A Field Producing Wheat and Weeds
“Explain to us the illustration of the weeds in the field.”—Matt. 13:36.
1, 2. (a) As regards sowing, what principles can be counted upon? (b) What illustration is based on these two principles?
“SEED sowing and harvest” constitute one of the cycles that Jehovah God said in his heart would never cease “for all the days the earth continues.” (Gen. 8:21, 22) A related basic principle was expressed by the apostle Paul, when he wrote: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Gal. 6:7.
2 On the basis of these fundamental facts, a farmer who had worked hard sowing good wheat at seedtime was confident that in due season there would be a harvest. The one would logically follow the other. Likewise, when his farm workers informed him sometime later that his field was producing not only wheat but a certain weed, he was sure that there had been foul play. He knew what he had sown: wheat, not weeds. This new development required a decision. His employees suggested immediate action. They wanted to uproot the weeds right away, but the wise farmer tempered their eagerness. He told them to hold off, for fear of hurting the wheat while uprooting the weeds. Let both grow together. The harvest season would be time enough to separate the genuine wheat from the false.
3. What important developments in connection with the Kingdom did Jesus illustrate, and of what would the separating work be a feature?
3 This illustration was used by Jesus Christ to portray certain developments that would occur in the work he had started on earth. That sowing work was meant to produce the required crop of true Christians to be associated with him in the heavenly government known as “the kingdom of the heavens.” He thus foretold that his good sowing would be infringed upon by the enemy Satan the Devil. The field would produce not only the desired harvest of wheatlike, true Christians but also a crop of weedlike counterfeit Christians. Both would be allowed to grow together until harvesttime, when the separating work would take place. Moreover, this separating work would be a further feature of the “last days,” the “conclusion of a system of things.”—Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43; compare Matthew 24:3; 2 Timothy 3:1.
4. Why should this illustration be of interest to us?
4 Are you interested in seeing the end of the present wicked system? Will you be affected personally by the outcome of this harvesting work? And, incidentally, does Jesus’ illustration provide a key to understanding the history of Christianity throughout the centuries? Let us see.
THE PARABLE OF THE WHEAT AND THE WEEDS
5, 6. (a) Why cannot the expression “the kingdom of the heavens” in this parable refer to Christ’s heavenly government? (b) What, then, do the kingdom illustrations refer to and illustrate?
5 On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, not far from the house where he was staying, Jesus introduced this parable to his disciples and to a great throng of curious people, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man that sowed fine seed in his field. While men were sleeping, his enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also.”—Matt. 13:24-26.
6 A quick look through the other kingdom illustrations in Matthew chapter 13 helps us to realize that the expression “the kingdom of the heavens” as used in these illustrations cannot refer to the completed Messianic government or kingdom in the heavens. Can one imagine “weeds,” leavenlike “badness” (Mt 13 verse 33; 1 Cor. 5:8) or people likened to wicked, unsuitable “fish” (Mt 13 verses 47-50) being associated with Christ in his heavenly kingdom? Hardly! These illustrations must, therefore, be referring to good and bad developments with respect to the choosing of Christ’s future associates in “the kingdom of the heavens.” In particular, the parable of the wheat and the weeds illustrates a condition among those on earth who claim to be called to reign with Christ in his kingdom. This situation would be permitted for a time, before being brought to an end at the symbolic “harvest.”
7, 8. (a) Who is the “Son of man”? (b) What other prophecy mentions the “son of man” and those symbolized by the “fine seed”?
7 Jesus himself later explained the symbolic meaning of the “householder,” or the “man that sowed,” “his field,” the “fine seed,” “his enemy” and the “weeds.” The account reads: “After dismissing the crowds he went into the house. And his disciples came to him and said: ‘Explain to us the illustration of the weeds in the field.’ In response he said: ‘The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil.’”—Matt. 13:36-39.
8 Jesus identified himself as the “Son of man.” (Matt. 8:20; 25:31; 26:64) Interestingly, it was in connection with the Kingdom that Jesus was prophetically called the “son of man” in a vision received by Daniel. That prophecy states: “To him [the “son of man”] there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” Showing that the Son of man would have associates ruling with him, the prophetic vision also says: “And the kingdom and the rulership and the grandeur of the kingdoms under all the heavens were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One. Their kingdom is an indefinitely lasting kingdom, and all the rulerships will serve and obey even them.”—Dan. 7:13, 14, 27.
SOWING “FINE SEED”
9. What is the “field,” and why has Jesus sown “fine seed” in it?
9 It is with a view to gathering out of the world the required number of such “holy ones,” or “sons of the kingdom,” that Jesus, the “householder” of the parable, sows “fine seed in his field.” This “field” is explained as being “the world [Greek, koʹsmos],” the world of mankind. From the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry onward, mankind became a “field under cultivation,” a religious field of opportunity for sowing and cultivating the “fine seed,” or “sons of the kingdom.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Jesus zealously prepared the Jewish part of the “field” during the three and a half years of his earthly ministry. (Matt. 9:35-38) Then, from Pentecost 33 C.E. onward, he planted “fine seed,” first among Jews, and finally in the entire world, or “field.”—Acts 1:8.
10. What progress did the sowing work make among the Jews and the proselytes?
10 Explaining the “fine seed,” Jesus said: “These are the sons of the kingdom.” The first of these spirit-begotten, anointed “sons of the kingdom” were Jesus’ faithful apostles and the hundred or so other disciples, both men and women, who received the gift of the holy spirit at Pentecost 33 C.E. in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:13-15; 2:1-4) That same day, about 3,000 others, both Jews and proselytes, were added to the newly founded Christian congregation. (Acts 2:5-11, 41) Jehovah blessed this sowing work and “continued to join to them daily those being saved,” so that soon “the number of the men [possibly not counting the women] became about five thousand.” A little later, the account adds: “Believers in the Lord kept on being added, multitudes both of men and of women.” (Acts 2:47; 4:4; 5:14) The sowing work was moving ahead rapidly among the Jews and the proselytes.
11. How did the sowing progress among the Samaritans and the non-Jews?
11 After having arranged for seeds to be sown among the Samaritans (Acts, chap. 8), the Sower Jesus, by means of the holy spirit, extended the sowing work to the uncircumcised non-Jews or Gentiles. (Acts, chap. 10; Ac 13:1-5, 46, 47) Within a few decades Christian congregations were established from North Africa to the Black Sea and from Babylonia to Italy, if not even farther west. (Acts 2:5-11; 1 Pet. 5:13; Rom. 15:24; Col. 1:5, 6, 23) As a result of zealous sowing, ‘blades were sprouting and producing fruit.’—Matt. 13:26.
OVERSOWING OF WEEDS
12, 13. Who is the “enemy” and how did he sow weeds “while men were sleeping”?
12 But there was mischief afoot. Jesus’ parable had warned: “While men were sleeping, his [the Sower’s] enemy came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat, and left. When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also.” (Matt. 13:25, 26) Jesus identified “his enemy” as being “the Devil,” who would do his sabotaging work “while men were sleeping.” In the Bible “sleep” can symbolize death or spiritual drowsiness. (Matt. 9:24; Rom. 13:11; 1 Thess. 5:6) After having spoken of ‘finishing his course,’ Paul told the elders from the Christian congregation in Ephesus: “I know that after my going away oppressive wolves will enter in among you and will not treat the flock with tenderness, and from among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore keep awake.”—Acts 20:24-31.
13 Historical facts show that it was “while men were sleeping” that Satan “came and oversowed weeds in among the wheat.” Once the apostles, who collectively ‘acted as a restraint’ upon apostasy, began falling asleep in death, many Christian elders failed to “keep awake.” (2 Thess. 2:3, 6-8) Becoming spiritually drowsy, they did not protect the “sons of the kingdom” from the “oppressive wolves” that began entering in among them. These were “weeds” sown among the “fine seed.” Referring to the approaching end of the apostolic period, John, the last of the apostles to die, wrote: “It is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of our sort; for if they had been of our sort, they would have remained with us. But they went out that it might be shown up that not all are of our sort.”—1 John 2:18, 19.
14. What information is given about the type of weed referred to in Jesus’ parable?
14 Jesus stated: “The weeds are the sons of the wicked one.” (Matt. 13:38) In his book Natural History of the Bible, H. B. Tristram comments on the type of weeds referred to in this parable. He writes: “The Tares (zizania) are the same as the Arabic zawân, from which the Greek name is derived, the Lolium temulentum, or Bearded Darnel. . . . It is a kind of ryegrass, and is the only species of the grass family the seeds of which are poisonous. The derivation of zawân is from zân, ‘vomiting,’ the effect of eating darnel being to produce violent nausea, convulsions, and diarrheœa, which frequently ends in death. The plant, having a broader leaf than most wild grasses, is entirely like wheat until the ear appears.”
15. (a) Are the “weeds” degenerate “wheat”? (b) Therefore, of what is the “Son of man” blameless?
15 It should be noted that the “weeds” are not, as some Jewish Talmudists* and others once believed, a degenerate form of wheat. Wheat seed never transforms itself into weeds. This would be contrary to Jehovah’s immutable law: “Let the earth cause grass to shoot forth, vegetation bearing seed, fruit trees yielding fruit according to their kinds.” (Gen. 1:11, 12) This scientific fact exonerates the “Son of man,” Christ Jesus, the “sower of the fine seed,” from any responsibility for what happened in “his field.” The “fine seed” he sowed would never have become a crop of weeds. It could only produce “wheat,” or true “sons of the kingdom.” What later developed in his “field” was the direct result of his enemy’s deliberate and malicious oversowing of “weeds,” or “sons of the wicked one.”
16. Of what historical interest is the parable of the “wheat” and the “weeds”?
16 Thus, Jesus’ illustration of the “wheat” and the “weeds” does much to explain the history of Christianity throughout the centuries. Historical facts show that after the death of the apostles Satan introduced among the congregations of true Christians many “weeds,” “oppressive wolves” and “antichrists,” just as Jesus, Paul, Peter, John and Jude had foretold. (Acts 20:29; 2 Pet. 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18; Jude 4) It has been just as Jesus stated: “When the blade sprouted and produced fruit, then the weeds appeared also.”—Matt. 13:26.
17. When did the “weeds” become particularly apparent?
17 These “weeds” became particularly apparent during the second and third centuries, at which time such unscriptural doctrines as the inherent immortality of the soul, hellfire and the Trinity began to be taught by so-called church fathers. Many of these men were more philosophers than true Christian overseers faithful to the teachings of the Bible. The climax came early in the fourth century, when pagan Emperor Constantine fused this apostate Christianity with the pagan religion of Rome. Such counterfeit Christianity, in its Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox and Protestant varieties, has produced a bumper crop of “weeds” not only throughout the centuries but also right up until the present time.
“LET BOTH GROW TOGETHER”
18. According to Jesus’ parable, what further developments are there?
18 This situation could not fail to disturb the ‘Son of man’s’ “slaves.” Jesus’ parable continues: “So the slaves of the householder came up and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow fine seed in your field? How, then, does it come to have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy, a man, did this.’ They said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go out and collect them?’ He said, ‘No; that by no chance, while collecting the weeds, you uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and in the harvest season I will tell the reapers, First collect the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them up, then go to gathering the wheat into my storehouse.’”—Matt. 13:27-30.
19. Why were the “slaves of the householder” distressed?
19 Whether these worried “slaves” (Mt 13 verse 27) are identical with the “reapers” (Mt 13 verse 30) Jesus does not explain. If they are, this would mean that the angels were distressed by the abundant growth of “weeds” in their Master’s field. (Matt. 13:39) These “slaves” asked if they should immediately weed out the bearded darnel, symbolizing the “sons of the wicked one.” (Matt. 13:38) They feared that these counterfeit Christians, or “weeds,” maliciously sown by the “enemy,” the Devil, might choke the true “wheat,” the authentic “sons of the kingdom.”
20. What reply did the “householder” give to his “slaves,” and how has this been borne out by history?
20 But the “householder,” the “Son of man,” did not authorize his “slaves” to go out and collect the “weeds,” or pseudo-Christians, separating them from the “wheat,” true Christians. He said: “Let both grow together until the harvest.” And so it has been that true and false Christianity have grown together in the “field,” or “world,” of mankind. Nevertheless, the “harvest season” had to come. When? And how does this affect you?
“The Jerusalem Talmud quotes a view that tares are called zunim because as a result of them the wheat mezannot (‘commit[s] adultery’), i.e., it changes its characteristics and is turned into tares.—Encyclopædia Judaica, Volume 15, column 810.
[Picture on page 16]
The weed bearded darnel