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HIDE AND SEEK: Wrestling with Scripture #28

Immediately after the Parable of the Soils from last week, Jesus tells another agricultural story, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Mat 13:24-30). In it, He likens the Kingdom of heaven to a man who sows good seed in his field but, during the night, an enemy comes and sows tares among the wheat. When his servants see the weeds, they ask the man if they should pull them out, but he says no, unwilling to risk uprooting the good plants along with the bad. The parable ends by saying at the time of the harvest, the reapers will gather up the weeds to be burned but will gather the wheat into the man’s barn.


As in the first parable, the man represents Jesus, and the field is the world. Jesus further explains that the good seed are the children of the kingdom, but the weeds are the children of the evil one. The enemy is the devil, the harvest is the end of the world, and the reapers are the angels who will be sent out to gather unbelievers and all things that offend to be cast into a furnace of fire.


Scholars believe the tares are probably darnel, a noxious weed common in Israel, which is poisonous in large amounts and closely resembles wheat until it matures. We can see, then, as Jesus is planting the Gospel in the hearts of believers, satan is at work also, planting a counterfeit gospel in others—and the difference is not always obvious at first.


To grasp the full significance of Jesus’ teaching, let’s go back and consider what this story would mean to His disciples—those eager to hear His message and convinced that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Remember that Jesus began by comparing this event to the Kingdom of heaven. OT prophesies predicted that when Messiah came, He would overthrow the pagan nations and establish a glorious, eternal kingdom. In this paradise, or heavenly Jerusalem, a Holy God would reign forever in perfect peace and the restored nation of Israel would be blessed—free of sin, evil, and war.


Clearly, in the Parable of the Tares, Jesus is revealing the “already, not yet” fulfillment of these prophecies to His Jewish listeners. (See Wrestling with Scripture #14.) Through Jesus, the Kingdom of heaven was already present with them—although not in the way they expected—but its ultimate fulfillment was reserved until the end of the Age. The parable reveals to them that Jesus did not come the first time to restore the Promised Land, to put an end to sin, or to create an everlasting peace. Instead, He warns evil will continue, growing alongside good, and masquerading as something it’s not. This would have been a hard message, understood by only those who had ears to hear, but He also reassures them that, at the proper time, He will come again to judge, to punish evil, and to establish perfect righteousness.


As with the Parable of the Soils, there are several interpretations of this parable. The most common is that it’s about the condition of the church, warning that there are people in the pews who look like believers but who really aren’t—and the detrimental effect they can have. While it’s true that immature or nominal Christians often foster division within the body or bring shame upon His name outside of it by their ungodly behavior or lack of Biblical knowledge, Jesus clearly states that the field is the world and not the church. The parable also instructs the servants to let the tares coexist with the wheat—a clear contradiction of Jesus’ instructions on how to deal with unrepentant sinners inside the church (Mat 18:15-17).


Some assign additional meaning by trying to interpret the elements of the story that Jesus left unexplained or by expanding on the ones He did. If the wheat represents believers, they ask, who are the servants? Although they seem eager to go out and rid the field of weeds, they’re forbidden by the landowner, who implies they lack the skill required. Some say the servants are hypocrites—judgmental Pharisees or overzealous believers who overestimate their ability to discern a believer from an unbeliever and, thus, alienate or condemn some unjustly. Regardless of your take, harvesting the crop is clearly the job for God’s angels and not that of servants who are unable to see into the hearts of men.  


Others explain that weeds, or darnel, resemble wheat until both mature when the heads of wheat droop down, while the stalks of darnel stand straight up. This leads them to suggest that the wheat, humbly bowing before Jesus, are those able to hear, while the proud, unable to see themselves as sinners, refuse to. Still others insist that the tares aren’t people at all, but the lies of the evil one since the tares are called children of satan, and Scripture says satan is the father of lies (John 8:44).


Idle speculation can be distracting, but if Jesus’ did layer hidden applications into His parables, we should always take the time to study and seek those truths in addition to meditating on His original meaning. Here, the tares probably represent the false teachers and doctrines—tools of the evil one—which are designed to hinder Jesus’ work and lead people astray, but at its core, the parable is teaching that at Jesus’ second coming, believers will be separated from the unbelievers. Those who are saved will be gathered into God’s presence while those who are not will perish.


The parable also explains why God permits evil in the world. Until the harvest, God’s focus is on saving wheat rather than on eradicating weeds. For a time, the spiritual realm must exist alongside that of the evil one, but Jesus assures us that one day the wicked will be judged, righteousness will be restored, and the new creation will shine with its intended glory.


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1 comentário

Pamela Pfankuch
Pamela Pfankuch
08 de abr.

Excellent Laurie! Key focus is to remember that God wants EVERYONE to be saved but must have faith in Jesus. Therefore, out of love for our God, we need to share His love with everyone so they can know of His love and live in eternity with Him.

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