WOULD you believe?
We’ve been mining the Gospel of Matthew for one year and two months now. And to think that we’re still in the 13th chapter– 15 more beautiful chapters to go.
Oh, what great spiritual gold have we unearthed!
By the way, we call our series OG Tales because we’re going back to the original tales of Jesus—the parables. And the parable we’re about to unpack today is one of the most profound parables of Jesus.
Warning: You’re going to ride a submarine today.
We’re going to dive deep into the depths. Hang on!
Rule: Always Read In-Context
Today, I’d like to preach
There are situations that we want to handle, but we shouldn’t because we’re trespassing God’s responsibilities. And we must learn to let God handle them.
Jesus begins the parable in this way: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. (Matthew 13:24 NLT)
Who is this farmer? To answer this question, we must read the Bible in context. Based on the storyline of Matthew, this parable is about Jesus who was sowing good seeds– by befriending sinners, touching lepers, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry.
Today, as we speak, I believe the same Jesus is planting good seeds in your life. Right now. He is befriending you, touching you, healing you, feeding you. Jesus is loving you. Receive Him! But as real as Jesus is in your life, the presence of evil is real too.
Which is our first of five powerful lessons.
But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away. 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. 27 The farmer’s workers went to him and said, “Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?’” 28 “An enemy has done this!” the farmer exclaimed. (v.25-28)
Who is the enemy? Once again, go back to the context. What was happening during that time? Even with all the good work that Jesus was doing, the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.
Isn’t that evil?
Friend, look around you. There are people who do really bad things. Think of how tyrants oppress the poor. Or despots who massacre millions. Or drug lords and human traffickers and corrupt politicians.
Sometimes, the badness is soooo bad, something tells you it’s not just human anymore. There’s an evil force at work.
We cannot help saying either, “An enemy has done this!”
Note: There are hyper-spiritual people who see the Devil behind every street corner. I’m not that kind of a person. I’m at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m such a skeptic.
But even if I’m very cautious towards these matters, I still believe the enemy is real.
War is evil. Corruption is evil. Poverty is evil.
When we forget the suffering of others, that is evil.
What should you do?
Be on guard. Protect yourself spiritually. Keep following Jesus.
Here’s the next lesson…
Jesus was serving the poor and the religious leaders wanted to kill Him.
How insane is that?
Real talk: No matter how good you are, there will be some people who will hate you.
They will fight you in the name of God. Religious people will crucify you and they will believe they’re
doing God’s Will.
But the real drivers of their evil actions are jealousy, envy, insecurity, and pride.
They’re being manipulated by their inner Hydra, the monster with many heads.
Let me share this…
When I gave my life to God many years ago—12 years, to be exact— I had an expectation that life was sort of gonna be easier because somehow, you think that because God is right now with you, on your side, you know that you will start winning every single battle you will fight…
But the truth, the reality, is life remains the same. You still experience problems, you still experience challenges and obstacles… Life doesn’t get easier just because God is on your side. God doesn’t promise that you won’t go though some valley. But you know what He does promise? He promises that He will go through the valley with you. That’s God’s promise.
Someone asked me, a few years ago, during the height of my busyness in Ministry: “Don’t you ever get tired of serving the Lord?”
You know what, I smiled and then I said, “You know, one thing I’ve come to know these years of serving God is that I will always experience problems—whether I’m in Ministry or I’m outside of Ministry. But the only difference is that if I’m in Ministry, I know that at least God is with me. I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna go through some storms in this world, in my life… You know what, I would rather go (sail) through the storm, knowing that Jesus is on my boat.”
Say this: “Jesus, I want you on my boat.”
When you give your life to God, I want you to expect four challenges.
When Jesus started His Ministry, He didn’t waste any time getting His hands dirty. He went straight to work, and boy, did He love the dirtiness of the job…Loving people is a dirty job because people are messy, people always come with problems and difficulties…
When people come to The Feast for the first time, usually, their life is in a mess. But along the way, healing was given, cleansing was given to them. That’s What Jesus does. He cleans up our mess and bandages our wounds.
When you serve the Lord, expect your hands to get dirty.
Serving the Lord is not a comfortable task.
Right now, I’m thinking of people serving
The Feast when we were still going live at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). They come very early, already working while everyone else is still asleep. Here they are:
They pray over the sick.
Welcomers, Greeters, Ushers
Young David Servants or Payong Ministry— bringing people in during hot or rainy season.
And our workers, front liners, the bread winners— they go out every single day, risking their life to make a
living for their family.
What’s my point? Serving people is a calling and a calling is not comfortable. Why live out your calling?
When you give your life to God, God will ask you to die to yourself. Because it’s when you die to yourself that when you become selfless. You remove your pride and you begin living for others.
Once upon a time the Japanese samurais lived up to what is called an honorable death—a Good Death. They accept death knowing they fought with honor and courage.
In God’s Kingdom, that’s when you know you’ve served God and His people.
Do you want to serve like Jesus served?
The enemy’s mission is to remove you from God’s embrace. So, when you start serving God expect some opposition.
That’s what we call spiritual oppression—when the enemy is opposing what God is doing in your life.
Think of yourself as a soldier. A soldier is not surprised when an enemy shows up. A soldier knows with absolute certainty that the enemy will attack…
When you are on God’s side, expect spiritual battle. Prepare yourself with a counter attack. Go into God’s Presence. Prepare your heart. Pray for strength,
courage, and love.
So when the battle begins, you are battle-ready.
The apostle Paul says:
Are you being opposed? Are there people who are against you?
Let God handle it
The next part of the parable is where it gets deep…
“Should we pull out the weeds?” they asked. 29 “No,’” he replied, “you’ll uproot the wheat if you do. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.’”(v.28-30)
Let me insert this thought here:
The roots of the wheat and weeds are so intertwined, if you pull out one, you pull out the other. That’s because the same soil that feeds the wheat feeds the weeds. Meaning?
Evil is parasitic.
Evil is like the cancerous tumor that grows in a person’s body.
The tumor “eats” the other healthy cells until the entire body dies.
When, at the age of 12, I gave my life to Jesus, I was very naïve.
I was living in a spiritual Lalaland. I was dwelling in a fantasy world where all my religious leaders were perfect, all my church friends were holy, and our prayer meeting was God’s greatest weapon ever since Pentecost.
That fantasy world didn’t last too long.
One day, when I was 13 years old, our youth group held a Life in the Spirit Seminar in a city in Laguna. The seminar went on late at night, so we stayed overnight in the house of our host who kindly let my religious leader and me sleep in one of their bedrooms.
In the middle of the night, my leader, who was 10 years older than me, woke me up and molested me. He was not a priest but he looked like one. Wherever he went, he wore an immaculate white Barong Tagalog, projecting a huge crucifix dangling around his neck and the big black Bible he always carried.
The morning after, when I walked out of the bedroom, I saw him—my abuser—in the middle of a circle of my young friends, leading the morning prayer.
At that moment, I could not pray.
I could only ask, “Why would you allow such a monster?”
It’s the same question people ask: “Why did God allow Hitler to kill six million Jews?” or “Why does God allow corrupt politicians to steal billions?” or “Why does God allow massive poverty?”
If you lived long enough on Planet Earth, you know this already: Wheat and weeds co-exist. Good and evil sit beside each other on the same bench.
Why? I don’t know. I wish God would police the world now and kill all bastards. And let only good people live. But there lies the problem.
Evil lives in all of us.
There’s a little Hitler in all of us.
Tidal Wave of Scandals
Over the past months, we have been hit by an avalanche of religious scandals.
A popular preacher, known for his charisma, who pastors showbiz stars, was caught in adultery.
Almost at the same time, a world-famous Bible teacher and apologist, known for his uprightness, died of cancer—and his fans mourned the passing of a great man. But after his death, a number of women spoke up, alleging that he sexually abused them. Investigators found out he abused many other women. He was living a double life for decades.
But this is nothing new. These scandals happen regularly. It happens in every kind of group, or church, or religion. It also happens in Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism. It doesn’t matter if you’re progressive or conservative.
As Catholics, we know that the Catholic Church has been rocked again and again by the horrors of pedophilia. Some priests, bishops, and even a cardinal have been found guilty of abusing boys.
In all this, it’s easy to sit on our high horse and condemn all these hypocrites who have allowed demons to take over their life.
But we shouldn’t. Why? Whatever evil took over them is also alive and kicking in us. The same temptation. The same weakness. The same sin.
When I was a young preacher, I also was a hypocrite. After being molested as a child, I developed a porn addiction. So, after preaching by day, I went home and looked at porn.
Yes, I was living a double life.
It was only God’s mercy that eventually, I got out of it.
What healed me was the unconditional love of people who journeyed with me through the mess of my life. They also became my accountability partners. Every time I fell, I would tell them and ask for their prayers. Yes, God used a unique kind of church to heal me.
Which brings us to the next principle…
Again the question: Why doesn’t God just purge the Church from these monsters?
This profound parable does not give a full answer, but it does give a hint:
How can God purge the monster when the monster lives in us?
There’s a second hint: Our discernment skills are bad.
Please check these photos — one showing wheat, the other weeds.
In Palestine, they’re called “bearded darnel” and they’re the curse of farmers everywhere.
Do you see how similar they are?
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Especially when they are young, you won’t know the difference.
But at harvest time, it’ll be obvious which is which.
Jesus is telling us we’re not very good judges.
And we’ll make all sorts of mistakes labeling people.
This reminds me of the early stages of our spiritual community, the Light of Jesus Family known for our faith gathering, The Feast. Early on, we liked labeling people. Actually, the goal was not to label them– the goal was to make people holy. So, we set up a lot of hoops and hurdles before you were accepted as a full fledged member. And if we found out that you can’t keep our rules, you’re out.
Back to this parable. We never understood it. We never got the memo from Jesus who constantly ate with tax collectors and prostitutes: “My church will always be for messy people.”
But once we realized we ourselves are messed up, and our church is a messy church for messy people, we deployed compassion. Today, when we see the cancerous tumors in others, we don’t use a saw, we use a scalpel.
Unless it’s an abusive relationship, we use a saw.
But most often, we use a delicate scalpel when we heal others.
Today, may I give you two examples of our poor discernment skills?
First, we have a tendency to overemphasize sexual sins. We think they’re the worst kind. An abomination to God. So, we condemn homosexual acts, or premarital sex, or even masturbation to the high heavens. And caring for the poor doesn’t even appear on our radar. Which is absolutely wrong. Injustice, greed, and selfishness are serious sins.
Second, we have a tendency to minimize our own flaws and maximize the flaws of others. We do this because it makes us feel good. This is
Here’s my real advice. Don’t judge. Let God do the judging.
Let God handle it.
Shout this out: “God will handle it.” Here’s my last message…
Every human organization is broken.
Every human is broken.
Never idolize anyone.
Some people write to me and tell me they idolize me.
Don’t do that.
I’m just like anyone else.
I don’t care how great, or awesome, or gifted, or perfect, or holy you think a person is. If he’s a human being, made of skin and bones, he’s got problems. Issues. Hang-ups. He’s battling the demons of pride and greed and lust every day.
Why are we all messed up?
So that we remain desperate
for Jesus. He is the only One who can heal our brokenness.
The mess around us compels us to keep our eyes on Jesus.
Not on any human being or any human institution.
Focus on His scandalous love for you.
Fix your eyes on Jesus.