Discover more from Heaven On Wheels
The Parables of Jesus Part 6
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 - We can work now before the end of the age to bring those who are unbelievers into the fold, turning them from weeds to wheat.
“Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 NASB1995
Immediately following the parable of the sower, Jesus tells this parable of the wheat and tares (in the book of Matthew only). I have included the verses with the parable and the explanation that comes a few verses later in that same chapter (Matthew 13). In the previous parable, the four types of “soil” were discussed, with the good soil being the heart of a true believer who gives themselves entirely to Christ. Now Jesus says that the good seed (wheat) can indeed be sown in a field, but while the workers sleep (they are not being negligent, but can’t be there in the fields all the time), the enemy comes and sows tares among the wheat and then goes away. The tares become evident when the wheat sprouts and bears grain.
So, first of all, what are tares? According to the Blue Letter Bible, the Greek word for tares is ζιζάνιον or zizanion, meaning a kind of bearded darnel (weed) resembling wheat and related to it, except the heads are black. Having been raised my whole life in an urban/suburban environment and buying my wheat already processed and bagged as flour, this is a parable that would resonant best with those who toil in the fields, so I’m grateful that Jesus explains it and there are many expert Bible commentators to help out. Here is a good explanation from Precept Austin quoting Bible commentator John A. Broadus about tares:
The word rendered tares has been the subject of much discussion, but it is pretty generally agreed that it denotes darnel, a plant of the same family as wheat, and not readily distinguished from it in the early stages. Jerome, who lived in Palestine A. D. 385–420, states that it was quite difficult to distinguish them until the head of the wheat appeared.
[Edward] Robinson, journeying in Galilee in April, 1852, says, “Our path now lay through fields of wheat of the most luxuriant growth; finer than which I had not before seen in this or any other country. Among these splendid fields of grain are still found the tares spoken of in the New Testament. As described to me, they are not to be distinguished from the wheat until the ear appears. The seed resembles wheat in form; but is smaller and black. In Beirut poultry are fed upon this seed; and it is kept for sale for that purpose. When this is not separated from the wheat, bread made from the flour often causes dizziness to those who eat of it. All this corresponds with the lolium temulentum, or bearded darnel.”
So the seeds of the tares were not merely useless for human food, but noxious, which fact …adds to the point of the parable.
Here is a picture from Precept Austin showing wheat and tares and how closely tares or bearded darnel resembles green wheat.
Once the wheat sprouts, the tares, with a black grain head, becomes more evident. This plant is still found in the Middle East today; it entwines itself and grows with the wheat and is usually discarded at harvest or fed to poultry, who do not suffer ill effects from it, apparently.
So in the parable, the workers ask the landowner how tares came to be planted with the good seeds. He replies, as I noted above, that the enemy came and planted the tares while everyone was sleeping. They ask the landowner if they should go through the fields and remove the tares, thinking that they can distinguish good from bad. The landowner tells them to allow both to grow together and that the separation will come at the harvest, when it is easiest to tell the two apart. The reapers will gather both, the tares will be burned and the wheat will be stored.
The disciples ask for an explanation of this parable, which is found starting in Matthew 13:36. Jesus tells them that the one who sows the Good Seed is the Son of Man and the field is the entire world. The good seed are the sons (and daughters!) of the kingdom; the tares are the sons of the evil one (the devil or Satan) and he sowed them in among the good seeds. The reapers are the angels, who come at the end of the age, who will separate out the unbelievers and stumbling blocks and those who commit lawlessness and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The righteous will shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father.
This is not the first time nor the last time in the Gospels that Jesus refers to the time at the end of our age (the Second Coming) and it is not the first or last reference to the fiery punishments of hell for non-believers. He means what He says; hell is real and not some figment of the imagination, although many churches today would claim that it is “empty” because the idea bothers them so much that they are willing to ignore sin and give it a free pass. I think they should be more worried about being prepared for the harvest. I found this interesting commentary in Precept Austin quoting Irish Protestant Minister Ian Paisley:
The Sowing of the Tares was Devilish Work:
The Lord Jesus in His interpretation of the parable stated plainly "The enemy which sowed them is the devil" (verse 39). Satan's aim is to produce a race of human beings activated by a hatred of God and all that God stands for. The Lord Jesus tells us that the tares are "the children of the wicked one".
The Sowing of the Tares Was Devious Work
It was not done openly but with the serpent's cunning of the devil. It was when light was extinguished and men slept that the sowing took place.
The Sowing of the Tares Was Deceptive Work
While growing, the tares can hardly be distinguished from the pure wheat. It is only as the tares come to full growth their ears are longer than wheat, and their grains almost black and very poisonous.
The Sowing of the Tares Was Defeated Work
The sowing of the deceptive, devious, devilish tares was defeated. In the time of harvest the clear cut distinction is so evident that the tares can be separated from the wheat and then burned with fire. In contrast the good wheat is barned (see Matthew 13:30). (from A Text A Day Keeps the Devil Away)
Another thought from this parable: We are told not to do the harvest prematurely, because some of the wheat (good seed) may be destroyed along with the tares. Precept Austin is nailing it today with some of their collected commentaries for this parable. Here is a cautionary statement from John MacArthur that they included (links go to GotQuestions.org); I have a couple of clarifiers and my own comments in brackets:
Every time the church has presumed to do that [separate the “good” from the “bad”] it has produced an ungodly bloodbath. When the fourth-century Roman emperor Constantine required every person to make a profession of faith in Christ on pain of death, he succeeded in killing many true believers who refused to submit to his spurious brand of Christianity. During the Crusades of the Middle Ages, unbelievable brutality was committed against non-Christians, especially Muslims and Jews, in the name of the Prince of Peace [atrocities did occur on both sides and the Crusades were partly in response to Muslim conquests]. During the inquisitions in reaction to the Protestant Reformation, countless thousands of Christians who did not submit to the dogma and authority of Roman Catholicism were imprisoned, tortured, and executed [Catholics also suffered under Protestant purges in places like Great Britain]. In the present age, believers are not God’s instruments of judgment and destruction but of truth and grace. Toward unbelievers we are not to have hearts of condemnation but of compassion. The church is called to preach and teach against sin and all unrighteousness, but, in doing that, its purpose is not to judge but to win souls, not to punish but to convert sons of the evil one into sons of the kingdom.
The key from this commentary in my opinion is that we are to try and win the souls of the “tares” for as long as possible with compassion (while still preaching against sin), until the final eternal separation is done at that unknown time in the future by our Lord and His Heavenly beings.
Finally, Jesus ends His explanation to His disciples with His familiar admonition: He who has ears to hear, let him hear.
My next devotional examines another Kingdom of God parable about the Mustard Seed, found in Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord: Help me to have compassion on those who do not believe or are lost and to help win souls for the Kingdom of Heaven among the “tares” in our world with truth and grace, while still teaching against sin and unrighteousness. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
The personal testimony for the founder of Precept Austin is found at the link.