Wheat and Weeds


TEXT: Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

TONE: Warning


TASK: To point people to Christ and His eschatological realities.

TRUTH: FIRST THINGS FIRST: Satan holds no power with God. He is not a divine opponent to our Heavenly Father, and he has no strength to truly battle with God. Satan was expelled from Heaven on God’s command, Satan is only allowed to operate within God’s permissive will, and Satan will ultimately be condemned to Hell for eternity by God’s divine order. 

This is plainly seen in scripture as Satan had to obtain God’s permission before testing Job, as Satan had to obey the command of Christ to leave His presence in the wilderness, and as the demons cried out to Christ “Have you come to torment us before our time?”

Satan knows he has a limited time on this earth before his judgment is carried out and he is condemned to Hell for eternity. He knows he cannot win. So, his only recourse is to cause as much disruption as possible in an attempt to blunt God’s glory and to cause the Lord loss. 

In God’s infinite power, Satan will find that to be an exercise in futility, because God takes all adversity and converts it to good, thus bringing Him glory. 

In the Parable of the Sower, the disciples learned that Israel, and many of the Gentiles, would reject Jesus' claims for Himself to be the Messiah, and the good news that He brought, thus correcting His expectations about the kingdom, because they thought that when the Messiah set up his kingdom, all of Israel and all the Gentiles would come to Him.  In the parable of the tares, the disciples learn that the kingdom itself will be mixed in character, thus correcting their expectation that the kingdom would be perfectly pure, and would involve a righteous rule over all the unrighteous of the world. 

 They had apparently taken Jeremiah 31, verses 31 through 34, very seriously.  They expected the law of God to be written on the hearts of all of those who were involved in the kingdom of heaven.  They expected all of those involved in the kingdom to know the Lord from the greatest to the least, and they believed, with John the Baptist, that when the Lord came He was going to lay the axe to the root of the tree.  He was going to bring judgment to the unrighteous in the land, and set up a righteous kingdom. 

And, consequently, they needed to be corrected in what the kingdom of heaven would be like in this experience between two ages: the coming of Christ the first time and the coming of Christ the second time.  And so, the parable of the tares is designed to show them that in Christ’s kingdom, the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the evil one are going to exist side by side for a long time.  And so, they must wait patiently and give themselves to building up the wheat (that is the sons of the kingdom) and be careful in their judgment not to harm those who are believers. 

This is a fairly well-known parable, or at least it used to be, but it is one that’s not necessarily easy to grasp. For this reason, many have misinterpreted the parable.

In the case of this parable, we are fortunate to have Jesus’ explanation in verses 37-43 of Matthew 13. Therefore, we must not read into the parable any meaning other than that which Jesus gave. To do otherwise would be foolish indeed.

Jesus is telling us that the world is made up of two kinds of people: saved and not saved. Jesus said clearly, ‘the field is the world.’

This parable follows that of the Sower and its interpretation and precedes the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven. Together these parables present a view of the kingdom as present, but unexpectedly evil is still present too, and the kingdom is not visibly overwhelming.

So now the advice comes: “Let them grow together until the harvest, and at that time, not before, the separation between the wheat and weeds will take place and the weeds will be destroyed.

After the introduction in v.24 the parable has five movements: good sowing (v.24b), hostile sowing (v.25), growth (v.26), first question and answer (vv.27-28a), second questions and the answer (vv.28-30). Next, we have the interpretation, which has three parts.


a. His enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat: This parable describes the work of an enemy who tried to destroy the work of the man who sowed good seed in his field. The enemy’s purpose in sowing tares among the wheat was to destroy the wheat. But the wise farmer would not allow the enemy to succeed. Instead, the farmer decided to sort it out at harvest time.


i. We note that this parable clearly describes corruption among the people of God. Just as in the previous parable, the wheat represents the people of God. Some corrupting influence is brought, and an influence that may look genuine even as tares may resemble real wheat.


ii. “The weeds are probably darnel, a poisonous plant related to wheat and virtually indistinguishable from it until the ears form.” (France)


b. Lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them: In the interest of preserving and protecting the wheat, the wise farmer did not separate the tares from the wheat until the time of harvest.

i. The wise farmer recognized that the ultimate answer to tares among the wheat would only come at the final harvest.

ii. Knowing the explanation of this parable as explained in Matthew 13:36-43, we understand why Jesus said it right after explaining the parable of the sower, especially with the seed that grew up among the thorns. “But one might ask whether the Messiah’s people should immediately separate the crop from the weeds; and this next parable answers the question negatively: there will be a delay in separation until the harvest.” (Carson)


Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field: In His explanation, Jesus made it clear what the different figures in the parable represent.


· The field represents the world.

· The good seeds represent God’s true people, the sons of the kingdom.

· The tares represent false believers in the world, the sons of the wicked one, who (like tares among wheat) may superficially look like God’s true people.


i. In this we see that the parable of the tares changes the figures slightly from the parable of the soils (Matthew 13:3-9; 13:18-23). In the parable of the soils, the seed represented the Word of God; here it represents true believers. The point of the parables is completely different; the parable of the soils shows how men receive and respond to the Word of God, and the parable of the tares of the field shows how God will divide His true people from false believers at the end of this age.

ii. “Satan has a shoot of iniquity for every shoot of grace; and, when God revives his work, Satan revives his also.” (Clarke)

iii. This parable powerfully teaches that it is God’s job to divide in judgment. “Magistrates and churches may remove the openly wicked from their society; the outwardly good who are inwardly worthless they must leave; for the judging of hearts is beyond their sphere.” (Spurgeon)

iv. “Jesus announced God’s kingdom, and this would lead many of his hearers to expect a cataclysmic disruption of society, an immediate and absolute division between the ‘sons of light’ and the ‘sons of darkness’…It was to this impatience that the parable was primarily directed.” (France)

b. The field is the world: Significantly, this parable illustrates not necessarily that there will be false believers among true believers in the church (though that is also true to some extent); otherwise Jesus would have explained that the field is the church. Yet He carefully said that the field is the world.

i. “Of greater importance in the history of the church has been the view that this actually means that the field is the church. The view was largely assumed by the early church fathers, and the tendency to interpret the parable that way was reinforced by the Constantinian settlement. Augustine made the interpretation official struggling against the Donatists…Most Reformers followed the same line.” (Carson)

ii. Yet the point is clear, both in the world and in the kingdom community. Ultimately it is not the job of the church to weed out those who appear to be Christians but actually are not; that is God’s job at the end of this age.


iii. As long as God’s people are still in this world (the field), there will be unbelievers among them; but it should not be because God’s people receive unbelievers as if they were believers, ignoring either the belief or conduct of professed believers.


iv. There is additional significance in saying, “The field is the world” instead of “The field is Israel.” “This brief statement presupposes a mission beyond Israel.” (Carson)


c. The enemy who sowed them is the devil: Clearly, the enemy plants counterfeits in the world and in the kingdom community, and this is why merely being a member of the Christian community isn’t enough.


d. The reapers are angels… The Son of Man will send out His angels: We often don’t consider that the angels of God have a special role in the judgment of the world. Yet they do, and are worthy of respect because of that role.

i. “This casts special scorn upon the great evil angel. He sows the tares, and tries to destroy the harvest; and, therefore, the good angels are brought in to celebrate his defeat, and to rejoice together with their Lord in the success of the divine husbandry.” (Spurgeon)

e. Will cast them into the furnace of fire…the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: Jesus used this parable to clearly illustrate the truth that there are two different paths and eternal destinies. A furnace of fire represents one destiny and radiant glory (shine forth as the sun) the other destiny.


i. “The fate of these ungodly ones will be fire, the most terrible of punishments; but this will not annihilate them; for they shall exhibit the surest tokens of a living woe – ‘wailing and gnashing of teeth.’” (Spurgeon)

ii. The wheat comes into God’s barn from all over the world, from all ranks of society, from all ages of God’s church. The one thing they have in common is that they were sown of the Lord, and from the good seed of His Word.



1. Good and Evil will always be found in the world until Christ returns.

2. The day of separation will take place at the end of the world.


1. It is not our job to figure out who are the wheat and who are the weeds.

2. There is a dire warning for you to determine whether your wheat or weeds.

3. There is a message of hope.








Now this Gospel teaches us how the kingdom of God or Christianity fares in the world, especially on account of its teaching, namely, that we are not to think that only true Christians and the pure doctrine of God are to dwell upon the earth; but that there must be also false Christians and heretics in order that the true Christians may be approved, as St. Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:19. For this parable treats not of false Christians, who are so only outwardly in their lives, but of those who are unchristian in their doctrine and faith under the name Christian, who beautifully play the hypocrite and work harm. It is a matter of the conscience and not of the hand. And they must be very spiritual servants to be able to identify the tares among the wheat. And the sum of all is that we should not marvel nor be terrified if there spring up among us many different false teachings and false faiths. Satan is constantly among the children of God (Job 1:6).


4. Again this Gospel teaches how we should conduct ourselves toward these heretics and false teachers. We are not to uproot nor destroy them. Here he says publicly let both grow together. We have to do here with God’s Word alone; for in this matter he who errs today may find the truth tomorrow. Who knows when the Word of God may touch his heart? But if he be burned at the stake, or otherwise destroyed, it is thereby assured that he can never find the truth; and thus the Word of God is snatched from him, and he must be lost, who otherwise might have been saved. Hence the Lord says here, that the wheat also will be uprooted if we weed out the tares. That is something awful in the eyes of God and never to be justified. - Luther






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