That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
After a sower sowed seeds, some seeds fell along the path and the birds ate them. Some fell on rocky ground and they died immediately they sprang up because there was no soil for the roots to grow downwards and withstand the heat of the sun. some seeds fell among thorns and they were choked to death. Some seeds however, fell on good soil and grew and flourished to bring forth more grains, some hundred, some 60, some 30.
Interpreting it Jesus explained that the he is the sower, while the seeds are his words, the soil is the hearts and minds of people who hear the word of God.
The seeds that feel on the path and devoured by the birds: These are people who hear but don’t understand the word of God because evil ones come and snatch the sown words through lack of interest, lack of attention and concentration. This is the ‘in one ear, out the other’ crowd. Picture a middle-eastern road hardened by years of travel by men and animals. What happens to the seed when it falls here? It sits out in the open for the birds to come and eat it. Have you ever been like that? Sat in a sermon or Bible study yawning, nodding off, thinking about something else, not caring enough to pay attention? If you don’t take God’s Word seriously, you don’t even represent soil at all – you’re like a concrete sidewalk. The devil is happy to take God’s word away and plant all kinds of new thoughts in your mind. And what’s then end result? I like how it’s phrased in the New Living Testament: “the devil takes the message from their hearts, prevents them from believing and from being saved.” Not a pretty outcome.
The seeds that fell on rocky ground: Refer to the people who hear the word of God, receive it with joy and great excitement, but their joy is not deep-rooted in their heart. As a result the message does not last long in them. Such people will backslide once tribulations and persecution set in. These people stayed awake. They were happy to receive the Word of God and even understand it to some extent, but when they’re tested, they collapse. They give in to temptation. They have no real roots. They’re just not planted deep enough in the soil. They know God’s word, but it hasn’t truly become their foundation. It’s a superficial faith that springs up when times are good. But when the heat comes, just like the sun on a hot day, the small seedling that shot up on the rock will wither and die for lack of soil and water. We’re all faced with temptations: women, lust, money, gossip, hateful thoughts and not just a temptations to do the wrong thing, but to not obey God’s commands and to not do the right thing, to ignore a person who could use your help. This is what Jesus is talking about here – a superficial faith fpr Sundays, for Bible studies, for when things are going well, but that all too easily gives in to temptation and fails when the going gets rough.
The sowed seeds that fell among thorns: Refers to those who hear the word of God but their love and attachment to material things of this world cause their heart to be choked and the knocked out from them. They hear the word, but do nothing with it. They know the word, but don’t truly accept it. They teach it, but don’t practice it. They let themselves get overwhelmed by the worries and problems of life. They don’t grow in maturity. If we’re not earnestly seeking the Word of God, it leads to indifference about devotions, about the church, about the Bible, and our relationship with Jesus. So what happens then? The source for our satisfaction comes from external things (the thorns): riches, pleasures, good times with the old crowd, getting a buzz, whooping it up. Even though the seed was planted in good soil, the thorns choked it, just like these things can choke us from depending on God. Again, you’re not alone it you’ve ever felt like this or fallen into this trap. It’s all around us. It’s the real world. Who doesn’t like a good party? Who doesn’t want a piece of eye candy clinging to them? And conversely, who doesn’t occasionally get overwhelmed by the worries of life? What’s one of the major problems in today’s society? Yep, depression. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness. Feelings of hopelessness. Always feeling sad or anxious. Restlessness. Being irritable. Let these things grab you and they can easily overwhelm those seeds of God’s Word that will never be able to grow to maturity.
The seeds that fell on good soil: Refers to people who hear the word of God and understand it. They go on to obey the word- by being doers and hearers of the word. They end up bearing beautiful fruits in the kingdom of God. . . . and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. It may seem like funny math and bad business, but God knew what he was doing when he sent Christ to scatter the seed everywhere. There’ll be times in your life when you feel like you’re firmly planted in the good soil. Use this opportunity to share God’s Word with others. That’s when you become the sower! When Jesus speaks of a huge harvest, 30, 60, or 100 times what was sown he’s not taking about just the seeds that he planted. He planted some seeds 2,000 years ago. Those couple of hundred have grown to something like two billion Christians today. And Jesus is saying, he wants this to continue. He wants each of you sitting here today to be a sower of seeds. Yes, some will fall on concrete, some on rocky soil, and some with the weeds. But some will fall on fertile soil. But remember, the fruit of sharing the Gospel doesn’t just happen on its own. It takes a humble heart and meditation on the Word of God to produce a good harvest and to further the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells us that the farmer scattered seed (the Word of God) on all types of ground. He didn’t say that the farmer was meticulously planting the seeds in designated ‘good soil’ areas in nice neat rows – Jesus says he was scattering the seed everywhere. Doesn’t that seem wasteful though? I mean, if I were planting a field, why would I throw seed on rocks, thorns, and the side of the road? Wouldn’t you want to be careful and put the seed in only the good soil right from the beginning? Actually, this method of planting wasn’t so strange back in Biblical times because the custom of planting was to first scatter the seed and then plow it into the soil. But to help us understand the parable, we should remember what Jesus said earlier in Luke 5:31 –“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” In this statement Christ makes it clear that he came to rescue sinners. His purpose was to bring salvation to everyone. If we keep this in mind, we can see that the parable actually has three meanings:
1) To show that Christ came to share the Word of God with everyone. We don’t serve a stingy God who picks and chooses who is good enough to hear the word. He graciously sows into everyone who is willing to accept his word.
2) To show us how the different soils in our life can encourage us—or stop us from receiving the Word of God, the “Good News.”
3) To encourage us to share the Word of God with others. And like Jesus, we should spread the Good News with everyone, not just those who are receptive.
Parable of the Wheat and Tares Matthew 13:24-30
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Note: this is the first in a series of eight “Kingdom of Heaven” parables and the only one explained by Jesus. After telling this, he expects you to “get it.”
The parable of the wheat and the weeds, or tares, follows the parable of the sower and four types of soils found in all three synoptic gospels, but this one is only in Matthew. It seems to enlarge upon the seeds in the previous parable that fell among the thorns and brambles which grew up and chocked the plants. But this is different. In the previous parable, Jesus said the thorns represented the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth. In this parable, worldly worries and deceitfulness may be some of the characteristics of the weeds, but primarily the weeds or tares represent unbelievers and what Jesus calls “sons of the devil.” As you delve into the parable, you find it 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. This misinterpretation is not new; it’s been misunderstood for centuries. Another important point: when Jesus speaks of “the kingdom of heaven,” he is speaking of it in the world today, not as a distant destination where we go after the final judgement. This can be a somewhat puzzling concept. We have Bible verses that say the kingdom of heaven is already with us, but others say it is coming at the end of the age. Here’s an example of each: • Luke 17:21 – Nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” • Matthew 7:21 – Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. In Luke, the Pharisees had asked when God’s kingdom would come not realizing it had already arrived. The kingdom of God (or of heaven) is not like an earthly kingdom with geographical boundaries. Instead, it begins with the work of God’s spirit in people’s lives and in relationships. So the kingdom of God is a spiritual realm where God rules and where we share in his eternal life. We join the kingdom when we trust in Christ as out savior—that’s why it is here now and will continue into the eternal future.
Back to the original parable. 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 fully mature, looks the same 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—or darnel—could be separated and burned. The wheat would be sold or saved in the barn.
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 5:22-23 lists love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). 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 final 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. 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 people astray. 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. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 13:5) – Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.
- Why do people dislike weeds?
- In this parable, who is the sower? What does the field represent? The wheat? The weeds? The enemy? The harvest? The harvesters?
- What did the servants volunteer to do for the owner of the field? (Vs 13:28)
- On what grounds did the owner turn down the servants’ suggestion? (Vs 13:29) How difficult is it to pull up only the weeds from a densely growing bed of flowers, Pachysandra, or even just grass? Can you always clearly identify the weeds from the good plants?
- What dangers lie in trying to label people as either “weeds” or wheat?”
- Whose responsibility is it to identify the weeds and deal with them?
- What does this parable teach about church purity? Divine patience? Human accountability?
- If you had to guess, what would you say would be the ratio of “wheat” to “weeds” in Morristown (or your home town)?
- How do these kinds of passages (threats of judgement and harsh punishment for unbelievers) make you feel?
- In what ways can you “shine like the sun” in your contacts with unbelievers? What does this mean? (Daniel 12:3) What does this say about Christians who try to isolate themselves from non-Christians?
- It is possible to interpret this parable to mean that whatever you were at birth (weed or wheat) is what you remain to the “end of the age.” What do you think about that?
- What does this parable teach us about the kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God)?
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