The Parable of the Tares
Most of Jesus' parables that are recorded in the New Testament do not include His interpretation of them. However, there are a few where Jesus provides us with the story itself and its meaning. In today's lesson we will introduce the parable of the tares, and tomorrow we will consider Jesus' interpretation of it. Consequently, besides reading the parable, we will only offer a few comments upon it at this time.

Our Lord declared in Matthew 13:24-30 - "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 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?' 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?' But he said, 'No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 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, but gather the wheat into my barn.'"

Jesus affirmed that this parable is about "the kingdom of heaven". This phrase and a similar one ("the kingdom of God") are most often used to refer to the church. However, sometimes these phrases are used in a broader sense to include those of the world (e.g., Luke 19:11ff). Using these phrases in a broad sense poses no difficulty since Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18). Since this is the case, certainly His kingdom could be thought of in its broadest sense as including all humanity. Therefore, whenever this phrase ("the kingdom of heaven") is used the context should be carefully studied in order to determine if the meaning is broader than just the church. In this particular case, I believe that Jesus is using the broader meaning of the phrase (as will be explained in our next lesson when we comment on Matt. 13:38ff).

13:25 explains the fact that the enemy sowed tares among the wheat "while men slept". There is no reason to understand this as a reference to negligence. God has designed our bodies to regularly require hours of sleep. It is a sad fact that much evil is committed all over the world under the cover of darkness while the righteous are enjoying the wonderful rest of sleep.

What exactly are tares? Many commentators refer to tares as what is today called darnel or cockle. It is designated as a weed, although apparently it looks extraordinarily similar to wheat until it is ripe. The resemblance is so strong that tares have earned the nickname "false wheat".

The tares would not be immediately uprooted upon discovery because in so doing much wheat would be destroyed along with it. This is certainly the case because their roots are thoroughly intertwined.

We will continue studying this parable tomorrow.