Summary: God asks patience and faithfulness of his people while he works his cosmic plan to a perfect conclusion.
Read Matthew 13.24-30. Pray.
They are likely the two worst spy cases in US history. Beginning in April of 1985 and continuing until his arrest in February of 1994, Aldrich Ames sold intelligence secrets to the Soviets (and then the Russians) for $4.6 million. Early on, the CIA realized that agents were disappearing, but they were reluctant to admit that a mole could have penetrated their highest levels. It is estimated that Ames compromised at least one hundred U.S. intelligence operations and that his betrayals led to the execution of at least ten U.S. sources.
Ames’ was the worst breach until Robert Hanssen was unmasked seven years later. Between 1979 and 2001, Hanssen worked for the KGB as a mole in the CIA, selling intelligence-gathering secrets, exposing CIA agents and double agents, and compromising computer security and passwords. The 2007 film, Breach, dramatizes the crimes and arrest of Hanssen.
The stories of these two men disturb us more than simply finding out we have enemies. In a fallen world, we expect opposition. Gadhafi hates Americans, in part, because our freedoms call his citizens to throw off shackles of tyrannical power. We embody ideals that threaten his god-like control and opulence. But when one of our own betrays sacred trusts and assists in the exposure and execution of those who believe in God-given and inalienable rights, we shudder.
In the church, we realize that an adversary prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. We must resist the devil, firm in our faith, suffering if necessary, knowing that the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us. But like a mole in the most sensitive departments of the CIA, this parable speaks of weeds and wheat sharing the field until the harvest. Not an adversary outside the fellowship, but one among us. What is Jesus saying, and why, and what are we to do about it?
Parables lasso abstract and multi-dimensional realities to corral them in specific and understandable ways. Pastor Tim Keller describes them as “concrete depictions of cosmic truths.” The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…. The kingdom of heaven is like…. Heaven exists outside our reality; it cannot be understood directly, but only by simile and figure of speech.
To appreciate this parable, we benefit from considering the context of the Jewish world of Jesus’ day. Israel survives as a nation and people, but under the yoke of foreign, oppressive power. They are not economically self-sufficient, but live in significant poverty and with a general lack of political and social freedom. In this cauldron of frustration and oppression, Messianic hopes constantly bubble to the surface.
Messiahs also rose with frequency, as did their followers. Jesus was neither the first nor the only charismatic leader to draw crowds and ignite hope of revolution. Rome’s political power deeply offended Jewish people and they clamored for a leader to overthrow the hated government.
Now certainly, Jesus is the Messiah promised of old, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. However, Jesus was not the king anticipated; his rule is different than all other kings. As he explained: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting…. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18.36).
So he tells this parable to contradict expectations and encourage perseverance. Contradicting expectations: the people held in their hearts hope for Messiah. Jesus’ failure to fulfill their desires does not disqualify him from the office. He is the promised one, proven by his life, death, and resurrection. The promise is true, and God’s provision is perfect, even if we misunderstand his plans. In fact, Jesus often corrected expectations, both by his teaching and by his living parables, actions which both proved his Messianic claim and also taught greater theological truths.
Jesus not only explained grace, he changed water into wine to show that that God’s grace is an intoxicating truth, a hilarious and happy mercy. He healed the lame so we would trust him to heal our sin-sick souls. He spoke of himself as the bread from heaven, and he multiplied bread and fish into a feast for thousands so we would come to him for spiritual nourishment. Jesus heals the man born blind in order to demonstrate his solution to a religion that cannot see. As a result, each of us must ask with whom we identify – the spiritually blind or those who imagine they can see? The miracles proved the deity of Christ, certainly; they are also signs pointing to the nature of God and of grace. In all these, Jesus contradicted false and merely human expectations of the promised Messiah.