24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;
25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.
26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.
27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’
28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’
29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ‘ “
Here is Jesus’ explanation of the parable:
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.
38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.
39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels.
40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.
41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness,
42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
Verse 24 – “… a man who sowed good seed in his field.” The parable is generally understood as the gospel (seed) being sown in the field (the land). This is equivalent to what Christ was doing at that very time. He was:
- Preaching the Kingdom, Matt 4:23, 9:35, Mark 1:14, Luke 8:1, Acts 20:25, 28:31
- Preaching the Gospel Matt 4:23, 9:35, Mark 1:14, Luke 9:6, Acts 8:25, 14:7
Some want to equate the field to the church, however, Jesus was sent to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” Matt 10:6, 15:24. This relationship of God and Christ with the chosen nation is critically important to understanding all the parables. Let me illustrate the profound effect a few verses can have on our understanding of Jesus’ ministry:
Galatians 4:4-5 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
We may safely conclude that Jesus never taught anything contrary to the Law as given by Moses, otherwise the Jews would have had an actual accusation against him! Jesus was a Jew. He was born under the law. He lived under the Law. He taught the Jews a better understanding of the Law. He answered the Jewish leaders’ questions in reference to what the Law required.
We could take a later, more general lesson from this parable and apply it to the church. But respecting the setting, context and audience relevance of the passage, I think the proper understanding of what the field represents is the field in which Jesus was then working, the lost sheep of the house of Israel Matt 10:6, 15:24.
Jesus’ explanation of verse 24 – Matt 13:37 – “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man” (Jesus). Also verse 24 – Matt 13:38 “… the field is the world…”
World G2889 κόσμος kos’-mos – probably from the base of G2865 (komizo); orderly arrangement, i.e. decoration; by implication the world (in a wide or narrow sense, including its inhabitant, literal or figurative [moral]) :- adorning, world. G2865 κομίζω komizō kom-id’-zo Root: from a primary komeo (to tend, i.e. take care of) The kosmos is actually what God himself takes care of, the orderly arrangement that he has made. It is all of the order of nature and the order of God’s dealing with mankind.
Verse 25 – “…but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares…” The damage was initially done in secret by a deceitful enemy. These seeds (the tares) are at first not seen. In this parable, if Satan is unable to snatch the word away it is just as good for him to sow false teaching to choke the good seed. In the New Testament, “sleep” is often equated with not being alert for evil. Luke 22:46, Rom 13:11, 1Cor 11:30, Eph 5:14, 1Thess 5:6-7. Men must be vigilant, not “sleep,” in order to avoid the wicked one.
Jesus’ explanation of verse 25 – Matt 13:39 “…The enemy who sowed them is the devil, Matt 13:38″ but the tares are the sons of the wicked one The “tares” equal Satan’s angels, or “wicked ones.” While Christ’s disciples were teaching, the Judaizing teachers, zealots and other evil ones were very active also. The word for tares is thought to mean darnel, a ryegrass that looks much like wheat in its early stages of growth. Roman law prohibited sowing darnel among the wheat of an enemy.
In the 1st century, Satan was very active and powerful:
- He was able take away seed from men’s hearts Mark 4:15
- He was able to enter into Judas Luke 22:3, John 17:12
- He was able to ask for Simon Peter Luke 22:31.
- He was able to fill Ananias’ heart Acts 5:3.
- He was able to transform himself into an angel of light 2Cor 11:14.
- He had all power, signs, and lying wonders 2Thess 2:9.
Verse 26 – “… the grain had sprouted and produced… tares also appeared.“ The seeds that Satan had sown began to sprout. The teachings that he had put forth to repudiate Christ were even then being proclaimed by the Jewish leaders. These leaders and teachers were the scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites whom Jesus condemned so strongly Matt 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29, Luke 11:44.
Verse 27 – “… the servants… said… How then does it have tares?” The servants knew that the something was very wrong.
Verse 28 – “He said… ‘An enemy has done this… servants said… ‘Do you want us… gather them up?” The “man” that had sown the good seen knew immediately that the tares were the fruit of an enemy (Satan). The servants wanted to pluck the tares up but it was not the job of the (then living) servants to do this. The disciples of Christ were not to physically “take out” the evil plants. That job of separation was reserved for God! Some today still want to do this very thing. They want to physically “fight for the Lord.” This is what Peter did in the garden. He struck off the ear of Malchus, and Jesus rebuked him for it Matt 26:51, John 18:10. In Christian history there are occasions of forcing others to believe. There are also occasions of “The Church” requiring membership for favors of ownership of land and other privileges.
Jesus’ explanation of verse 28 – Matt 13:39 the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. The reapers were to be Christ’s angels, not men.
Verse 29 – “… he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.” If men alone were allowed to judge between the plants, they might have made mistakes, thereby injuring or destroying the good. That kind of judging or seperation was left only to God!
Jesus’ explanation of verse 29 – Matt 13:40 “therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.” The harvesting was not to be done until the “end of the age.” It was not yet time for the gathering or the harvest. What “age” was Jesus speaking about?
1 Corinthians 2:8 “which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”
Verse 30 – “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the TIME of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Time G2540 καιρός Kairos kahee-ros’ of uncertain affinity; an occasion, i.e. set or proper time :- × always, opportunity, (convenient, due) season, (due, short, while) time, a while. Compare to G5550 (chronos).
G5550 χρόνος chronos khron’-os of uncertain derivative; a space of time (in general, and thus properly distinguished from G2540 (kairos), which designates a fixed or special occasion; and from G165 (aion), which denotes a particular period) or interval; by extensive an individual opportunity; by implication delay :- + years old, season, space, (× often-) time (-s), (a) while.
G165 αἰών aiōn ahee-ohn’ from the same as G104 (aei); properly an age; by extension perpetuity (also past); by implication the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period (present or future) :- age, course, eternal, (for) ever (-more), [n-]ever, (beginning of the, while the) world (began, without end). Compare with chronos.
There was to be a time, an appointed time, when all of the results of the work that Jesus and his disciples had done would be judged in the harvest.
Jesus’ summation including definitions – Matt 13:41 The Son of Man (Jesus) will (at the proper time) send out His angels, (not men) and they will gather (harvest) out of His kingdom (the “holy people” Dan 12:7) all things that offend, (G4625 those that cause stumbling blocks) and those who practice lawlessness, (Those who do iniquity, unrighteousness, and don’t accept Jesus.)
Matt 13:42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. (The evil ones of the previous “holy people” will be destroyed with fire. Dan 12:1-3,7) There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Matt 13:43 Then the righteous will shine (Phil 2:15) forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! (2Sam 7:12, 13, 16; Dan 7:14, 18, 22; Matt 5:3, 10,19, 20, 8:11, 16:28; Mark 1:15, 9:1; Luke 10:9-11, 11:20, 13:28, 16:16, 17:20-21; John 3:3-5, 18:36; Rom 14:17; Col 1:13; Heb 12:28; 2Pet 1:11) (Matt 13:9, 15; Mark 8:18; Rom 11:8)