The Good Guys Will Win
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
What was the last book you’ve read, or movie you’ve seen where the bad guys or villain won instead of the hero? Can’t remember? That’s what I thought. The bad guys are never supposed to win. That’s not what we want to see when we go to the movies. That’s not how we want our books to end. We realize that every story seems to have or need a villain like Cruella de Ville who wants to turn those 101 Dalmatians into fur coats; the Wicked Witch of the West who wants Dorothy’s red ruby slippers; the cocky racer Ripslinger who isn’t afraid to cheat from my son’s favourite movie Planes, or maybe a Wagnerian evil presence like Darth Vader and his (Breathing). These are classic bad guys and villains. They make you cringe. They make you wonder whether if you always wear some combination of green and black you might be a super-villain.
But those bad guys and villains are fictional. They aren’t real. But we know the world is full of lots of real-life bad guys and girls. People who inflict harm and perpetrate wickedness, evil, crime, violence, theft, usury and the like all over the world. And every time you turn on the news or read the newspaper or internet you are reminded of the wickedness and evil, the bad guys who haven’t been foiled by some hero or put behind bars. And we wonder why? Where is God’s justice to do something about the wicked? When we pray “Deliver us from evil” in the Lord’s Prayer we wonder when God is going to do something about this world that is such a mess.
People often ask what God is doing about evil, and we do well to listen to Jesus’ parable about the wheat and the weeds, because he answers the question for us in this parable. And though the real world doesn’t seem to mirror the fictional movies where the good guys always win, Jesus’ answer ultimately comforts us—he reminds us the good guys will win through this parable from Matthew 13:
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 root up 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.’ “
In this parable from Mathew 13:24-30 we hear about a farmer who plants a field of wheat only to have it ruined by who else, but a bad guy? An enemy who sows weeds on top of the wheat. The weeds and the wheat both start to grow, and only after they sprouted heads did the farmer’s servants realize what had happened. You see the kind of weeds the enemy sowed into the field, zizanium, in Greek were darnel, a weed that closely resembles wheat until it forms a head and seeds. But it’s most definitely a weed, a weed that ultimately can be poisonous to human beings.
Of course Jesus’ parable is not just a nice story about farming—it’s about the world and the fact that there are wicked sons of the evil one, the devil and of God living on the same earth. In fact, as you heard, Jesus offers us the explanation to this parable that makes identifying the meaning relatively straight forward:
“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 sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
So the weeds, the evil people, the bad guys—if you will, are the sons of the devil. They belong to him. They serve his purposes and thwart the good God would do in our world with wickedness, sin and schemes of the like. And experience tells us there are lots of evil people in the world. The problem is that like the weeds in the parable that did not manifest themselves until it was too late, bad guys are not so easy to spot. I remember once my son at three years old son wondering out loud while standing in the checkout line at Superstore, and right in front of the teller, whether she was a good guy or a bad guy, because she was a teenager who had died her bangs green. She blushed and I assured him she was a good guy. How can we really know who is a good guy or a bad guy? Who are the weeds and the wheat? It’s not like they all dress in black and green, or dress like the devil himself, or laugh with that villainous “ooohh, ooooh, ahhh, ahhh, ahhh!” or monologue to the world to tell us about their evil plans.
In real life, bad guys aren’t so easy to spot. The thief who breaks into your car doesn’t walk around the city wearing a nametag. The people who steal your credit card numbers or your identity look just like your next door neighbour, or anyone you might meet on the street. The man who abuses his wife or children might seem to be the sweetest guy. The most conniving, selfish person might be president of the PTA at your kids school.
We think of real life bad guys as wicked men like Adolf Hitler or the Nazis. But even then looked and seemed normal. Hannah Arendt, a Jewish reporter wrote during the war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann, the mastermind of the Jewish holocaust, a particularly bad, bad guy, of how normal these men really looked. She says of this wicked man, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”
You see the problem is the bad guys look just like good guys—that is up to a point. Perhaps that is why it is so difficult for us to accept how frequently it seems like the wicked and evil get away with their schemes and selfish sins in this life. And why we cry out and wonder why God isn’t doing anything about it? Just like in Jesus’ parable when the servants ask the farmer if they should pull out the weeds, but the farmer says no:
“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 root up 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.’ “
So what is God doing about the weeds, the bad guys? That is really what Jesus’ parable is addressing. We may not be able to spot them, but God does, and so do his angelic servants. And he knows and sees who these people are even when we can’t. And the beauty of this parable is that we are assured that on the Last Day there will be justice. The bad guys are not going to get away with their wickedness, even when done in secret; even when they have seem to have gotten away with it. Jesus explains:
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 fiery 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. He who has ears, let him hear.
If God is going to bring justice on the wicked, to throw them into hell like throwing weeds into a furnace, really the question is not—what is God doing about all the evil, about all the bad guys? The question is what is God going to do with me?
We think of bad guys like villains from movies, or people out there who surprise and shock us with the wickedness we didn’t think they were capable of. But the problem is that inside each of us there is a bad guy, better known as your sinful nature. And that weed in your heart is just as capable of greed, or hate, or murder, or robbery as the villains who look the part. If God sent his angels to root out the wicked, to bring justice to the earth and take away all the bad guys as his servants wanted…as we want, that would mean he would also have to take us; to rip us out of the ground and throw us into the furnace, because his justice is impartial. You see, even Paul reminds us that before we want to search out the bad guys and mark and define them, we remember we once were part of them:
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
So if in our sinful natures, we too are the bad guys, then what hope can we possibly have? Will God’s angels will come and sweep us away with the weeds? The answer comes not in how good we might try to be, but in how merciful God is to us. God provided a way to defeat the bad guy who lives inside of you, by drowning him or her so that a good guy might live within you and ultimately win. He does this by grace, helping the good guy win through baptism, creating faith and life in our hearts as Paul continues:
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.
We are wheat. We are good guys simply because of the grace, mercy and patience of God. That in his grace he calls us to be his sons and promises us through this parable of Jesus and in many other places that we will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father. This can only be because of God.
It’s a promise really—a promise from Jesus—the good guys will win. It’s a promise we can ultimately bank on because Jesus proved that he defeated the devil, and all his evil bad guy henchmen when he rose from the dead. And in so doing, Jesus gives away the ending to the story of the world—the good guys will win. And by good guys I mean God the Father, Jesus Christ his son, and all who belong to him, who can be called sons and daughters.
On the last day, Jesus who died to pay for your sins to make you good guys, perfect guys in God’s sight will raise you and everyone from the dead, but only the good guys, only those who believe in him; only those who have been forgiven in his blood, baptized in his name, will be declared good guys. But this is precisely why we treasure our baptism so very much. Because when you were baptized, the bad guy who lives in you, and fights against you was drowned, put to death and defeated. Yes the sinful nature still tries to rear it’s ugly head like some villains who after they are defeated reach out a hand and try to pull you down, but they cannot—you are baptized, Christ has conquered the sinful nature in you. And when the harvest comes you will be brought into the barn with the wheat to God’s treasure house in heaven.
And even though a good movie needs a bad guy to keep the story in suspense, this is one story you and I can be thankful we know how it will end—the good guys will win. We will win because of our Saviour Jesus Christ who conquered death and will share his victory with us. And we know he has done everything to make sure that on that day of our victory the bad guys will receive what they deserve, while we by God’s grace will rejoice in the victory of our Saviour. Amen.