rises again to new life. That is wonderful! So, we find that the whole teaching of God’s kingdom is right there.
Now, what happens? When it rises again to new life, it produces a whole new batch of seeds. A whole new batch of seeds comes from that one seed. This is the whole teaching of the Lord Jesus in Jn 12:24. He says, “Except a seed dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” And so, it brings forth a whole batch of new seeds through dying and rising again. In the same way, the Lord Jesus through his dying and rising again brings forth the church, brings forth us. What happens here is one seed goes into the ground and produces a whole batch of wheat, or new seeds, or whatever is sown. That new batch is then sown again and produces another batch of harvest. And so it goes on and on.
Christ Jesus – the First Seed Sown, Giving Life to Many
But notice another thing. The life that is in the new batch of seeds is the life that that new seed derived from the first seed that died. Do you see? In the same way, we derive our life – the new life – from the Lord Jesus who died and so passed on this new life to us. The life in the seed, the new seed can be passed on. You know, the grain of wheat is simply seed. That is all it is. When you have an ear of wheat, all that ear of wheat is simply a new batch of seeds. When you eat wheat, what are you eating? You are simply eating seeds. The wheat itself is a seed. If you do not eat it and you sow it in the ground, it will grow again and produce another batch of seeds. So, you can choose to eat those seeds or you can sow them. What a farmer does is that he eats part of them and he sows another part of them. Every grain of wheat is itself a seed. That is what it is. That is wonderful! Thus, it shows that we derive our new life from the resurrection life of Christ. We live because he died and rose again. You see, the whole Biblical theology, the whole teaching of Scripture is there in that seed.
Yet, if we stop there, we have made a mistake. What happens to this new batch of seeds? Does it get life from that first seed just so that it can sit there in the ear of wheat and enjoy itself and twiddle its thumbs? No! The new wheat is sown again and it, in turn, dies to produce fruit. Now, you see, many people in teaching the Gospel have stopped at the first point. We got new life through Christ’s death and resurrection; that is true. But in turn, do you realize that we ourselves become a grain of seed which, in turn, is to die and rise again? That part people do not understand. If you look at the next verse, Jn 12:25, you will see that that refers to the Christians. The first part [v24] refers to the Lord Jesus and then the next verse, v25, refers to Christians who are also to die and rise again.
This comes out in the parables of the Lord Jesus in the same way. Look at the three parables of the seed, and you will see what I mean. If I take them backwards, it might become clearer to you. In the Parable of the Mustard Seed, the seed that is sown into the ground, that it dies and rises again, what is the picture of it? Here the mustard seed is representing Christ, is it not? For the kingdom of God is personified in him. Here isthe kingdom of God. Here, it is not describing a situation inside the kingdom of God as such, but describing the growth of the kingdom itself. Here, it is the Lord Jesus himself who dies, and through rising again, the kingdom of God becomes a reality in the world.
But do you remember the previous parable, the Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel? There we saw that the seed that is sown is what? They are the Christians. The seed that is sown are the sons of God, the sons of the kingdom, as we saw in Mt 13:38. I hope, by now, you can see. The field is the world and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom. In other words, when the Lord Jesus has given new life to us – and this is the exciting teaching of the Gospel, the exciting teaching of the Lord Jesus – he sends us out into the world (the field is the world) where we in our turn become seeds. We die and we rise again, bearing fruit to God. That is what the Lord Jesus says.
That is why he was saying this very thing. Right after speaking about the seed in Jn 12:24, in the next verse, v25, he says if any man tries to save his life, he shall lose it. But he who loses his life for the Lord’s sake, he will have it. Many Christians cannot understand that. When you understand the Lord’s teaching about the seed, you will understand it very easily. Unless you, in your turn, become a seed – unless you, in your turn, go out into the world and live for Christ (and die for Christ, if necessary) – you will not be able to have the fullness of his life. You will not have his life. If you try to save your life (by not dying), you will lose it. If you have a grain of wheat here and you put it there, nothing will happen. If you leave it long enough, it will mildew and die. But if you take this grain of wheat (without waiting for it to get mildewed and it perish or be eaten up by some insects or worms), and you drop it into the ground, it will bring forth life. This is so wonderful!
As we look backwards still further, to the Parable of the Sower, we saw that the seed was the Word. So, you notice that in each of the parables, the seed represents something different. In the first parable [the Parable of the Sower], the seed is the Word of God. In the Parable of the Wheat and Darnel, the seed are the sons of God, the sons of the kingdom. And now in this Parable of the Mustard Seed, the seed is Christ. So, the Word of God is sown into my heart – to change the picture, as it were – and I become a son of God who is going to be sown into the world. This is marvelous! There are so many facets of God’s riches and truth, and yet, all summed up in this picture of the seed. Have you got the picture? Or are you finding it difficult to follow? Just think through the picture of the seed.
The True Christian Bears the Likeness and Life of Christ
Now, let us return to this picture and let us continue to think about it. The seed is the Lord Jesus in this Parable of the Mustard Seed. It dies and brings forth a new crop, in this case, a crop of mustard seed. Now the new crop of mustard seed derives its life from the death and the resurrection of that first seed, that is, Christ. But notice still further. And this is very important for you to understand: A true Christian is somebody who has the life of Christ in him. It is not just having the form of godliness; it is not just having good religious behavior; it is not just being nice and smiling at everybody; it is not just saying the right things; it is not just knowing how to pray the Lord’s Prayer, or even praying any kind of prayer. It is not just doing all these things externally. It is having the life of Christ inyou. Do you have the life of Christ in you? What is that life of Christ? It is the new resurrection life that the Holy Spirit creates in you. That is why you become a new creation. That is what it means to be a true Christian and not to be a darnel.
But notice another thing. If you have this true life of Christ in you, what happens? Look at one seed and look at another seed. What do you see? That later seed, that new seed looks like the original seed, does it not? That is the beauty of it! The true Christian takes upon him the beauty of Christ. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit in him, he even becomes like Christ. If you are a true Christian, you will find yourself becoming more and more like Jesus in the way you think. As we saw at the Communion today, we learn to think as he thought. He lived only for others. We learn to live for others and not for ourselves. We become like him in all our conduct as we go on, in holiness, in love, as the Spirit of God sheds abroad God’s love into our hearts, as Paul says in Rom 5:5. It is so that our conduct becomes more and more like his. Or, as the Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 3:18, we are changed from glory to glory, into his image. The true Christian takes on a likeness of Christ. He must have a certain beauty of Christ. That is very important.
Are you a true Christian? Then the likeness of Christ should be manifest in your life. You become more and more like him. Once you understand this point, you understand why you can speak of “sowing the sons of God into the world.” We are Christ’s representatives in the world. We are his body in the world. How is the world going to know Christ unless it sees Christ in us? A true seed bears resemblance to the original seed. Do you bear resemblance to Christ? Do I bear resemblance to Christ? Is the life of Christ powerfully working in me? Is my thinking being transformed so that my selfishness is being put away and I am becoming more and more like him? Only then do I know whether I am a true wheat or not. Only then do I know whether I am a true mustard seed or not. Whichever picture you like, it is the same thing. This is the glorious truth of God’s word. That is why I said right at the beginning, the whole of salvation teaching, the whole of Gospel truth is summed up in this matter of the seed. And I would like you to ponder upon it. Think about it more carefully.
So, I would like you to just bear in mind and ask yourself again this question: Am I truly a seed that has been born from that death and resurrection of the first seed; namely, Christ? Is Christ’s resurrection life in me? Am I becoming more like him in my thinking and in my ways? I know I have many faults and many shortcomings, but am I in the process of being changed, as Paul says, “from one degree of glory to another”? [2 Cor 3:18] Maybe your degree of glory and my degree of glory showing forth the image of Christ is very limited at this stage, but at least, we are moving forward, progressing, as the Holy Spirit conforms us to the image of Christ. This is a wonderful message that the Lord Jesus gives to us in these parables. It is a powerful message. It is a message of life and transformation. May God grant that each one of us knows the truth of it in our own experience!
End of message
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church