Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house:
and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of
the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them,
He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; The field
is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the
tares are the children of the wicked one; The enemy that
sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the
reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are
gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this
world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and
they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them
which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of
fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then
shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their
Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
St. John Chrysostom in his Homily XLVII on Matthew 13 said:
"Surely elsewhere He says, the harvest has already come, as when He says of the Samaritans, 'Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest' (Jn.4:35). And again, 'The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few'…And how, having said elsewhere, 'One sows, and another reaps,' does He here say, it is He Himself who sows? (Cf.Jn4:37) Because there He was speaking to distinguish the apostles, not from Himself, but from the prophets…And at times He calls this self-same thing both harvest and sowing, naming it in relation, now to one thing, now to another. Thus when he is speaking of the conviction and obedience of his converts, He calls the thing 'a harvest,' as though He had accomplished all, but when He is seeking after the fruit of their hearing, He calls it seed, and the aim becomes the harvest."
Origen writes in his Book X Commentary on Matthew:
"When Jesus then is with the multitudes, He is not in His house, for the multitudes are outside of the house, and it is an act which springs from His love of men to leave the house and to go away to those who are not able to come to him….now,…He sends them away and goes to His own house, where His disciples, who did not abide with those He had sent away, come to Him."
"You can otherwise take the good seed to the children of the kingdom, because whatsoever good things are sown by God the Word who was in the beginning with God (Jn.1:2) so that wholesome words about anything are children of the kingdom. But while men are asleep who do not act according to the command of Jesus, 'Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation,' (Matt.26:41) the devil on the watch sows what are called tares – that is, evil opinions – over and among what are called by some natural conceptions, even the good seeds which are from the Word….the whole world might be called a field, and not the Church of God only…the Son of man sowed the good seed, but the wicked one tares – that is, evil words – which, springing from wickedness, are children of the evil one…at the end of things…there will of necessity be a harvest, in order that the angels of God…may gather up the bad opinions that have grown upon the soul, and…may give them over to fire which is said to burn, that they may be consumed."
"…the angels and servants of the Word will gather from all the kingdom of Christ all things that cause a stumbling-block to souls and reasonings that cause iniquity, which they will scatter and cast into the burning furnace of fire…those who have become conscious that they have received the seeds of the evil one in themselves, because of their having been asleep, shall wail and…be angry against themselves; for this is the 'gnashing of teeth.'" (Matt 13:42)
"Wherefore, also, in the Psalms it is said, 'They gnashed upon me with their teeth.' Then above all 'shall the righteous shine,' no longer differently as at the first, but all 'as one sun in the kingdom of their Father.' (Matt 13:43)
Then, as if to indicate that there was indeed a hidden meaning, perhaps, in all that is concerned with the explanation of the parable, perhaps most of all in the saying, 'Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father,' the Saviour adds, 'He that has ears to hear, let him hear,' (Matt.13:43) thereby teaching those who think that in the exposition, the parable has been set forth with such perfect clearness that it can be understood by the vulgar, that even the things connect with the interpretation of the parable stand in need of explanation.
St. John Cassian wrote in "Conferences" (which was a series of writings based on important conversations Cassian had with elders and abbots from Scetis about principles of the spiritual and ascetic life):
"…the heart is not unsuitably illustrated by the comparison of a mill wheel, which the headlong rush of water whirls round, with revolving impetus, and which can never stop its work so long as it is driven round by the action of the water: but it is in the power of the man who directs it, to decide whether he will have wheat or barley or darnel ground by it. That certainly must be crushed by it which is put into it by the man who has charge of that business. So then the mind also through the trials of the present life is driven about by the torrents of temptations pouring in upon it from all sides, and cannot be free from the flow of thoughts: but the character of the thoughts which it should either throw off or admit for itself, it will provide by the efforts of its own earnestness and diligence: for if, as we said, we constantly recur to meditation on the Holy Scriptures and raise our memory toward the recollection of spiritual things and the desire of perfection and the hope of future bliss, spiritual thoughts are sure to rise from this, and cause the mind to dwell on those things on which we have been meditating. But if we are overcome by sloth or carelessness and spend our time in idle gossip, or are entangled in the cares of this world and unnecessary anxieties, the result will be that a sort of species of tares will spring up, and afford an injurious occupation for our hearts, and as our Lord and Saviour says, wherever the treasure of our works or purpose may be, there also our heart is sure to continue…" (Matt.6:21).