“Another parable He put forth to them, saying; ‘the kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field;'”
– Matthew 13:24
This – the parable of the wheat and tares – begins with a statement, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” It is the first of twelve such statments made by Jesus (mostly recorded by Matthew, but also Mark and Luke). It would be easy for me at this point to go chasing down that rabbit hole, because I am easily distracted by such statements, but I’m going to stick to the parable for a moment.
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
“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.”’”
“And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Tares: the Greek word is zizania. My Smith’s Bible Dictionary says that tares are a common weed called “darnel.” Wheat and darnel look exactly the same when they are in the grass stage, before they come into ear. Back in Bible days it was mostly women and children who weeded the fields, and because the farmer wanted to get the most from his crops he wanted the women and children to wait until the wheat was fully distiguishable, so that only the tares would be removed. Lolium Temulentum (the Latin world for darnel) is very poisonous. If eaten, it produces convulsions and even death. Today darnel is not burned, but is fed to the cattle, and if any of the seeds manage to get in with the wheat they are plucked out and fed to the poultry.
The Parable of the Wheat and Tares Explained
“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!”
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In Mark’s rendition there is no mention of tares, only wheat. Mark is focused on and fascinated by the miracle of life that is in the seed, and the partnership between the seed and the earth where it is planted. It really is a miracle, isn’t it? Not just with wheat, but with all things. The life of the earth and all the living things that are in it are a miracle and a marvel. And while it is nice just to linger in that kingdom-of-God-place for a while, Matthew’s rendition points out how the devil messed up the utopia God had created and sowed tares among the wheat. Now we are in the place of waiting, until it all grows up.
I think it is important that we see who God put in charge of the weeding. Jesus tells the disciples that it is His angels’ whom He put in charge of collecting the tares (not us by the way, you’ll notice)! It’s our job to grow, and mature, and to put down good strong roots, and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ no matter what stage of maturity they are in, and wait for the day. The word of God waters us. Prayer is our sunshine. We are in this together.
“Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” Romans 14:1
What I take away from this parable is that God wants for us to have mercy, and compassion, and love, and steadfastness for one another (Christians). That doesn’t mean that we are to tolerate sin in the house of God (1 Corinthians 5), but our Lord who planted this field shall surely be upset with us uprooting and trampling each other down to run after a job that isn’t ours.
Our heavenly father is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentence (1 Peter 3:9). Only God knows the hidden things of the heart (Psalm 44:21; Daniel 2:22; 1 Corinthians 4:5), to know who are His and who are not. He wishes for us to be salt and light in a dark world and preach the gospel to all. What is the gospel? That the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. He made it. When we sinned, He redeemed us with His blood. He now resides in a kingdom which is coming. He has invited us to live there with Him for eternity. The only way to get there is through Jesus – accepting the gift He offers in the scriptures, and turning from every sin that so easily entangles us, letting the blood of Jesus wash those sins away.
Our Lord promises not to send His angels to do the sorting until the harvest is ripe, so that not one tiny grain of wheat is lost.
But make no doubt about it…waiting to the last minute to make up your mind is a dangerous proposition. For when the Lord sends his reaping angels it will be suddenly and swiftly. If you haven’t chosen the Lord by then you might not get any more chances. Please don’t wait my friend.
The Parable Fulfilled
PRAYER: Dear and precious Lord, forgive me for the darkness in my heart that makes me judge others unfairly. Help me to tend to my own knitting – which is to help and encourage others in the faith, and be salt and light in this world. Help me to stand tall and strong, and flexible, as a reed unbroken by the wind. Lord help me to be obedient to Your teachings, and forgive me for my shortcomings. And Lord, I pray for my family and my friends who don’t know You as Savior yet, that you will also quicken their hearts to repentance, soon, before they grow cold and hard, before the reapers are sent for the harvest and it is too late. IJN, Amen
“And this is my prayer, that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”
— Philippians 1:9,10
And for all of you who are drawn to the rabbit holes…
…here are the ones touched upon in this parable. (Have fun!)
The Kingdom of Heaven is like…
Matthew 13:24 — a man who sowed good seed
Matthew 13:31 — mustard seed, which a man took and sowed
Matthew 13:33 — leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal
Matthew 13:44 — treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid again
Matthew 13:45 — a merchant seeking beautful pearls
Matthew 13:47 — a dragnet that’s been cast into the sea
Matthew 13:52 — a householder who brings out of his treasure things old and new
Matthew 18: 23 — a certain king, who forgave a great debt
Matthew 19:14 — like little children
Matthew 20:1 — a landowner, who went out early to hire laborers
Matthew 22:2 — a certain king, who arranged a marriage for his son
Matthew 25:1 — shall be likened unto ten virgins, five wise and five foolish
Wailing and gnashing of teeth
For whatever reason, I feel compelled to draw a line between the weeping that endures for a night (the tears of the saints), and the wailing and gnashing of teeth (the defiant growling of the wicked).
“In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.
The wicked will see it and be vexed, He will gnash his teeth and melt away; The desire of the wicked will perish.
but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
“His anger has torn me and hunted me down, He has gnashed at me with His teeth; My adversary glares at me.
Like godless jesters at a feast, They gnashed at me with their teeth.
The wicked plots against the righteous And gnashes at him with his teeth.
All your enemies Have opened their mouths wide against you; They hiss and gnash their teeth. They say, “We have swallowed her up! Surely this is the day for which we waited; We have reached it, we have seen it.”
Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him.
“Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.”
“The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom became full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues because of the pain. They blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and did not repent of their deeds.
I believe this gnashing of teeth referred to in these passages is a facial expression made by angry, frustrated, defiant-to-the-bitter-end people, who refuse to conform or acknowlege God. In their last rebellious gesture they stiffen their necks, squint their eyes, jut their heads forward, grind their teeth together, and growl through their pain and tears in fist-pounding defiance.
In contrast to wailing of the wicked is the weeping of the SAINTS OF GOD… which only last for a moment:
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5 (NKJV)
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” Revelation 21:4 (KJV)
He who has an ear let him hear…
But be not hearers only, but doers of the word!
“For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” – Romans 2:13