Dancing With the Devil

Dancing With the Devil

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

James C. Denison

You may know that Miller Cunningham, our Pastor of Worship, drives a pickup truck. I read in this week’s Dallas Morning News that it’s a good thing our church isn’t located in Frisco. They have a city ordinance prohibiting all trucks from parking overnight in the street or driveway, charging $50 per violation. If we start charging Miller for parking in front of the church, we could make some serious money.

That’s not the only strange news in the news.

I read that the Dallas City Council is considering a variety of ways to close the budget deficit. One idea is to rent idle police patrol cars to businesses which would park them in front of their stores to thwart thieves, at least the really dumb ones. Perhaps we should put police lights on Miller’s pickup to protect the church.

I learned that laparoscopic surgeons who played video games were 27 percent faster at advanced surgical procedures and made 37 percent fewer errors than nongamers. Next time you’re having a procedure, ask whether or not the surgeon is good at Guitar Hero. If the surgeon hasn’t heard of the game, keep looking.

And I learned that singer Phil Collins divorced his third wife, agreeing to pay her $46.76 million. His second wife got $34 million; his three divorces have cost him a total of $84 million. Marrying Phil Collins is now a Fortune 500 business.

We live in a strange and troubled world. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan; suicide bombings continue in Iraq; now Russia is on the world stage with its military action in Georgia. We are arming Poland, and Russia threatens reprisals. Pakistan’s leadership is in chaos. Not to mention the continued turmoil regarding Palestine, or government repression in China.

Why would an all-loving, all-powerful God allow such a world? Why would he allow you to face the struggles and pain you face today? This morning we’ll explore Satan’s role in current events and in your life and problems. What we discover may lead you to a victory you’ll win in no other way.

Explore the parable

Our story begins: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field” (v. 24). Jesus is standing in the fields of Galilee, near the Sea of Galilee, surrounded by farms and farmers who illustrate precisely his parable. One may have been sowing seed at this very moment, so that Jesus pointed to him as he told the story.

Unfortunately, an enemy did what enemies often did and still do in the Middle East: “while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away” (v. 25). This crime was so common that the Romans had laws punishing those who committed it.

The “weeds” to which Jesus referred are called “bearded darnel.” They are poisonous to humans, causing dizziness and sickness. But it is impossible to detect them until the harvest time comes: “when the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared” (v. 26).

In the meantime, the owner must simply let the weeds grow. The enemy “sowed weeds among the wheat”—literally “over” or “throughout” the wheat. If the man pulled up the weeds, he would pull up the wheat as well (v. 29). But when the harvest comes, the weeds will be burned and the wheat gathered into the barn (v. 39).

Now, what does the story mean to us?

Who is the “man”? “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man” (v. 37), Jesus’ favorite self-designation. He tells us that the “field” is the world, while the good seed signifies “the sons of the kingdom” (v. 38a).

Who is the enemy? “The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil” (vs. 38b-39). Satan and his demons prefer to work under cover of darkness, while people are not watching or preparing for their attack. We cannot keep our enemy from sowing his seeds in our field, no matter how diligent we might be.

Satan sows his weeds throughout the field, all over the world. We are naïve if we do not expect his attacks. Satan “entered Judas, one of the Twelve” (Luke 22:3); he “filled” Ananias’ heart and caused him to lie to the early church (Acts 5:3). Wherever God plants his seed, Satan plants his weeds.

But God has the last word. He knows the weeds from the wheat. He will burn up the former and shelter the latter.

Revelation 19:20: “The two of them [the beast and the false prophet] were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.”

Revelation 21:8: “the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

Malachi 4:1-2: “‘Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.'”

Do battle with the enemy

So we know that Satan is right now sowing his “weeds” among the “wheat” of God’s people and Kingdom. What is the relevance of Jesus’ story to events occurring around us? To your temptations and troubles? What should we do about Satan today?

First, admit his reality. I was shocked to read a recent Barna survey which discovered that only 34 percent of Baptists believe Satan is a real, literal being. Their research included all Baptists, not just Southern Baptists, but is still frightening. It is actually higher than the general public, according to recent surveys. Most people see Satan as a mythological or symbolic figure, a cartoon character in red tights gripping a pitchfork or a leftover from Puritan days.