(Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43)
Jesus provides another parable of what the kingdom of God is like in the parable of the weeds among the wheat, or as the KJV states, the tares among the wheat.
While we think of weeds in many ways and varieties, the original Greek word translated as weeds among the wheat or tares among the wheat was actually quite a specific type of weed. The word used was “zizania” which is a weed commonly known today as darnel. In it’s immature form it is very similar to wheat, but when the heads of grain appear than it can be distinguished quite easily from wheat. When wheat is fully grown the head of grain is quite heavy causing the head to droop on the plant and the grain is golden brown in colour. Darnel grains though are much smaller and are black. The effects of eating darnel are quite toxic for both man and livestock. Some of the symptoms noted when eaten are sleepiness, drowsiness, hypnotic episodes, convulsions, drunkenness, intoxication, trembling, inability to walk, hindered speech, vomiting, stupefaction and dim-sightedness.
Now knowing what these weeds are like and the effects of their consumption, we see this parable of the weeds among the wheat or tares among the wheat in a different light. Jesus gave us the parable in verses 24-30 and then at the disciples’ request he explained what it meant in verses 36-43. His explanation of the parable was, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age.”
There is a challenge for us today because the weeds are still among the wheat. We must understand first that the field is the world and the wheat is the sons of the kingdom. Where are the sons of the kingdom? They are in the churches of God worshiping the Lord. Jesus says that the enemy, the devil, has sown his weeds, the tares, among the field of wheat. So where are these evil ones? They too are among the churches. But their purpose is not to worship the Lord but to destroy and tear down God’s people.
As darnel looks like wheat in it’s early stages of growth, so too these people will look like Christians. They are well disguised, which is why they can grow and flourish in the churches almost undetected. In the end they will be rooted out from among God’s people and destroyed at the time of judgment. Their destructive influence in the cunning ways of the devil can uproot people, families and entire churches. This is why Jesus said in the parable to let them grow up with the wheat and they would be dealt with at the close of the age.
But in the mean time how are we to know these people and deal with them appropriately? Jesus said earlier in Matthew 7:16, “You will know them by their fruit.” It is what these people do that will distinguish them from the true believers. They will be hard to detect initially for they are well camouflaged, like wolves in sheep’s clothing, but their evil will come out for they will be unable to hide it. It is part of their heart and who they are. As the heart of a seed of darnel is black, so too the hearts of these people are black. Their desire is to overpower and take control of the church or the people of the church for their own ends, not the glory of God.
So why has Jesus allowed these people to continue in the church? There are several reasons. First in the explanation of the parable he says that if he were to root them up it may pull the wheat up at the same time. If you consider a field of wheat, it is like a carpet. Unlike a vegetable plot that has rows and access paths between the plants where weeds can be easily identified and removed, in a wheat field the tares and the wheat are closely intermingled. If you pull one up you may uproot the other at the same time. If you pull the darnel out while the wheat is still immature, then the wheat will never grow and come to maturity. Some of the weeds in the church may be very close to the true believers, perhaps even family members. If the weeds were removed, you could remove the rest of the family at the same time and the good people would be lost along with the bad people. They would not have the opportunity to learn and grow and come to maturity.
Our challenge is to gain as much insight as possible from the Lord so that we can distinguish the weeds from the wheat. Our job is to become mature in Christ so that we can see these people for what they are and beware of their false teaching and destructive influence.
In the end Jesus will deal with these people. If they are too destructive he will have them removed at the right time or will take his people away from them. If not, then he will deal with them at the close of the age. The evil will be gathered and go into judgment of fire while the wheat, those who follow Jesus, will be gathered into his kingdom and receive eternal life.