Jesus told one parable concerning the kingdom of Heaven. His word is sown everywhere but only bears fruit when it is sown in the sower’s good soil. The fruit Jesus explicitly referred to was understanding and sound teaching. Now, Jesus tells another parable. He, again, leaves it dangling without explanation. Since Jesus will explain this parable later in the discourse (v. 36-43), we will wait until we walk through that passage to explain it specifically. Today, we will simply read Jesus’s parable, compare it to Christ’s explicit teaching, and compare it to the previous parable. All of the parables in this section deal with the kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.
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?’
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?’
But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
- This parable is not a continuation of the previous parable. We know this by the indicative statement, “Jesus presented another parable to them…” While this parable utilizes the same language as the previous and concerns the same subject matter, it does not match part-for part. So, we cannot make the claim that bad seed can be sown in good soil to produce a tare. Mixing parables and imagery together is not profitable because it creates a new message rather than explaining Jesus’s message.
- This parable is about bad seed, not bad soil. Not only do many people not have ears to hear, a false Gospel is being sown and producing false converts.
- The false fruit of the false gospel will be burned during God’s harvest. Jesus doesn’t tell us, here, when the harvest is or even if it is a single event. This is a parable, not an explicit doctrinal teaching. What we can glean, at this point, is that those bearing the fruit of Christ’s word are growing alongside those who are bearing the fruit of a false gospel. It’s difficult to tell the difference until each one begins to bear its fruit (understanding and sound teaching).
- Both parables, so far, are about Christ’s word being heard and understood and doing its work. Jesus did not glorify human works and words over his own, as does much human religion today.
It’s not difficult to notice that, according to Jesus, His word is preeminent in Gospel work and is the primary ministry of His church. Consider the explicit teaching in Matthew’s Gospel up to this point.
- Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3—Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (4:4).
- Jesus taught that those who annul the smallest letter or stroke from the Law and teachers others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven; whoever keeps and teaches the whole counsel of the Law will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven (5:19).
- Jesus taught us not to air our works and words as if they carried the importance of His work and word (6:1-34).
- Jesus taught that not everyone who calls Him Lord and who does good deeds will enter the kingdom of Heaven but only those who understand and do His will (7:21-23).
- When Jesus was criticized for teaching sinners and tax-collectors, He replied by instructing His accusers to go learn what the Scriptures meant (9:13).
- Jesus instructed His disciples to go preach His word. If people did not heed Christ’s word as proclaimed by the disciples, they would be worse of than Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment. He instructed His disciples to do good things, but it wasn’t their good deeds that saved people—it was Christ’s word (Chapter 10).
- Miracles and good deeds never won a person to salvation (11:20-24).
- Christ primarily desires we learn from Him; it is in His words we find rest for our souls, not in being provided for materially or in doing good things (11:29).
- Jesus taught that an evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign, that others prove themselves by their works; He taught that those in whom His word produces fruit will stand and condemn those who do not respond to Christ’s word in repentance (12:38-42).
- Jesus’s family includes only those who understand and do the Father’s will (12:49).
It’s not difficult to see, just by a simple reading of Scripture, that the kingdom of Heaven is built upon the work and word of Jesus, not the works and words of people. I was recently criticized for putting theology before simply loving and serving others. I guess people today would criticize Jesus for doing the same thing. Christ’s word is where the power is. According to Christ, Himself, the preaching of His word in the world is His own preeminent ministry. Even to assert that theology is less important than loving and serving people is a theological claim—it’s an assertion based on a certain theological viewpoint and, as such, is self-contradictory. As soon as we move away from Christ’s word and knowing Christ more as our preeminent ministry or highest priority, we show ourselves to be the weed and to be the ones spreading the bad seed. I’m not claiming that people should not do good things. I am claiming that to glorify human works and words is to miss the proper Gospel altogether. Christ’s work is done primarily by the preaching and teaching of His word. His word is sufficient. That is why we have preachers who work hard at preaching and teaching the whole counsel of Scripture as Christ has given it—not as we would organize it or transplant Bible verses to appropriate them for our own purposes. May we be humble enough to walk through Jesus’s word and so learn from Him. May we not be so prideful so as to pluck verses from their contexts to appropriate for our own arguments. This is the difference between good and bad seed. May we seek out those who properly preach and teach Christ’s word rather than being spiritual lone-wolves or subscribing to those who misappropriate Scripture. May we participate with a healthy local church that is interested in building one another up by Christ’s word for our sanctification.