Jesus is continuing to share private parables with His disciples. The group came into the house after Jesus had been teaching and right away Jesus’ disciples asked Him the meaning of the parable of the weeds. I’m not sure if Jesus found a REALLY teachable moment or if He was emphasizing a point, but He is now into His third parable since His explanation. This parable is actually a lot like the one about the weeds, minus the enemy part.
The parable of the nets breaks mankind into two camps again; those that are with Jesus and those that are against. There is NO third option. The parable actually says, “The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous” (verse 49). This is a GREAT introductory parable for discussing how one moves from the “evil” label to the “righteous” one. There is only one way to get there. We can’t do it ourselves. In fact it is not us who moves us from one category to the other. It is Jesus who does it. But it depends on a decision we make. Here are the facts we need to consider before making that decision.
The first fact to note is that ALL of us have at one time or another sinned; done something wrong. If you have EVER told a lie, you are a liar. If you have EVER taken something that didn’t belong to you, you are a thief. There is no one who can claim to have NEVER done either of these to some degree or another, even as a child. God doesn’t use a gradient scale from 1-10, He uses check boxes. If you have ever done one of these, you MUST check the “yes” box. If you checked the “yes” box then you are rightly classified as a sinner. If you checked the “no” box then you are a liar and now most certainly classify as a sinner. Through the apostle Paul God said, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). All means ALL. So we all classify for the “evil” category. But that is not where we have to stay!
There is one half exception to this ALL rule, which is Jesus. He is the only one Who can check “no” to every box. We will talk about why He qualifies as the exception a little later on.
Fact two; God is holy and cannot live with sin. He loves us beyond words and He made us to live with Him from the beginning, but because of our behavior He had to stay separated from us.
Fact three; sin has a required price, which is paid in blood. The reason for this is that sin = death. The apostle Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). But God made a way to temporarily cover up our sin so He could at least visit with us through the prophets and priests of the Old Testament. He gave Moses the Law, including the Ten Commandments. Included in the law were explicit instructions for making animal sacrifices to cover individual and community sins. In those sacrifices one crucial thing about the animals was that it had to be perfect. They couldn’t be sick or weak. They couldn’t have any temporary or permanent markings on their body. They couldn’t be the “bad sheep” someone was just trying to get rid of. They had to be “blameless.”
Fact four; God had a plan to make the temporary covering allowed by animal sacrifices permanent through another sacrifice. This sacrifice would be Jesus. First Jesus had to agree to this plan. He wasn’t some dumb sheep that didn’t know what was happening. He was fully aware of everything this would require. He said “yes” at creation and He never changed His mind after that. He did have a time when He wanted to say “no” but He didn’t. He also had many times when He could have said “no” but He didn’t take those either.
Jesus also had to be human, like us, for the sacrifice to forever apply to us. God did this for Jesus when He put Him inside a young virgin named Mary’s womb. He would have a human mother but God would be His father. This resulted in Jesus being God AND man. This made it possible for Jesus to be the sacrifice as well as enabling Him to check “no” to all of the boxes mentioned earlier on the sin list. Jesus as God would resist the temptation to sin, even as a child. This completed the last requirement for Jesus to be the sacrifice; Jesus was perfect. He was blameless.
God and Jesus did all this for each of us. He loves each of us and wants to have a relationship with us. We had NO way of reaching a holy God and meeting His requirements on our own. So He had to do the work to reach out to us instead. That is what He did when He sent us Jesus. God made it possible for Him to completely overlook and forgive our sins through Jesus’ sacrifice. He did it as a FREE gift to us. Romans 3:24 says that we “are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” Jesus did it all as a gift for us.
I know. Everyone says that you never get anything for free. This kind of holds true here too. No, you don’t have to do anything to clean up your life before coming to Jesus. Nor do you have to pay for the gift Jesus is offering. What you DO have to do is recognize that our “first fact” is indeed true and accept all the other facts through faith. Next, you have to ask for that free gift God is holding out to you.
Knowing what is sitting in your Christmas present under the tree is a WHOLE LOT different than unwrapping it and using it. God has that free gift with YOUR name on it just waiting for you to ask for it. He will give it to you, once you ask for it, so quick it will make your head spin!
That is all it takes to move from the “evil” label to the “righteous” one. And once God affixes this label to you it is yours for good. This doesn’t mean all your problems are solved and you will never sin again. Jesus is not a gene that magically and instantly grants all your wishes. Nor is He an aspirin tablet that wears off and you have to take again every time a new “pain” arises. He is a constant friend and companion who will walk with you and work with you to address the issues in your life for the rest of your life. He knows you are going to blow it along the way from time to time. The sacrifice He made, and you accepted, included those times too. He will NEVER give up on you. He also promises you an eternity with Him after this life is finished.
Jesus’ parable and explanation about the angels at the end clearly state what awaits those who didn’t choose to trade in their labels. The default condition’s weather forecast is scalding hot and never ending. This is NOT an inviting or in any way desirable place to be.
John 3:16, probably the most familiar verse in the bible, spells out exactly what is required to receive God’s grace and what awaits those who choose to do so.
Father God, I don’t know why you brought me here today with this parable. I have always had trouble articulating Your plan of salvation to others. I have often worried about offending other’s belief systems when I do speak out. I also worry that I’m misquoting or misrepresenting You. Today though, I felt like You were telling me to take this path anyway, in spite of my fears. So, I’m asking You to bring life out of these words that will draw people to You. I trust You to rewrite what I have put here if You need to. For whoever this is for, open their heart to hear You and reassure them that, yes, it is that simple to become Your child. Wrap them in Your arms today and dry their tears. Welcome them to the family as you welcomed me so many years ago.
To the person God put on my heart today, welcome. I would love to hear from you if you feel so inclined. Please seek out other brothers and sisters in this huge family that can walk beside you and encourage you. Jesus will walk with you daily but it is always good to have others walk with you too. This journey is not always easy; in fact it is sometimes down right hard. But it IS worth it. Again, welcome to the family.