E100 – January 22, 2017

“D-Day for Sin” – Matthew 13

 Epiphany 3 – January 22, 2017

Introduction: Kingdom of God / D-Day

I just want to remind you that we are just into a series of sermons on 100 Bible passages essential to our understanding of God’s overall message to us.
How would you explain the Kingdom of God to someone you know? Would you draw a picture or paint a painting? Would you give some kind of technical explanation? Would you write a puppet show or give an object lesson simple enough so that children could understand? Would you tell a story or give an illustration that made one aspect of God’s kingdom relevant and clear?


Today, another significant passage from the teaching of Jesus – virtually an entire chapter – Matthew 13 – dedicated to several parables explaining the Kingdom of God. I remember learning in Sunday School that a parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. So we’ll keep that in mind, knowing that as we hear the earthly stories there is something deeper at stake with respect to the kingdom of God.
But before we get to those kingdom of God parables, let’s unpack the Big Idea for a moment. The Big Idea today, in fact the sermon title is “D-Day for Sin.”


We all associate D-Day with June 6, 1944. The military forces of Nazi Germany had invaded much of Europe, including Poland, Italy, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, Austria, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Belgium, Yugoslavia, and even France. On the stormy morning of June 6, 1944, the military forces of Canada, Britain, United States and their allies began the massive effort to liberate Europe from the grip of the Nazis. In what is now considered a watershed event in history, and at great loss of human life, the allied forces invaded the beaches of Normandy France and over the next year gradually fought their way across Europe to reclaim the captured territory and defeat the enemy regime. D-Day was the beginning of the end for Hitler’s evil reign.


Oh, has anyone cracked the military intelligence to actually know what the D in D-Day stands for? D-Day = designated, decision, doomsday, death, disembarkation, departed. OK Google – what does the d in D-Day stand for? (nothing specific… just alliteration)


The concept of D-Day provides a perfect picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, the world has been under the influence of sin. But when Jesus invaded the Earth, it was the beginning of the end for Satan’s evil empire. Theologians describe the Kingdom of Heaven as the rule of God’s grace in the world. As Jesus went about his public ministry he liberated more and more people from sin and its bondage and expanded his kingdom on Earth. Through his death on the cross, he opened the way for everyone to enter his kingdom. But that was a hard concept for people to see and understand at the time, which is why Jesus used so many common analogies or parables to clarify the kingdom.


Let’s see what Jesus says about the kingdom in his Matthew 13 parables.

  1. Kingdom Parables
  2. The Word of God bears fruit

The first Parable Jesus told did not have a military background but an agricultural background. It is the story of a man who went to sow seeds. The seeds fell on 4 different kinds of soil – the path, rocky ground, among thorns, and on good soil. The birds ate the seeds that fell along the path. The seeds that fell on rocky ground developed no roots and were scorched by the sun. The seeds that fell among thorns were choked out. Only the seeds that fell on good soil produced a harvest. The connection to the kingdom of God was that the seed represented the word of God as it is sown into people’s lives. The evil one comes and snatches the impact of God’s word from the lives of those who don’t understand it. Troubles and hardships take away the impact of the word from those in whom it has not developed deep roots. The cares and riches of the world choked out the impact of the word in the lives of others. The word only bears fruit in the lives of those who hear and understand and take it to heart. And that Harvest is great, in some cases 100 fold.


As Jesus explains the parable of the sower to his disciples, he wants them to understand that as they go out and preach the gospel, not all the words they sow will produce fruit. But what keeps a farmer sowing, and what keeps a disciple proclaiming, is Jesus’ promise that some seed will produce a wonderful harvest. That harvest may be fruit of good works in the lives of us and others, or it may be the harvest of people coming to know and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. The lesson for us is obvious: the blessings of God’s kingdom come through the seed of God’s word.

  1. Separation of wheat from weeds

The second agricultural parable features the farmer again sowing good seed in his field. However in this story an enemy comes and sows weeds among the wheat. When the plants came up the weeds and the wheat grew together. The servants weren’t sure what to do but the farmer advised them to let them be until the harvest. At that time, the weeds would be gathered, bundled and burned.

Jesus explained the connection to the kingdom of God. In this case, the good seed represented the sons and daughters of God’s Kingdom, while the weeds represented the sons and daughters of the evil one, sown by the devil.  They both exist in the world together, but at the Harvest at the end of the age (I suppose you might refer to it as the ultimate D-Day) the sons and daughters of the evil one will be gathered and judged and punished, while the sons and daughters of God will – by virtue of their faith in Jesus, and because they are sons and daughters of God – shine like the sun, and shine like the Son of God, as they enjoy the father’s Glory in His eternal Kingdom.


  1. Small things… Big influence

The other parables in Matthew 13 all seem to have a theme of small things… big influence.

First, we go back to the field and a farmer. He plants a mustard seed – by Jesus’ own admission – the smallest of all seeds. But when that little seed germinates and grows, it grows to a surprising size – big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches, reports Jesus. On the prairies, farmers plant canola, which belongs to the mustard family. The seeds are essentially the same size – you could probably fit 10 or 15 of them on your little finger nail. When canola plants flower, they produce a bright yellow field, and you can find canola oil in the vegetable oil section of your grocery store. The plants grow over 1 meter tall – maybe not quite big enough for birds’ nests – and they have pods like pea plants. Apparently, one variety of mustard in the middle east can grow to 3 meters in height – certainly larger than garden plants, and definitely big enough for birds’ nests, as Jesus said. This alludes to a prophecy in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel that compares the Messiah’s rule to a great tree in whose shadow “birds of every sort will nest.” But remember, Jesus was talking about the kingdom of heaven… with a small beginning but a lot of potential.

He follows that parable with the one about leaven / yeast that we talked about a couple of months ago. Granules of yeast are even smaller… you could probably get 100 of them on your little finger nail. But when you put yeast into warm water with sugar, they begin to work and rise and multiply in size. Jesus talks about a woman “hiding” the yeast in flour until the whole lump of dough is affected and it rises to double or triple its size. Again, the kingdom of heaven “hides” in the world but has a leavening impact wherever it is found. Small thing… big influence.

At the end of Matthew 13, three more kingdom parables come in quick succession. The first two are similar. A man finds a treasure in a field. Is he a pirate… you know X marks the spot? He remembers where the treasure is, and sells all he has so that he can buy that field… and the treasure.  The second man is a merchant who upon discovering a pearl of great price, sells all he has in order to buy that pearl.

In both cases, the treasure and the pearl represent the kingdom of God, and it’s worth giving up everything else in order to have it.

The final parable is the parable of a net that is thrown into the sea and it gathers fish of every kind. The fish are sorted, and either discarded if they are bad fish or kept if they are good fish. Like the parable of the weeds and the wheat, this one speaks about the separation of the evil ones from the righteous ones at the last judgment for God’s kingdom.


  1. Application: Small step… big impact

Let’s make the application from what Jesus says to the implication for our lives.


  1. D-day for sin

As I mentioned earlier, the concept of D-Day provides a perfect picture of the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus invaded the Earth, it was the beginning of the end for sin and for Satan’s evil empire. We see that in so many ways in what Jesus did. He healed people of their diseases, reversing Satan’s desire to afflict people with pain and hardship. Here we can think of the man born blind, the ten lepers, the 18-year long crippled woman. They were all healed by Jesus, and many more. He cast demons out of those who were sorely oppressed – a man in the synagogue, a young boy who was brought by his dad, and Mary Magdalene from whom seven demons has gone out. He forgave people of their sins. He started with a paralyzed man, woman caught in adultery, and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with her tears. He turned people’s lives around from those who ignored or ran away from God to those who warmly embraced Him and served Him. Zacchaeus, the cheating tax collector who became a true and faithful son of Abraham, the Samaritan woman at the well who desired the living water Jesus offered and who wondered aloud to her townspeople whether Jesus might be the Messiah, and Paul who traded in persecuting Christians for proclaiming the one they believed in. In every case, Jesus invaded those lives with His wholeness, with His grace, with His love, with His salvation.


But nowhere was the positive impact of Jesus’ invasion of earth more clearly seen than on (goo)D-(fri)Day. On that day, when He died on the cross, He once and for all defeated sin and evil, death and the devil. Call it defeat-day, death-day, deliverance-day – they all fit. That day was certainly the end for the reign of Satan. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself, and it signalled the ultimate victory… for Him and for us. Borrowing words from July 20, 1969, we could say: “One small death for man, one giant impact for mankind.”


  1. D-Day applied to us

That D-Day was in the past. It’s a done deal. Its effect can’t be overturned. But it still needs to be applied to us and our lives. It needs to be made real and personal.

Like the messages of those various parables, some small things have a big impact on our spiritual lives.

Maybe you were baptized as an infant, with a little bit of water poured on your head. Insignificant? Not really… that day, God made you His child, forgave your sins, gave you His Holy Spirit, and poured out His promises. Martin Luther encouraged us to remember our baptisms daily.

Small thing… big deal.

Some of you made a profession of faith on a certain day, saying “I believe in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” It might have been a 2-minute declaration in front of a congregation of people. But was it meaningless? No way! Jesus said, “Anyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.” The words of your little statement of faith echoed in the very halls of heaven.

You may be spending those 5 or 10 minutes a day praying and reading your Bible using the E100 or Front to Back models. Is that useless? Not according to God. In Isaiah 55, God promises that His word that goes out from His mouth will not return to Him empty, but will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it out.

You may show a little love and kindness to a person in need – either by words or in your actions. Do they go unnoticed? Hardly. After Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet as an example of servanthood, He summed up His actions by saying, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Yes, people will see Christ in what we do.

Perhaps you had a brief spiritual conversation with someone at work, or a neighbour, or a random person at the mall. Does that have any impact in God’s kingdom? You may never know, but Romans 10 assures us it does. After asking the question: “How are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?” it concludes, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”


In God’s kingdom, small things often have a big influence. Small investments bring a huge return. Small events have an overwhelming impact. When Jesus told these Matthew 13 parables, He challenged His hearers to “understand with their hearts.” It’s not just an intellectual exercise. God wants His Word to sink in to our lives – like a mustard seed planted solidly into good soil, like leaven hidden deep in those measures of flour.

Jesus’ presence in our lives may seem like a small thing, but it changes everything about our lives both now and for eternity. He shapes our motivations, our attitudes, our words, and our actions in ways that we may not always see or realize. God’s Word may have started small within us – a Baptism, a profession of faith – but it has the potential to grow like a mustard seed, or like that leaven hidden in flour. It is a treasure and a pearl whose great price will only be known in the fullness of time as our lives stretch from this life into eternity. And that is only possible – and by the way it’s certain – because of that first D-Day when Jesus stepped into human history to end Satan’s evil empire, to do away with the power of sin, and to bring God’s grace to our world and to our own lives. And maybe that’s a new way for you to explain the kingdom of God to someone who asks.

Let’s pray: Heavenly Father, thank you so much for inviting us into Your kingdom. Keep our minds and spirits and hearts watchful and alert to see the signs of Your Kingdom showing up all around us. Sink Your Word deeper and deeper into our hearts so that we can bear abundant fruit for Your Kingdom. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.


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