Kingdom Parables: Wheat and Tares

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The Kingdom of God is like tares in the wheat.

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Text: Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Theme: The Kingdom of God is like tares in the wheat.
For the foreseeable future, I want to turn our attention to the Parables on Sunday evening — particularly what we call the Kingdom Parables. It just seems appropriate considering that on Sunday mornings we’re talking about the coming of God’s Kingdom at the end of the age.
The Disciples were constantly asking questions about God’s Kingdom. “What is the kingdom of heaven?” “Where is it found?” “Who will get into it, and who won’t?” And “When will it begin—or, has it already begun?” Believers in every generation would have asked those questions.
Jesus' parables are seemingly simple and memorable stories, and although these parables seem simple, the messages they convey are deep, and central to the teachings of Jesus — especially his teachings about the Kingdom.
In His stories about the Kingdom of God Jesus speaks of three things: Characteristics of the Kingdom, Characteristics of the King, and Characteristics of the King’s Subjects. We call them Kingdom Parables, because Jesus begins each by saying: “The Kingdom of God is like ...”
We’re going to begin our meander through the parables of Jesus this evening with a look at one of the Kingdom Parables in Matthew’s Gospel. It is the story of the Wheat and Tares.

I. THE TALE . . . Matthew 13:24-30

“Another parable He put forth to them, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 "but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. 26 "But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 "So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' 28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.' The servants said to him, 'Do you want us then to go and gather them up?' 29 "But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 'Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn."' (Matthew 13:24-30, NASB95)
1. as He does on several other occasions, Jesus uses an agriculture illustration to explain kingdom truths and principles
a. it was a story that made sense to His listeners because Israel was an agrarian society
b. it’s a parable that many Americans no longer understand because we are primarily an industrialized and urbanized society where only 3% of the population lives on farms
2. the story that Jesus tells is simple and straight-forward
Story: A man has taken considerable time and effort to sow his field with good seed with the full expectations of producing a fine and bountiful harvest of grain. In the night, however, his enemy comes and deliberately over-sows his wheat field with bearded darnel seeds – the tares of the story. It’s a species of rye-grass that looks like wheat when it first comes up. As the crop begins to grow it becomes evident that tares have been sown in with the wheat. The natural tendency of the servants is to go and pull up the weeds, but the owner decides to leave the weeds in order that the crop itself would not be harmed. When the harvest comes, the reapers will be able to distinguish and separate the wheat from the weeds. The weeds will be burned and the wheat stored.


1. Parables — if you’ll remember from the introduction – have one central point
2. from that central point we may develop several kingdom-lessons
3. I’ll share with you the central point in a moment, but let me now introduce the lessons this parable teaches:
a. 1st, There is a real battle between the forces of spiritual good and the forces of spiritual evil in this life
b. 2nd, God sends rain on the just and the unjust — the tares as well as the wheat both get the blessing of sunshine and rain and fertile soil
c. 3rd, The Law of the Harvest bears out the end product
4. let us consider further these lessons and more as we examine the tares and the truth

II. THE TARES . . . Matthew 13:38b-42

" . . . but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 "The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 "Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 "The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 "and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:38b-42, NASB95)
1. how do we know the meaning of this parable?
a. simple! — Jesus tells us
b. He doesn’t do so with all of His stories, but He does with this one
c. so what’s the central point of the story?
1) consider what a tare is and what a tare does
2. a tare is a weed that resembled the wheat
a. but as the crops grow the tare does not develop a head like the wheat does
1) the headless stalk revealed the plant’s true nature
b. these weeds were so despised that the Jews called them bastard weeds
1) it was not uncommon for an enemy to come in under cover of darkness and sow the seeds of tares so as to try and ruin the crop of wheat
2) the goal was to choke out the wheat and thus reduce the amount of harvest
3. after telling the parable the disciples come and ask for an explanation of the story of the tares
a. in doing so they place an emphasis upon the tares themselves and Jesus places the emphasis upon our response to the tares
b. isn’t that interesting


1. in verses 36-43 Jesus identifies the tares and the tare-sower and the destiny of both
a. the devil is the sower of the tares
b. the tares are the sons of the devil (unbelievers)
1) there fate is destruction of the tares, and the sower of the tares in eternal punishment
2. the central point: The devil is in the business of "killing, stealing and destroying" (John 0:10) and Satan does this in part by planting and producing "look-a-likes" or counterfeits that strive to hinder the work of God
3. I believe one of the greatest needs in the Body of Christ today is for spiritual discernment
a. discernment is a way of interpreting experiences and of making choices in the light of the revealed Word of God
4. it is something desperately needed in the church today
a. why?
b. because Satan is a master counterfeiter
1) the Devil is now busy at work in the same field in which the Lord sowed the good seed
2) he is seeking to prevent the growth of the wheat by introducing another plant into the field — the tares — which closely resembles the wheat in appearance
3) by a process of imitation and mimicry, he is aiming to neutralize the Work of Christ
4) just as Christ has a Gospel, Satan has a gospel too; the latter being a clever counterfeit of the former
5) anything that adds to the Gospel, or subtracts from the Gospel is a parody of the true gospel, and therefore a false gospel
a) multitudes of the unsaved are deceived by false gospels
c. false prophets and false gospels and false Messiahs abound in our world
1) we need to be able to tell the difference between those things that truly are of God and from God, and those that are not
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." (1 John 4:1-6 NASB95)


1. there are look-a-like Christians
a. the Bible calls them false brethren
"I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren;" (2 Corinthians 11:26, NASB95)
b. the apostle Paul refers to those who talk like Christians; who may even insist that they are Christians, but they simply don’t walk the walk — they’re playing at being Christian
1) they’ve never been born from above
2) they walked an aisle, they shook the preacher’s hand, they mouthed a prayer, they got dunked, but they are nothing more than ‘wet sinners’
c. they’re unregenerate, their lost, they are without hope in the world
1) yet their name is on the church role and they often bring shame to the Body of Christ and they stir up trouble for the faithful
2) they haven’t been to church for five, or ten, or twenty years, but God forbid if you ever try to remove their name from the church roll!
3) friends, if you’re name is on the church roll, but not found written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, being on the church roll ain’t gonna matter when you stand before God
d. the New Testament has much to say about look-a-like Christians and the danger they present to the church
2. there are look-a-like Prophets who preach look-a-like Gospels
a. one of the Apostle Paul’s greatest concerns for the church was that believers would be seduced by a false gospel
"But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!" (Galatians 1:8-9, NASB95)
b. the core of the Gospel is simple: we are save by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to the Scriptures alone
1) any other message of salvation is a false gospel
c. the great danger of a false gospel is that it’s a message that has some truth mixed in with mostly error
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;" (1 Timothy 4:1, KJV)
1) there is the Sugar-coated gospel — a gospel that says, ‘You can ‘accept’ Christ as ‘Savior’ but not ‘Lord.” By ‘faith’ you can have heaven as your home even though you never pick up your cross and follow Jesus in consecration of life
2) there is the Works gospel — your salvation really depends on you — you’ve got to participate in all the sacraments, or participate in certain religious rituals
3) there is the New Age gospel — all I have to do is get in touch with my own divine nature within to find enlightenment and discover that, “Hey, I’m really God, myself!”
4) there is the Power of Positive Thinking gospel — you’ve just got to have faith — it doesn’t matter in what — just have faith, in something, even faith in faith, and the divine Spirit of the Universe will include you
d. these are all false gospels and the false prophets of our day are aggressively propagating them
3. there are the look-a-like Messiahs
a. Jesus warned about such
"And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you . For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many ." (Matthew 24:4-5, KJV)
• ILLUS. Last week was the 25th anniversary of the siege upon the compound of a group called the Branch Davidians, led by David Koresh. Koresh thought he was Jesus Christ. Though he died in 2012, the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity continues to teach that their founder, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a Korean business man and founder of the Unification Church is the true Messiah.
• ILLUS. In Siberia, thousands of Russians worship and do the bidding of Sergei Torop. Until 1989 he was a traffic cop. Now he has proclaimed himself as ‘The Teacher’ and he believes himself to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ, come back to Earth in order to save the world. Over 5,000 followers traveled to the isolated Siberian hamlet this last Spring to hear his annual sermon to the faithful.
b. Sergei Torop represents just one of dozens of men and women around the world who claim to be the Christ
4. Jesus tells us that one of the characteristics of the Kingdom is that — until Jesus returns — that false prophets and false gospels and false Messiahs will exist next to the true
5. Jesus ends the parable by reminding us of an end time judgment in which His angels will gather the tares as a means of separating the unbelievers from the believers (wheat)
a. their eternal judgment is hell ... a place of wailing and sorrow for not having believed and received God's way of salvation through Jesus Christ
b. it is a place of gnashing of teeth caused by the torment of an eternal burning fire
5. on the day of judgment the law of the harvest will make manifest who are the tares (unbelievers) and who is the wheat (believers)
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7, NIV)

III. THE TRUTH . . . Matthew 13:37-38a, 43

“He answered and said to them: "He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 "Thefield is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom . . . “ (Matthew 13:37-38a, NASB95)
"Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Matthew 13:43, NASB95)
1. when Jesus told the parable of the tares it was for more than just having something to say about farming
a. He was driving home a kingdom truth that in this world the truth will overcome the non-truth
2. I told you earlier that there are three lessons to learn from this parable
a. let’s take a few moments and glean from this tale of tares the truth


1. it should not surprise us that the world opposes God, His work and His people
2. and yet, it seems that the Christian community is surprised by the increase of evil in our world
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. 19 "If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19, NASB95)
ILLUS. G. Cambell Morgan asks, "Is the world getting better or worse?" And then he answers, "This parable states it is getting better and worse!" The better comes in the midst of evil in the way believers respond to it.
3. we should never be surprised when a lost person acts like a lost person
a. and we should not be overly surprised to discover that there are those in the institutional church who are not wheat, but tares


1. how are we to respond to the tares and the evil that confronts us?
2. the servants in the tale (parable) were ready to go and eradicate them from the field
a. they exhibited the attitude of James and John toward the Samaritans
“And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?" 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.” (Luke 9:54-56, NASB95)
b. have you ever had the urge to call down fire on someone?
3. we often become impatient with unbelievers who oppose the truth of God, wanting an outward and final judgment on them now
a. but in this parable Jesus says we are to leave them alone
1) a time will come when all will see the tares for what they are, they will be gathered and they will be judged in the end
b. our response must be one of patience not judgment
ILLUS. John MacArthur, Pastor of Grace Community Church, says: "The church is called to preach and teach against sin and all unrighteousness, but, in doing that, its purpose is not to judge but to win souls, not to punish but to convert sons of the evil one into sons of the kingdom."
“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.” (1 Thessalonians 5:15, NASB95)
"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45, NASB95)
4. when you and I judge we set ourselves up to be God and we end up hindering the work of God
a. in our zeal to eradicate the tares, we may well “pull up” some of the wheat as well
ILLUS. Warren Wiersbe states, "Our task is not to pull up the false, but plant the true."
b. we are to be growing in our relationship with the Father so as to allow His purpose and will to be fulfilled in and through us to establish His kingdom.
5. Jesus says those who follow Him will in the end shine!
a. He speaks of a passage in the book of Daniel that states the purpose of the parable
"At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:1-3, NASB95)
Our response to the tares that reside beside us in this world is to be the light before them. We are called to expose the darkness for the purpose of leading those in the darkness out of the darkness and into the light of Christ by the way of salvation.
Those of us who believe we are sons of the kingdom should hear what Jesus is saying in order to check our attitude toward the world. We are to . . .
1) Witness rather than condemn.
2) Love rather than hate.
3) Show mercy rather than judgment.
Philippians 2:14-15 “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,”
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