I thank thee, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the
|THE QUESTION (#69)
In the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, (Matthew 13:25) our Lord says:
But while the man sleeps his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and left.
Jesus is the sower in this
parable, and refers to himself as sleeping.
What do you think exactly that Jesus means here by him (Jesus) “sleeping” while the enemy sows tares among the wheat?
Your question here may spring from an incomplete view of the interpretation of the Lord's parables. It seems appropriate, then, that I first provide some suggestions as to the interpretation of parables. This is the Parable of the Weeds of the Field, introduced by the evangelists as such, that reads as follows:
Mt.13:24 Another parable he placed before them saying: The kingdom of the heavens is like [a] man sowing good seed in his field. 25 But while the man sleeps his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and left. 26 So when the grass sprouted and bore fruit, then the tares also became manifest. 27 So when the slaves of the householder came they said to him: Lord, did we not sow good seed in the field? Whence therefore does it have tares? 28 But he told them, [An] enemy did this. So the slaves say: Do you wish therefore when we go that we gather them? 29 But he tells them, No, lest gathering the tares you uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow them to grow together until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the harvesters: Gather first the tares and bind them into bundles in order to burn them, but the wheat gather into my storehouse.
This is a parable of the kingdom, presented for the purpose of revealing the secrets of kingdom to his disciples while hiding them from those that are blind, as he explained beginning with Matthew 13:10. Here is the first suggestion for the interpretation of the parables:
1. Did the Lord explain the parable?
If so, go first to his explanation and see what we can learn, for it will contain everything he intends us to learn from it. In this case, of the Parable of the Weeds of the Field, the Lord did indeed provide an explanation, as follows:
Mt.13:36 Then having left the crowd he came into the house. And his disciples came to him saying: Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field. 37 So answering he said: The [one] sowing the good seed is the son of man. 38 And the field is the world, and the good seed these are the sons of the kingdom, and tares are the sons of the wicked [one] 39 And the enemy who sows these is the devil, and the harvest is the completion of the age, and the harvesters are angels. 40 As therefore they gather the tares and burn them in fire, thus it will be in the completion of the age. 41 The son of man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all [those] causing stumbling and those doing lawlessness. 42 And they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. 43 Then the just will shine as the sun in the kingdom of their father. The [one] having ears to be hearing, let him be hearing.
You have correctly identified the sower as Jesus, the Son of man. What then, you ask, does he mean to say by having the man (Jesus, the Son of man) sleep in this statement:
25 But while the man sleeps his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and left.
Does his explanation include this sleeping? No; therefore, this sleeping has no particular significance. It is only thrown in to enhance the story and produce a desired effect. It can be compared with a stage prop, which plays no special part in the drama while enhancing the scene. It definitely does not mean that the Son of man is sleeping while the process is ongoing in the world.
This is the answer to your question, but let's go on to give some further suggestions as to how to interpret the parables.
2. Does the Lord append or otherwise provide and explanatory statement?
The Parable of the Lost Coin is an example of such a parable.
Verse 10 in the interpretation in total. This parable only illustrates the joy in heaven, before the angels of God, over one sinner that repents. In this case, nothing in the scene has any particular meaning, but all of it together does. The woman, the ten coins, the lost coin, the lamp, the house, the sweeping, the friends, the neighbors -- none of them mean anything individually. The entire scene is a picture of rejoicing. The other things are props, supplied to enhance the scene and produce the desired effect. This also illustrates my next suggestion.
Lk.15:8 Or [a] certain woman having ten drachmas, if she lose one drachma, does she not light [a] lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until it be found? 9 And having found [it] she calls together her friends and neighbors saying: Rejoice with me, for I found the drachma that was lost. 10 Likewise, I say to you, Joy comes to pass before the angels of God over one sinner repenting.
3. Does it teach only one single element in Truth?
Most of the parables are like the Parable of the Lost Coin. They teach only one thing. If we seek to get more out than the the Lord put in, we will err. Some individual Christians seek to get more out than the Lord intends, with the result that they disagree with each other needlessly and fractured relationships result. Ego plays a part! Minimizing the identification of elements of a parable actually maximizes the significance of the lesson the Lord intends to teach.
It is a mistake to apply this rule to every parable that the Lord does not explain for us, as some do who thereby miss very important lessons. Even so, one should seek to minimize the lesson(s) of the parable and take care not to draw more out than the Lord put in. I suggest one more thing, which is to ask,
4. How does one see the Light in all the parables?
To this question comes a simple answer:
Jn.8:31 If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
By my word, he does not mean the Bible. He means only what he says -- his very words as recorded in the gospels and no more.
I should not provide more than this, but I can illustrate how I have applied it to receive the meaning of a specific parable not interpreted by the Lord, and not explained by him.
The Parable of the Lost Coin (above) is one of a set of three that includes the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Lost Son. Being linked together, we can safely conclude that all teach the same, single Truth; that is, they illustrate the joy in heaven, or before the angels in heaven, over one sinner that repents. But the last one of the three, commonly called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, differs from the other two in significant ways. It includes the appended story of the elder son that begins with Luke 15:25.
25 Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came he drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dance, 26 and calling upon one of the servants he inquired what this might be. 27 But he said to him that his brother has arrived, and your father killed the fatted calf, for he had received him back sound. 28 But he was enraged and did not want to enter. So his father having come out called upon him. 29 But answering he said to the father: Behold so many years I am slaving-to you and never transgressed your commandment, and for me you have never given [a] goat that I may make merry with my friends. 30 But when this your son who consumed your living with prostitutes came, you killed for him the fatted calf. 31 But he said to him: Child, you are always with me, and all mine is yours. 32 But it was necessary to make merry and rejoice, for this your brother was dead and has returned to zoe-life, and was lost and is found.
The elder son does not illustrate the joy in heaven over one sinner that repents, for he was very unhappy with the turn of events, even enraged. At the end, we find the father justifying the celebration to this angry son but, again, this was not necessary to illustrate the joy that all the parables illustrate to this point. So I am compelled to look further, and to ask if all the characters have a significance beyond the illustration of joy in heaven and, if so, what is that significance and the addition lesson(s) the Lord intends that we learn?
This takes some abiding in the Word. I will list here what I have learned through that process, with an explanatory comment.
1. The "father" represents God, the Father in heaven. The expressed joy is stated in context to be joy in heaven, and this is a father expressing joy in heaven. Who else could he be? We have confirmation of this when we read that there is joy before the angels of God (Lk.15:10) and then go here in the Word:
The joy is before the angels, because they are beholding the face of God.
Mt.18:10 Be seeing that you do not despise one of these little [ones], For I say to you that their angels in [the] heavens always see the face of my father in the heavens.
Our Lord also speaks of his Father's house, which is in heaven:
Jn.14:2 In my father's house [hold] are many dwelling-places.
2. The Prodigal Son in his far country represents any sinner on earth that repents. We need not pursue this, because the stated purpose of these parables is to illustrate the joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. The earth is where every sinner repents.
3. The elder son is Jesus.
Yes, I know -- it is difficult to see Jesus in the angry, resentful elder brother that so vigorously complained at the return of the Prodigal. But we have already established that we are speaking of the Father in heaven, and he has only one Elder Son. That must be Jesus.
There is more; look at how the Lord speaks of himself in the parable, quoting his Father:
Remember that these are the words that Jesus is putting into the mouth of his Father, and it describes the relation between the two. Now abide in the Word -- that is, go elsewhere to see how Jesus our Lord characterizes his relation to the Father.
Lk.15:31 Child, you are always with me, and all mine is yours.
Jn.16:15 All as much as the father has is mine.
Jn.8:29 And the [one] having sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do the [things] pleasing to him.
The Father is always with him, and so he is always with the Father. All that the Father has is his. There is only one elder son that can claim this relation with the Father in heaven, which is Jesus himself.
You may continue to question due to the anger and resentment he puts in himself in the parable. If you will continue to abide in the Word, to examine the many angry expressions you find there, and keep in mind that this is the Lord's characterization of himself, not that of some hostile enemy, and it should become acceptable. I see it as a case of his grasping an opportunity to express to us how human he really is, and how he has to overcome all the same temptations as do we. The heart of our Lord is a human heart.
You only asked about the sleeping in the Parable of the Tares, and look what you got! I apologize, but I could not simply say that the sleeping has no significance without giving a good reason.
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