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the parable of the good seed and the weeds

Now here is a strange seeming contradiction! The evangelist has told us plainly that these persons were those who had believed in him (John 8:31) but Jesus now states plainly saying, . . . you do not believe me (what he says) . They are said to believe in him, but what they are not believing is what he tells them (v. 45 above).

Let us now proceed to examine the Parable of the Weeds.

A comparison of the parable with its interpretation by Jesus above shows that this can only correspond to the ingathering into the barn of the sons of the kingdom. Therefore, I conclude that the Word is the seed, as with the Parable of the Sower, and it is identified with the sons of the kingdom here because that is what, when sowed in the world, produces the sons of the kingdom. There is an essential relation that renders them inseparable in the complete picture. This identification is effective both ways, for as the seed produces the sons of the kingdom, so the Son of Man continues throughout history to sow the seed of the Word through the joint agency of the Holy Spirit and the sons of the kingdom.

The Greek for seed here is
sperma, which is the source of our English sperm. This differs from sporos, which is the Greek used by Luke to define the seed in the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11). However, both Greek terms spring from speiro, to sow, and it is doubtful whether this difference is significant in these parables. Sperm evolved from the Greek, and it’s meaning has not changed. In the Septuagent it is the semen virile (Lev. 15-16-18) and so also is our English word. Jesus made repeated use of this analogy throughout the gospels.


Second, consider the sequence of events in the parable. Some will deny that this is relevant, and I understand their denial comes from their dedication to interpreting a parable as teaching only a single point of doctrine. This is, however, clearly contradicted by Jesus’ own interpretation that assigns a meaning to each major element in this parable, making it an allegory. It is therefore reasonable to find meaning in the sequence of events — indeed, it is unreasonable not to find meaning there! The harvest surely comes after the sowing, in reality and in the parable; therefore sequence is an important marker. The relevant sequence here is precisely this: the bad seed gets sown after the good seed! The clear implication is that this category of sons of the evil one must include believers who are the produce of bad seed that is sown after the good seed. If we set the sowing of the good seed, that is, its beginning, with the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom in the world by Jesus, then the bad seed must be sown after the sowing of the good seed. But remember — this parable deals only with those who are believers.

    4. The Other Elements

    Jesus identified all of the other significant elements, and I see no need to provide further identification. The ones that I have identified above were needed because the circumstances in the modern world, in Christendom, are such as to cloud the real identity of the bad seed and this needs clarification.


The Parable of the Sower describes one good soil with the bad.

The sower of the good seed is the son of man, which is Jesus. This corresponds with the implicit identification of the sower in the Parable of the Sower, although Jesus, in interpreting that parable, does not identify the sower. We will not err in identifying the two. In addition, Jesus has, through his Word, so fully identified himself with his disciples that today, as his disciples continue to sow the good seed in the world, it is the Son of Man who sows.

In the explanation of parable, Christ declares that He Himself is the sower. He spreads His redeemed seed, true believers, in the field of the world. Through His grace, these Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). Their presence on earth is the reason the “kingdom of heaven” is like the field of the world. When Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; Mark 3:2), He meant the spiritual realm which exists on earth side by side with the realm of the evil one (1 John 5:19). When the kingdom of heaven comes to its fruition, heaven will be a reality and there will be no “weeds” among the “wheat.” But for now, both good and bad seeds mature in the world.

Even if He hadn’t specifically told us the world is the setting of the story, it would still be obvious. The landowner tells the servants not to pull up the weeds in the field, but to leave them until the end of the age. If the field were the church, this command would directly contradict Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 18, which tells us how to deal with unrepentant sinners in the church: they are to be put out of the fellowship and treated as unbelievers. Jesus never instructed us to let impenitent sinners remain in our midst until the end of the age. So, Jesus is teaching here about “the kingdom of heaven” (v. 24) in the world.

In the agricultural society of Christ’s time, many farmers depended on the quality of their crops. An enemy sowing weeds would have sabotaged a business. The tares in the parable were likely darnel because that weed, until mature, appears as wheat. Without modern weed killers, what would a wise farmer do in such a dilemma? Instead of tearing out the wheat with the tares, the landowner in this parable wisely waited until the harvest. After harvesting the whole field, the tares could be separated and burned. The wheat would be saved in the barn.

The enemy in the parable is Satan. In opposition to Jesus Christ, the devil tries to destroy Christ’s work by placing false believers and teachers in the world who lead many astray. One has only to look at the latest televangelist scandal to know the world is filled with professing “Christians” whose ungodly actions bring reproach on the name of Christ. But we are not to pursue such people in an effort to destroy them. For one thing, we don’t know if immature and innocent believers might be injured by our efforts. Further, one has only to look at the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and the reign of “Bloody Mary” in England to see the results of men taking upon themselves the responsibility of separating true believers from false, a task reserved for God alone. Instead of requiring these false believers to be rooted out of the world, and possibly hurting immature believers in the process, Christ allows them to remain until His return. At that time, angels will separate the true from false believers.

In addition, we are not to take it upon ourselves to uproot unbelievers because the difference between true and false believers isn’t always obvious. Tares, especially in the early stages of growth, resemble wheat. Likewise, a false believer may resemble a true believer. In Matthew 7:22, Jesus warned that many profess faith but do not know Him. Thus, each person should examine his own relationship with Christ (2 Corinthians 13:5). First John is an excellent test of salvation.

The Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds, or Tares, is filled with spiritual significance and truth. But, in spite of the clear explanation of the parable that Jesus gave (Matthew 13:36-43), this parable is very often misinterpreted. Many commentaries and sermons have attempted to use this story as an illustration of the condition of the church, noting that there are both true believers (the wheat) and false professors (the weeds) in both the church at large and individual local churches. While this may be true, Jesus distinctly explains that the field is not the church; it is the world (v. 38).

Jesus Christ will one day establish true righteousness. After He raptures the true church out of this world, God will pour out His righteous wrath on the world. During that tribulation, He will draw others to saving faith in Jesus Christ. At the end of the tribulation, all unbelievers will be judged for their sin and unbelief; then, they will be removed from God’s presence. True followers of Christ will reign with Him. What a glorious hope for the “wheat”!