The Parable of the Wheat and Tares


To the multitudes, Jesus’ parables were simple stories that they found entertaining. On the other hand, to the disciples they were messages in symbols that conveyed the mysteries of the eternal Kingdom of God (Matthew 13:11). The disciples had to take the time to seriously inquire of Jesus to understand the deep spiritual truths contained in the underlying message. That is still our task today. So often we have heard sermons on the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9) but in these times it seems more appropriate to discuss the parable of the wheat and the tares and to do so in great depth. By the time we conclude you will hopefully understand why I’ve made that decision.

Matthew 13:24-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

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.” ’ ”

The Parable of the Tares Explained

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.

Not being farmers we may not understand the true significance of tares and may assume they are simply weeds. If we make that mistake, we miss the depth of the meaning Jesus wanted to convey. This particular weed, more exactly called tares or darnel, comes from the French language and  means “drunkenness.” When ground into flour and made into bread, the eater finds himself with all the symptoms of drunkenness: dizziness, slurred speech and vomiting. Additionally, the tares/darnel are infected with a fungus that causes hallucinations in small doses but in large doses affects the nervous system to such a degree as to cause blindness and even death. When the wheat and tares are sown together as they are in this parable, they are almost indistinguishable from each other at the beginning. Even experienced farmers would not attempt to separate them one from another in the early stages of growth. But let them grow and mature and it is a different matter. The wheat has fruit in its head; the head of the darnel has little black seeds. Wheat berries are full and green when they mature. The “fruit” of the darnel is small and gray in appearance. At maturity even a child can see that not only is this not wheat nor even a bothersome weed, it is darnel. It is poisonous, even lethal and is to be judiciously avoided.

Jesus could have told a simple story about wheat and weeds; but He had a highly serious message to convey. Therefore, He told a parable about wheat and tares/darnel. It is now our task to carefully dissect the mysteries inside this parable.

                                                THE PARABLE EXPLAINED

The man who sows the good seed is Jesus. His field is the world He has created. The good seed are His people, His church, His Body, the sons of His kingdom. The enemy is the devil and the tares/darnel are the enemy’s sons. Remember throughout all of this that the tares/darnel are counterfeits of the wheat. While in the beginning of chapter Matthew 13, the seed is symbolic of the Word of God, in this subsequent parable the seed and tares are symbolic of people. The servants, His Angels, noticing the danger to the wheat crop, are tempted to uproot the tares…but the Sower stays their hands. Why? Because He fears losing some of the good seed. God is always merciful. There is always a chance that prayer and correct instruction will turn people from the deception they heard from the evil ones and will return to that fork in the road where they lost  their way and repent and come back to God. Only He has the right to decide and judge which are wheat and which are tares. Only He has eyes righteous and holy enough to see into our hearts, to see if we are still open to the truth.

2 Timothy 2:20, 24-26 New King James Version (NKJV)

20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor…24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.

We are not to judge; we are to mercifully pray and correctly teach. We can look at the story of Joshua and Achan in Joshua chapter seven for an incredible example of how we are to act towards one who caused the death of his fellow Israelites and disgraced the Name of the Lord – all for greed. It is time for the reckoning to begin. Achan knows he will die. God has already declared that will be the case. Joshua would have had every earthly reason to be verbally angry and perhaps even curse Achan. Yet, look at Joshua 7: 19 and notice how Joshua addresses Achan: he calls him “son.” He calls this murderer, this robber, this man who shamed God – son. Every time I look at that section of the Bible I remember that any time the Lord would have me give a word of correction there must be that same attitude of Joshua in my own heart. I must have patience, humility, and the recognition that I am as much a sinner saved by grace and liable to deception as the one I have been sent to. Only God can truly judge and even He waits until “the harvest at the end of the age.”

                                                THE HISTORY OF TARES

In the Book of Acts on the Day of Pentecost The Holy Spirit descended. In response to that powerful outpouring Peter went out and scattered the good seed of the Word of God and 3000 people received that Word. They began to spread that Word into the world. Yet, another came also to spread his word…and he came under a religious disguise and into the church. He came as a counterfeit. And he could not be stopped. Paul went to Ephesus and preached “the full counsel of God” from house to house fervently but still the tares came entangled with the wheat.

Acts 20:29-30 New King James Version (NKJV)

29 For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking [a] perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

[a] Acts 20:30 misleading

From among yourselves  – the wheat and the tares grow up together in the church. So it has gone on throughout history. Yet Jesus commanded it to be so: “let them both grow together.” Human efforts cannot rid the church of error completely. We can ask The Lord to cleanse our own hearts. We are called to be loving watchmen to expose evil because of care for the safety of our brethren. But only the Lord will finally separate all the tares from the wheat at the time of harvest and have the knowledge and authority of what to do with each set. He Alone is called the Righteous Judge of all the earth.

How has God planned for this whole scenario to end? Having lovingly given us so much information already, He deigns to share the rest of the story:

   Matthew 13:39-43 New King James Version (NKJV)

39 …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!

To shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father! Oh what a time to look forward to! What  a reason to pray that the Lord cause us to walk in His statues; imprint His Words on our minds; engrave them on our hearts and lead us in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake! May we be faithfully humble to our Heavenly King and Master that we may see Him in glory.

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