Author: Ron Graham
The Weeds in the Fields
—The parable of the tares
One of the longer parables in Matthew 13 is the parable of the tares. It is considerably more complex than the several shorter parables in that chapter. We studied those shorter parables in our previous lesson.
Note —TARES: It is uncertain just what plant is referred to. The Greek word is zizania, which is used in the Bible only in the parable of the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). However the parable is clearly referring to a weed that looks very like wheat when it is young, but becomes evident when the true wheat sets a fruiting head.
The Parable of the Tares is mainly concerned with the fact that the kingdom of God is in the world where there is much evil, and will remain so until the end of the world when the good and the evil will be forever separated (Matthew 13:24-30,36-43).
1 Good Versus Evil
Matthew 13:24-25 contrast the two forces that are operating in this world. There is the power that seeks to do all things well, and there is the power that tries to spoil what is good (Ephesians 6:10-12). All who live in this world must decide which power they are going to align themselves with.
Matthew 13:25 also shows the deceptive nature of evil. The enemy came by night when no one was watching, did his harm, then went away. His work was not evident in the morning, and nobody was aware of what he had done.
Matthew 13:26-28 Evil, having insinuated itself into our midst, will sooner or later become evident. By that time however, it will be nearly impossible to get rid of.
Matthew 13:28-30 show that we live in an age in which evil and good exist together, and the roots of good and evil are tangled together. It is clear however that good and evil remain distinct, and the evil can be recognised as evil, and the good as good. You can look at one stalk and say, "This is a tare", or at another stalk and say, "This is wheat". Knowing the difference is not the problem.
2 A Pattern for Interpreting Parables
The parable of the tares is different not only in its length, but also in another way. Our Lord was asked to explain this parable. Thus we have the benefit of an explanation in detail by the Master of parables himself.
As we have mentioned in earlier lessons, when we are benefited with the Lord's own explanation of a parable, we have more than just the correct interpretation of that particular parable. We have a paradigm or pattern for correctly interpreting his parables in general.
Our Master’s manner of interpretation is the pattern for our interpretations, so that we do not twist his words to make them mean something he never intended.
3 Our Lord’s Explanation of the Parable
Matthew 13:36 records a request from the disciples for an explanation of the parable. They were not willing to invent an interpretation of their own. They wanted guidance. They were interested only in the true meaning of the parable, the meaning intended by its teller. We might note this attitude as the proper one regarding all scripture, not only the parables.
Matthew 13:37 —The Sower is the Son of Man; a description Jesus used of himself. It does not deny that he is the Son of God, but emphasises that he is also a human being, having been born one of us in order that he might sow good seed, saving our souls.
Matthew 13:38 —The Field is a small surprise, because we might have guessed that the field was the kingdom of God. In this parable however, it is the world.
Matthew 13:38 —The Good Seed of wheat is another surprise, because in the parable of the sower, the seed was the word of God. In this parable, however, it represents "the sons of the kingdom", the people who obey the word of God.
Matthew 13:38 —The Bad Seed of tares represents "the sons of the evil one" who are the opposite of the sons of the kingdom. From the spiritual point of view, people are divided into two groups, sons of good and sons of evil. There is no third kind. There is no one who is neither.
Matthew 13:39 —The Enemy is the Devil. He is a sneak, creeping in unseen, doing his evil work of spoiling the good, and then running off to hide, making it look as though nothing has happened. Only later do we discover that he has been at work, when his deception manifests itself.
Matthew 13:39 —The Harvest is the end of the world. Just as a crop grows until the harvest, so the world will go on through the ages until God declares that harvest time has come. Then the reapers will take a sickle to the field, remove the tares and gather the wheat. It is worth noting that the tares, though they tangled themselves among the wheat, did not prevent the wheat from reaching maturity and bearing fruit.
Matthew 13:39 —The Reapers are the angels. No man (other than Jesus) determines who is wheat and who is weed. That is a task for angels who can be trusted to do it right.
Matthew 13:40,41 —The Gathering Up is the same as the separating of the sheep from the goats in the parable recorded in a later chapter (Matthew 25:31-33). The angels will first gather the sons of evil to cast them aside for destruction. Even those who have disguised themselves as sons of light when they are not, will be gathered up with the rest.
Matthew 13:42,43 —The Lord’s Warning is very clear. Be ready for that day to come. The Lord speaks of the sons of the kingdom as Michael the archangel did centuries earlier when he warned the world of the coming day when both the living and the dead will be judged (Daniel 12:1-4).