Thursday, June 12, 2014

The main point of Jesus' parable of the tares in Matthew 13

Matthew 13:36 "Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

A few days ago I had posted the parable of the tares in Matthew 13:24-30 along with Jesus' explanation of the parable in Matthew 13:36-43 at

The aim in that post was to simply present the parable and Jesus' explanation of it. Today's post aims to understand the main point of Jesus' parable of the tares.

The parable of the tares is concerned with the activity of two sowers
In referring back to Jesus' presentation of the parable of the tares (or weeds, as it has been also termed) in Matthew 13:24-30, the middle of the parable brings out what appears to be it's focal point in Matthew 13:26-28 "But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

When Jesus finished telling this parable and the disciples came to him later on in private, what is the first thing they ask in Matthew 13:26 "Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” The fact the disciples are calling this parable by a specific name indicates they feel the seemingly unresolved tension presented by Jesus in the parable, namely, the presence of a second enemy sower doing his dirty work in the Sower's field. 

How the parable of the tares relates to the parable of the sower

There is no doubt that Jesus' parable of the tares has a relationship to the other parables in Matthew 13. Noting how the parables of the Sower and the Tares function together can aid greatly in understanding the latter's main point. Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost notes: "Once again Christ built on the familiar figure of a sower sowing good seed in a field. Since this parable was built on the previous parables, the interpretation of the sower, the seed, and the field are the same here as Christ previously explained."1 

In the parable of the Sower and the Seed in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Jesus' focus there has to do with the typical responses we can expect to see to the Kingdom's message, the Gospel. Its as if Jesus in that parable is giving the listener a view of the field from ground level. In this parable of the tares (or weeds) in Matthew 13:24-30, 30-36, Jesus is giving us a birds-eye view of the same field. The time frame is also broadened in that with the parable of the sower, the process and details of each type of soil in between sowing and harvest is the focus.  In the parable of the tares, the broader picture of just the sowing the wheat and the tares is the focal point. In short, it appears that in the parable of the sower we are getting the view of God's redemptive work in this world from a human perspective, whereas in the parable of the tares we are seeing the same work from a Sovereign point of view that includes the counter sowing techniques of the enemy of our souls.

The Sovereign sower and Satan the evil sower
As we look specifically at Jesus' interpretation of His own parable in Matthew 13:36-43, we see descriptions of these two sowers of unequal power and totally different character.

He states in Matthew 13:37-38a "And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world." Now the question is: "Who owns the field, the world?" By right the Sower owns the field. Jesus states as much in his telling of this parable in Matthew 13:24b “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field." Jesus of course is the Sower. Clearly Jesus elsewhere is described as having all authority in heaven and on earth, having the capability of controlling outcomes and directing the course of history and human affairs, just like the Heavenly Father. (Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16-18; Revelation 1:5-7).

So then who is the second evil sower in the parable - termed "the enemy" in Matthew 13:28? Jesus explains in Matthew 13:38b-39 "and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels." The devil of course is described as "Satan" or "The Adversary" who opposes Christ and His people in Revelation 12. The Devil blinds unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4) and has been given allowance by God to exercise temporary jurisdiction in this world as the "prince of the power of the air". (2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 2:14) Satan's task aims to destroy and make useless the Son's field and to ruin the entire harvest by way of over sowing with "weed" or what Jesus describes as "sons of the evil one" in 13:38. 

Life-Application: Jesus' ultimately controls outcomes
As we draw today's post to a conclusion, the one question not answered in this parable is: "why didn't the first sower go after the second evil sower"?  With no doubt the problem of evil is present in this parable. Jesus' main point is to assert the fact that in the end, His will concerning the wheat, the sons of the Kingdom, will prevail despite the efforts of the evil enemy sower.

1. J. Dwight Pentecost. The Parables of Jesus. Kregel. Page 50.  


  1. Very good post. Very encouraging as well as discouraging. The discouraging part is always the Enemy's work. (Job 1:6-12) It makes me wonder what our task is in all of this. Especially when the seed falls on soil or rocks where it cannot mature and grow. Are we to accept the resistance and rejection of the Word? Or what do we do next? As much sorrow as this causes us, imagine the sorrow our Lord experiences. We of course, do not combat the Enemy in our own power.

    "the process and details of each type of soil in between sowing and harvest is the focus"

    I'm always reminded of farmers when I read these parables. I see Pastors as "farmers" (as well as other descriptions such as under-shepherds) in the work that they do in the church. My uncle was a farmer and I remember the work he did at various times of the year regarding the care of his soil. He plowed it after crops were done to make way for new ones to be planted. He fertilized, watered (unless in certain areas he depended on the rain), cleared away rocks or trees. As the crops were growing he used pesticides if needed to protect his crop from destruction. He worked really hard to successfully produce his various grains, fruits, and vegetables. At times, all his efforts seemed for naught because some obstacle or other caused the crop to be non-productive or die.

    I (as a Lutheran) don't believe in double pre-destination. But I question that sometimes when I look at so many people around me. All the talking in the world seemingly can't change their mind or get through. So, I wait and pray and love them. I befriend them as best I can to keep the door open. With regard to both of my sisters who have died before me, neither one would have a close relationship with me during most of their lives. Both of them came to me near the end of their lives to hear from me what they knew I could tell them about Christ and His love and forgiveness for them. This surprised me very much. And only God knows the results. But I have reason for great hope for them.

    "With no doubt the problem of evil is present in this parable. Jesus' main point is to assert the fact that in the end, His will concerning the wheat, the sons of the Kingdom, will prevail despite the efforts of the evil enemy sower."

    This is the very encouraging part.

    Bless you, Pastor.

  2. To Abby:

    Thank you very much for your insightful comments. I too subscribe more to a Single Predestinarian viewpoint. One Baptist preacher I heard preaching years ago espoused a view point that I would classify as a form of Single Pre.

    Most likely when you look at the SBC Baptist faith & Message 2000, you could classify it as somewhat Single-Pre in its orientation, being that it says nothing about the so-called corollary of reprobation.

    Your grasp of gaining a burden for the lost and those pretenders of the faith is exactly one of the intended outcomes that Jesus had in the telling of this parable. When we deal with Kingdom matters, we ought to be developing the same heart as the King Himself.

    And yes, the problem of evil is no doubt inferred from the parable. I plan on dealing with that particular point in a future post.