Session #095 Side By Side
Scripture Matthew 13:24-30
Summary Jesus’ second parable in Matthew 13:24-30;36-43, the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, may contain similar elements as the first parable; but the focus is different. It is about faithful and fruitful sons of the kingdom being scattered in the world for the purposes of the kingdom, holding their own against the enemy’s agents, until the time of separation and glorification at the end of the age.
Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “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 in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 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, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 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 13:24 – 30, 36 – 43)
Many times when we talk about the kingdom, we talk about advancing it and taking more ground. We imagine what it would look like if everyone was Christian. While that may be what we hope for, it is not what we will get in this present age, for the kingdom of God does not operate that way. This session covers another one of the parables that reveal the Kingdom Operating System, showing how the kingdom works to those who have ears to hear.
Parable of the Sower vs Parable of the Wheat and Tares
If we compare this parable with the first parable of the sower in Matthew 13:1-9, we find similar elements, but the focus is different.
Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Wheat and Tares
The sower is anyone who declares the Word of the kingdom.
The sower represents the Son of Man, and there is another enemy sower who is the devil.
The seed is the word of the kingdom.
The seeds represent the sons of the kingdom and the sons of the wicked one respectively.
The field is the hearts of the people of the kingdom receiving the word.
The field refers to the entire world.
The harvest speaks of fruit being brought to maturity.
The harvest speaks of the end of the age.
It is easy to read the two parables and think they are talking about the same thing but they are not. In addition, this parable includes the angels who will be reaping the harvest. Parables are designed not to be difficult to understand, but it is easy to miss the point. This parable has four main points to catch.
Point 1: The Good Seed Is Scattered Throughout the Field
Jesus is the Son of Man, the sower who will scatter and send out the good seeds, the sons of the kingdom. The implication is that every son and daughter of the kingdom will be sent out, or in Greek “pushed out” into the world, and we need to get ready to be scattered instead of just remaining in the church. This is consistent with Matthew 10, where Jesus sends out His twelve disciples into the world as an answer to His own prayer to “send out labourers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:38). He is not saying anything new. The church gathers together, but after it gathers, it should become the scattered church to “go and make disciples” and fulfil the Great Commission. Every son and daughter of the kingdom has a kingdom assignment to be fulfilled in our areas of operation out there in the world, yet so often we hold ourselves back into the church.
As the seeds are scattered, the grain sprouts and produces a crop. When the children of the kingdom are sent out, we are expected to be faithful and fruitful, and what this means depends on our assignment. We are called to be faithful to the task, and fruitful in all we do, to “bear fruit worthy of repentance” as John the Baptist admonishes (Matthew 3:8). However, the tares are also producing a crop, for the countermeasures of the enemy are deceitfully fruitful and equally productive.
Point 2: The Sons of the Kingdom Hear and Obey
In Matthew 8:5 – 13 where Jesus heals a centurion’s servant, the centurion displays faith that Jesus need only speak a word and his servant would be healed, and we see Jesus contrasting this Gentile’s faith with that of the Jews, saying, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:10b – 12) The gospel of Matthew was written to kingdom people, reminding them and telling them that Jesus is the King, and Jesus is warning the people of God that they need to check their own faith lest they be cast out. Great faith translates to knowing who your authority is, where your authority is, and accepting kingdom assignments to serve the King.
Therefore, the sons of the kingdom are those who hear, understand, obey, grow into and reveal the characteristics of the kingdom as they are sent out. These are the hearts of good soil who bore fruit to maturity as described in the parable of the sower. Some will hear about the kingdom but do not understand it, others will get excited but nothing comes out of it, still others get distracted, but the good soil has a heart for the kingdom and grows to maturity. It is not enough to just believe, for in John 8, as Jesus is addressing “those Jews who believed Him” (John 8:31), He also says they are of “[their] father the devil”, because they seek to kill Him, “a Man who has told you the truth which [he] heard from God” (John 8:44,40) Our faith and belief has to be evidenced by works, as sons do the deeds of their father. Jesus as the Son of God understood what it meant to do the works of the Father. If we are sons of the kingdom and yet are not doing the deeds of the kingdom, we are not doing the business of our Father. But we must also do this in the right spirit – we do not work to become children of God, we are given the spirit of adoption. Rather, we become children of God and that is why we understand what it means to do the work of the Father.
Point Three: Good and Evil Grow Side By Side
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.” (Matthew 13:28 – 29)
The wheat and tares both come up and will grow side by side. A young Christian may ask why there can be evil amongst the good because we do not understand the kingdom operating system. Jesus tells us that the enemy is sneaky, sowing the tares when we do not expect it, and the enemy has his sons to do his dirty work. The wheat and tares look similar in the beginning, and the difference will not become apparent until the grains come up, but by then it might be too late. Many causes and religions can look similar and sound similar to Christianity, like social justice, civil rights, saving the environment etc., and even teach the same morals, but the way it is understood can pull us away. We can use the same words but mean different things, and in the end, it is still as distinct as wheat and tares.
Even in the church, there are false teachings, with different types of gospels – prosperity gospel, legalism, hyper-grace, hyper-faith, New Age Christianity among many examples. These false teachings have come into the church, and they are going to exist side by side. People hear something new and think it’s a revelation, but in truth it leads astray for we cannot distinguish between wheat and tares. By the time we can discern the truth, they are already growing side by side.
Although our natural instinct is to panic and want to remove the tares, Jesus says to let them grow together. Our presumption is that when the enemy camp is growing, we are losing, but Jesus is saying that if they can grow, so can we. The danger of removing them is that the root system has become too intertwined, such that removing the tares will also uproot the wheat. It is for our good that the enemy is not removed, and Jesus uses everything that the enemy has done to make it work for us. The kingdom operates side by side with the fakes and alternatives, for the truth knows what is the truth, and we just need to know how to discern. Growing side by side does not mean to become like them or to embrace their methods. We cannot participate in the things they stand for, for there is a distinction between wheat and tares. The sons of the kingdom are expected to hold their own in the presence of the sons of the wicked one. They are expected to be faithful and fruitful so that they keep growing and producing a crop. We are not called to beat down the tares, but to stay awake and stay alert and not be distracted from our assignment. We are missing out because many are not awake, aligned or assigned. Without the challenges of the tares around, the church will become complacent and fall asleep.
The Lord leaves the tares there so that in the challenges, we learn to grow. When we are too comfortable in our blessing, our guard comes down. We need to take heed of the warnings.
Point 4: We Will Be Separated and Glorified in the End
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. 43 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 13:40 – 43)
We can take encouragement that the field still belongs to God. The enemy may be coming in to play on God’s turf, and his tares may continue growing side by side till the end of this age, but God has the final say.
At the end of this age, the sons of the kingdom will be separated from the sons of the wicked one, those who practise lawlessness. Against this backdrop of lawlessness, the sons of the kingdom will declare the gospel of the kingdom. At the end of the day, the wheat will be placed in the barn, and the tares will be burned. This idea of separation is consistent across scriptures, distinguishing between the narrow and the wide gate (Matthew 7:13 – 14), the goats and the sheep (Matthew 25:31 – 46) and many others. While we are assured of our salvation, it comes with a warning against lawlessness and willful sinning. We are called to live as the righteous ones who are the sons of the kingdom, that we may shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father. We start from the gift of righteousness imputed upon us by our belief in Christ, which brings us into kingdom alignment and readies us for kingdom assignment. As we are working on our kingdom assignment, we are declaring the righteousness of the kingdom for He is a good king. But in order to declare righteousness, we have to live out righteousness and produce a crop, displaying the works of righteousness that will clothe us as the Bride of Christ at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
It can be easy to be righteous people in the church when others are watching. It is a different thing to stand for righteousness in the world, as we stand among the tares. We think that when we are right, everyone will love us, but we need to prepare for the possibility of opposition and persecution as we stand for Jesus. This is why Matthew 5 gives us hope, to know that “blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10) Even as we suffer with Him, we are glorified with Him. The righteous will shine forth in glorification when we are finally there in the Lord, and his sons will shine together with the Son of God.
It is easy to read this passage as wheat versus the tares, but as we understand it as how both grow side by side, the question becomes how we can continue to grow in the midst of evil. The mysteries of the kingdom are revealed to those who hear. The sons of the kingdom do the work of the Father and His kingdom. Let us not be distracted or fearful or hope for the evil to disappear, but continue focusing on our assignment in God’s field. The separation will happen at the end time, and we have the glorious promise that we will be the righteous ones who will shine forth at the end of days.