Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
October 12, 2014
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.’”
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
— Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43, ESV
Matthew is the Gospel of “the kingdom.” Forty-four percent of the appearances of the word “kingdom” in the Gospels appear in the first one (56 out of 127), and thirty-five percent of the uses of the word in the New Testament are found in Matthew (56 out of 158). Christ’s kingship and kingdom are presented in many ways, especially in the parables.
The second parable presented by Matthew in his Gospel (and found only in Matthew’s Gospel) touches on the same themes as the first parable (ref. Matthew 13:1-23). The King (Jesus Christ) is teaching about His kingdom (The kingdom of heaven, which is synonymous with the kingdom of God) and telling us who is in and who is out. Could anything be more important?
So, “He who has ears, let him hear.”
Jesus Tells a Story
To an agrarian society Jesus told this agricultural story. The three-ringed audience of disciples, pretenders, and scoffers could all relate to the word picture created by the Master Storyteller. Since the fall of man, fruitful wheat and frustrating weeds have grown together in this world. They will continue to do so until the very end of time.
There are benefits to being wheat. There is only judgment for being a tare. First century residents of Israel would have known the tare as darnel, a wheat-looking weed that takes up space, bears no fruit, and is culled from the catch crop at harvest time, and burned for fuel.
In the light of day, a godly man sowed the good seed which became the wheat. Meanwhile, under the cover of darkness, an enemy sowed the tares. Two different men planted two different populations which in the end meet with two different destinies. The story is simple, perhaps too simple. Maybe that’s why the disciples had to ask Jesus to explain it in more detail.
Jesus Defines His Terms
I had a grade school teacher named Miss Kluball. She taught English, and she always kept a huge, unabridged dictionary on a table in her classroom. According to my teacher, success in life would depend on one’s use of the dictionary.
According to the Master Teacher, success in this life and the life to come depends upon one’s use of the Bible, God’s word. The Bible always defines itself. Occasionally a passage of Scripture contains its own glossary of terms, like this one. Look carefully at how Jesus Himself defined the different parts of this parable.
The good sower of the good seed is God. Jesus refers to Himself here as the Son of Man, a term He preferred to offer Himself as the Messiah come to earth, the incarnation of God Almighty. Jesus is the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Sower of the good seed.
The field is the whole wide world. It is not the kingdom, for the true kingdom only contains true wheat. The field is not the church, although every visible church is almost certain to have baptized tares tarrying along with the truly clean wheat. The field is the people of this planet, resting in the two hands of God, one for grace and the other for judgment.
The good seed is not the gospel and the word of God, as it was in the last parable. In this parable, the good seed represents people, people who have been transformed by the gospel and the word of God into children of God. In a fuller explanation Jesus might have pointed out that they too were tares at one time, but the bad seed became good, the outsiders became insiders, all because of sovereign grace and saving faith.
Tares, of course, represent humans, too. There are actually two kinds of tares and they represent two kinds of people. Both kinds resemble wheat, but both lack the good seed and the true substance. Yet one is poisonous and one is not. Hypocritical church members are poison on the inside of the church, and even the best preaching and most careful discipline cannot weed them out entirely. The non-poisonous darnel represents people outside the church who make no profession of faith in Jesus Christ. They are usually less danger for the church, for even the ones that persecute us serve only to make us stronger. But, along with false believers, non-believers put themselves in the greatest danger of all, the danger of God’s sure judgment.
The harvest is the end of time and the reapers are angels. There is no mention here of a secret rapture or a second chance. Jesus has come, and one fine final day Jesus will come again with angels as His assistants and judgement as His aim. The wheat and the two types of tares will be revealed and meet their separate rewards.
The furnace of fire is Hell, the grave, eternal death. The most common symbol of God’s judgment in Scripture is fire, and whether that fire is literal or symbolic, it will cause one to weep and wail and gnash their teeth as they descend into a godless eternity.
Finally, the righteous shining like the sun (ref. Daniel 12:3) are the children of God in the presence of God, in God’s Heaven, forever and ever and ever.
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
Jesus Proclaims His Kingdom
With the parable of the wheat and the tares, Christ proclaims the gospel of the kingdom of God. He draws a definitive line, showing who is in and who is out. And, as long as this world is spinning and you are still breathing, you have the opportunity to find yourself either among the wheat or the tares.
Some of you know you are wheat. Like the golden color of a wheat field, you have a golden heart, wrought by the hand of God. You have been graced to hear the gospel, by grace you have believed the gospel, and standing in grace you bear fruit for the gospel, spreading gospel seed with your lips and your life. God begets wheat, and with wheat God begets more wheat, so the surest proof that you are wheat is that somewhere someway somehow some people have come into the kingdom of God because God used you. Rest assured, my brother and sister, you are golden, and all the glory goes to the God who planted you by His sovereign, electing grace.
Some of you are not sure whether you are wheat or tare. I do not wish to exploit your doubts, as I have witnessed other preachers do. Let me help you, by seeing if you identify with one of the two types of tares.
Are you poisonous? Are you here in the church to promote God’s agenda, or your own? Are you here in the church to glorify God or get attention? Are you adding love, truth, and unity to the body of Christ, or are you constantly disgruntled and divisive? If you are of the latter group, then you should have no doubt about who you are. You are a hypocrite, you are lost, you are a poisonous tare.
If you are not a hypocrite, but still uncertain about your fate, let me ask you some other questions. Is the gospel and the word of God truth, or fiction? Did Jesus really come to us through the virgin birth, live a perfectly sinless life, die on the old rugged cross, and rise again the third day, or is this the central myth of Scripture? Do you choose to believe the gospel, or do you choose to remain in unbelief? Have you or will your repent of sin and self-control of your life and live a changed, godly, Christ-centered life, or are you happy with doing basically what you please apart from God? Again, if you take the latter side, you are lost, separated from God, a lonely tare about to be plucked and placed in a godless grave forever and ever.
But an old soul offers some hope of redemption. In the words of the late, great saint Augustine, “Those who are tares today may be wheat tomorrow.” Remember, the wheat are transformed tares. People do change, and as long as there is time, there is time for change. Tare today, gold tomorrow, could be you.
But one day, tomorrow will come no more. The harvest will come. It will not be secret, for all eyes will see it. There will be no second chances after the second coming of Christ. Angels will be at His right hand and His left. All people will be gathered and assigned their place. The golden wheat will shine in the presence of God forever, the tares will be buried and forgotten in a tortuous grave. Do no tarry if you are a tare. Receive and believe the gospel today. “He who has ears, let him hear.”