He put another parable before 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 weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
(Matthew 13:24-30 ESV)
Today we study another parable of Jesus’ as recorded by Matthew. The subject of this one, like the previous one, is the kingdom of heaven which began when Jesus ascended into heaven and which continues to this day. This time period is often referred to metaphorically as the time of harvest in which people who believe in Jesus are gathered up like wheat during harvest season.
In this parable a man sowed good seed in his field. But during the night, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat. While the ESV translates the Greek word ζιζανιον (pronounced: dziz-an’-ee-on) as “weeds” other translations use the word “tares”. In fact, this parable is often referred to as The Parable of the Tares.
This particular weed is a variety of darnel that closely resembles wheat. It is actually a bit of a narcotic, inducing sleep. In severe cases it can cause death.
The difference between darnel and wheat is almost impossible to distinguish until the plants ripen and the grain is visible. Which is why it wasn’t until the plants came up and bore grain that the weeds appeared also.
Planting tares in someone’s wheat field was not uncommon in the ancient world. In fact, records show that the Romans had a law against doing it.
The man’s servants offer to go and gather up the tares but the farmer wisely declines. By this point the roots of both the wheat and the tares had become intertwined and in gathering the tares the wheat would be pulled up too, including any wheat that had not yet fully ripened.
Instead, the farmer waited until the harvest when he would tell the reapers to gather the weeds so they could be burned. But the wheat would be gathered up and put into the barn. Notice it is the reapers who gather the weeds, not the servants. This will be important when we study the meaning of this parable.
This act of sabotage was committed by the farmer’s enemy whose goal was to destroy the wheat. The enemy thought that the farmer would be inclined to pull up the tares before harvest because they would be depriving nutrients to the wheat. But by doing so the farmer would have also destroyed his wheat crop.
The farmer was wise enough to know that patience was the better choice. He was willing to allow the useless tares to grow along side the wheat for a time. But ultimately, the farmer knew, the tares would be eliminated and the wheat would be gathered up.
Jesus will explain this parable in detail in a couple of days. But since we know that it is about the kingdom of God we can notice for now that Jesus is telling us that His kingdom is currently comprised of good (wheat) and evil (tares). They exist side by side.
Some often wonder why there is evil in this world. The answer is that, just like the farmer puts up with the tares for a season, God is patiently allowing evil to exist for a time. In the future, like the wheat and the tares, good and evil will be permanently separated.
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