everyone seems to be forgetting the simplest of all bible study rules. that being "context". it seems that the most debated of these parables is the parable of the leaven. remember, keep it in context. all the parables in Matthew 13 must be kept in context with one another as they were all given by Christ in one setting. the parable of the sower and the parable of the tares set that context.
let me set for you the scene. Jesus meakes it quite clear that the main topic of these parables is the "kingdom of Heaven". the Kingdom of Heaven consists of all borne again believers from the time of Christ's death to the time of His return, also known as the "church age". in the parable of the sower, the seed represents the word of God. the ground upon which the seed falls represents the condition of mans hearts throughout the world. the good soil represents the hearts of those who receive the word and become kingdom citizens.
in the parable of the tares we find that the seed represent those who have received the word and become citizens of the kingdom. the tares represent those who reject the word. the field, as Jesus makes perfectly clear, is the world. it is not the church. as christ sends the kingdom citizens into the world, we incounter opposition from the tares whom Jesus reveals are sown by satan. from time immemorial, satan has and will, until he is cast into hell, strongly oppose the work of God. this work is being done throughout the world by those sown by the son of god.
the rest of the parables of matthew 13 need to be kept in context with these first two parables.
for instance, in the parable of the mustard seed, jesus compares the kingdom to a mistard seed. remember the kingdom consists of all believers throughout the world! if the parable of the tares which emediatly precedes this parable deals with the opposition of satan against the kingdom then this parable obviously represents the overcoming power of the kingdom dispite the opposition.
we now come to the most highly debated of the parables, the parable of the leaven. it is true that every other refrence to leaven in scripture hold a negative conotation, but to say that it therefor always should, is to think as the pharasees thought. everywhere in scripture where leaven is refered to it is in reference to influence. it's interesting to note that the parables of the tares and the mustard seed also deal with influence. the first time we see refrence to leaven in scripture is in regard to the exodus. the nation of israel was commanded by god to take nothing with them from egypt as they left not even leaven. thus they ate unleavened bread, thus the reason for the feast of unleavened bread. the purpose of this was not because leaven was evil but because the influence of pagan egypt was evil. after this all bread was leavened, even the show bread in the temple. does this mean that God tolerates evil. i think not. leaven can represent both a negative and a positive influence. to say that the leaven in this parable represents evil is to say that the kingdom has an evil influence in the world. i think that is the farthest thing from the truth. the truth is, that the influence that the church has on the world will be far reaching and beneficial. it doesn't mean that all people will be saved, but that all people will benefit from the kingdoms influence on the world. remember this, when the influence of the kingdom is removed from the world just prior to the tribulation, the world will be a very bad place to live!