Lesson 47: The Parables of the Sower and the Tares
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43; Mark 4:21-25; Luke 8:16-18
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is Lesson # 47. Welcome again! Back to the parable of the sower. We read all three accounts in our last two lessons, the parables and then the explanation that Jesus gave. I don't want to over do this; but, I would like to run back through that parable one more time. You see, Jesus gave several other parables that were in essence prophecies of the kingdom; i.e. descriptive of Jesus' church in advance. Each of these parables give a little different slant. We will not have time to milk every parable as we have the parable of the sower. So, please indulge me a little here; I hope to be a little more brief on the others. In Matt. 13:19, Jesus called "the seed" in this parable, THE WORD OF THE KINGDOM. Thus, that seed is the law of the kingdom, or the constitution; thus, including the rules of entrance, if you will. Thus, the seed here is synonymous with the Bible, the scriptures, or the word of God. And just as a wheat seed has a germ in it capable of bring about physical life; God's word can bring about spiritual life. So, the parable is this: when the gospel is taught or planted in a human heart; one of four things will happen. You see, it depends upon the kind of heart; just like a wheat seed depends upon the kind of soil. In (#1) called the wayside, birds will sometimes get a wheat seed before it germinates. This usually happens on very hard soil. Likewise, when the gospel of Jesus the Christ falls on a hard heart; it doesn't always penetrate. Before the action of obedience sets in; i.e. before they believe and take the necessary steps to obtain safety in Jesus' kingdom, they are distracted. Once we are distracted, Satan, like the bird in the parable will snatch the good news out of our hard heart. There's a great lesson here! Thus, this parable teaches two basic things are necessary to become a Christian or a citizen in Christ's kingdom. (#A) The Bible or the gospel is absolutely necessary to producing spiritual life, and there is no substitute. (#B) This parable teaches that the criteria of hearing the gospel can be met and still it will NOT react or unite with the soil of one's heart to produce a Christian unless that heart exhibits agreement, motivation, and action conducive to spiritual germination. To say it another way, this parable teaches a PURE SEED and a GOOD HEART are both necessary ingredients in making a disciple. Beyond that, the parable teaches that the gospel-seed comes in contact WITH the human heart, or the inner-man, by the process of hearing or understanding. Thus, the process is likened to an active seed coming in contact with a viable soil. Please note that the word "hear", H-E-A-R, in some form occurs in connection with all four types of soils, i.e. the wayside or path, the rock soil, the weedy soil and the good soil. Thus, if hearing and understanding is a necessary quality to make a germane disciple; then, infants would not qualify as a viable soil for the simple reason that infants cannot hear in the sense of understanding. Another principle is that Satan is always present and seeking an opportunity to separate the gospel from a good and honest heart. Or in other words, Satan is always seeking to prevent the making of a disciple. Thus, to delay in obedience could be fatal or simply playing into the hands of Satan. So, when we learn the gospel and we neglect obedience by getting involved in T.V., sports, finance, or something else long enough for Satan to come around, we're taking the chance that Satan may snatch away all future opportunity. This does not accord with the doctrine of universal salvation. It pictures one who came close to citizenship in Christ's kingdom; but, is never naturalized.
(#2) soil is the rocky ground. This analogy makes it certain that it is possible to hear, believe, obey the gospel and then fall away and be lost. In other words, one can become a citizen of Christ's kingdom and then by sure lack of root in ourselves, i.e. by a LACK of dedication, participation and continuance; we can lose our citizenship and be lost. Therefore, this does not accord with the doctrine ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAVED. Take a look at v.13 in Luke's account. They received the word with "JOY", "but in time of temptation fall away." This parable definitely teaches self-control and self-discipline. In this case, the rocky soil heart did not sustain the spiritual life process after the seed germinated. Thus, in contrast to the wayside soil, the rocky-soil person became a citizen of Christ kingdom and then departed.
Soil (#3) was the weedy soil. This represents one who heard the gospel, believed the gospel, germinated, i.e. was baptized or born again to spiritual life. The parable said simply, "they go forth." Or to use the kingdom concept, they became a citizen and remained a citizen of Christ's kingdom; but, were fickle and undeserving. The inward man or the heart did not sustain spiritual life in an active and adequate way. Or in the wheat illustration they permitted weedy competition to render them useless. But just remember any-soil that will grow weeds, crabgrass, cockleburs and Johnson grass can produce a good crop of wheat with a little weed-control; i.e. self-discipline and NOT associating with evil companions. Look at Jesus' description in v.14: "fell among thorns" and "are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life." Who could say it better? You see, if Christianity depended upon them; there would be no next generation. That's the idea of bringing no fruit to perfection. In John 15s8, Jesus said: "herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples." The question naturally arises: will this citizen of Christ's kingdom be lost? No statement is made; but the implication is that the risks are high. This is a question that must be decided by the king of the kingdom. But, in one sense the king has spoken. Jesus will be the judge, John 5:22. He has here and elsewhere in his constitution given the criteria he expects from his citizens.
Soil (#4), or the good ground that produced well. The person represented by this soil is commended and described as an honest and good heart. This person not only actively sought the kingdom, fulfilling Matt. 6:33; but, they no doubt received and enjoyed many blessings promised in that same scripture. The comment is that they brought forth fruit with patience. So, we can thus conclude that NOT ONLY does Jesus require that one become a citizen of His kingdom to be saved; Jesus further requires that we be a good fruit bearing citizen of His kingdom.
Now, Luke 8:16-18. Are you ready? Let's read. "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad. Take heed therefore how you hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." Now, let's read Mark's sequel, Mark 4:21-25. Ready? "And he said unto them, Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad. If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear shall more be given. For he that hath, to him shall be given; and he that hath not, form him shall be taken even that which he hath." Jesus assured his apostles his purpose of parables was not to keep the information secret. The very opposite was true. Lighting a candle, etc. refers to learning, insight and new information. When you gain information, like the parable of the sower, and digest it; it's like lighting a candle. It helps you to see, spiritually speaking. So don't hide it! Apply it to YOUR life and teach others! Jesus said "nothing is secret, that SHALL NOT be made manifest...and come abroad." Thus, Jesus was not giving them something secretive. It was simply being unfolded as the need arose and as the kingdom approached. In Luke ch. 8, Jesus said, "Take heed therefore_HOW ye hear..." In Mark's account he said, "Take heed WHAT ye hear." But, in both cases the point is simply to listen, understand and pay attention for the information was cumulative, i.e. understanding this would help them understand even more. It's that parable-key idea. If you DON'T continue to learn and understand, even what you know will fade and be lost.
I have already mentioned the seven parables in Matthew ch. 13 and that Jesus also explained another parable. The second demonstration parable begins in Matt. 13:24. It was apparently spoken from that same little ship anchored on the shore of the sea of Galilee. This parable is usually referred to as the parable of the tares. Let's read it! Matt. 33:24 beginning. Seven verse. Are you ready? "Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
The common story in this parable is again so simple, it require no explanation. Tares according to some dictionaries may have been something like vetch or a vineing plant. The other crop is identified as wheat. The tares were planted as a dirty nasty trick. Now the question is, what do the tares represent? What about the wheat? Who was the householder? Who was the sower? the servants? the enemy? What is represented by the other elements in the parable like the field, the barn, the harvest, binding bundles, and burning? In other words, what are the KEYS to this parable? Let's read Jesus' explanation. V.36-43. Are you ready? "Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."
First off, keep in mind that Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is likened unto..." this parable. This describes Christ' church in relation to the elements of the world. You must keep THAT in mind first and foremost. Remember, the keys for interpreting this parable is a different ball game than the one we just finished, i.e. the parable of the sower. There the seed was the word of God. In this parable (v.38) "the good seed are the children of the kingdom." In other words, the seed in this parable is the good and honest hearts or soil # 4 in the last parable. The tares here are the children of the devil. Since the world is the field; Jesus showed that his kingdom or his citizens would be in the same environment as the children of Satan. He shows the children of Satan will compete with the children of God. Back in Matt. 12:26 Jesus made reference to the kingdom of Satan. So, this is not a strange doctrine; it is substantiated many places in the N.T. The two would grow together as wheat and tares; not only in the same field; but intertwined and rooted in the same soil. Notice also that although the enemy intruded by a dirty trick and placed his children or his citizens in the same field; no vengeance will be taken upon the children of the enemy until the harvest, which is specifically said here (v.39) to be the end of the world. So, the just and the unjust shall receive equal treatment in this world. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, "he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matt. 5:45). But, a separation of the righteous and the wicked is clearly taught at the end of the world. The wheat (or the children of the kingdom) will be collected and properly stored while the children of the enemy will be bound and burned. Eternal punishment is clearly taught. V.40-41-42 (or almost half of the context) is devoted to describing the fate of the tares. Someone may argue this does not prove the doctrine of hell; but, I suggest that you be the judge. Then in contrast (v.43) the righteous children of the kingdom will shine forth as the sun after the end of the world. Where? "In the kingdom of their Father." You see, after the harvest (or the judgment in other words); the righteous shall continue to shine forth after they have been harvested and stored in Jesus' barn (v.30). Therefore, a heavenly state is implied for the righteous. This is in keeping with many other passages in the N.T.
Just as the elements or the keys in these parables may be different than in other parables; we must be cautious not to make any parable teach more than Jesus intended. You see, a key that fits one door may or may not fit the next door. Similarly, parables likewise have their limitations. For example, in both the parable of the sower and in the parable of the tares the children of the kingdom and the children of the enemy are spoken of, more or less, as fixed quantities, i.e. either they are evil or they are good. And, although that may be the case at any one given time; we must realize that these parables are not intended to imply that one cannot change, i.e. hearts sometimes change with time and cultivation. Stones can be removed from stony ground and the wayside can be pulverized and cultivated in places where it was unproductive in time past. We must not forget the primary element in Jesus' teaching. "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 4:17) You see, the word repent implies a change in our will or inner-man. Thus, Jesus and John both pleaded for people to change as one of the primary elements in their teaching. What did Jesus tell satan? Man lives by what? Every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Therefore, Jesus' parables do not contradict other plain teachings. It's that time; so, have a good day!