Theme: Christ as Judge
This week’s lesson teaches us that we hate God, and only by his grace learn to love him
“Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be prophet.
There is a natural connection between the parable of the two sons and the parable of the wicked tenant farmers because each has to do with a vineyard, representing God’s kingdom or church. But there is a progression from the first to the second also. In the first parable the fault of the son who is disapproved is his hypocrisy. He said he would obey but did not. In the story of the tenants the disobedient spirit of the religious leaders is exposed as being so evil that it will result in the murder of the landowner’s son, who is obviously Jesus.
The parable of the wicked trustees tells how men who had been selected to manage a vineyard for its owner mistreated the owner’s servants and eventually killed his son. The father is God; the son is Jesus; the servants are the prophets. So the story shows that sinful men are so virulent in their hatred of all others, including God, that they murder God’s servants and Son and would naturally murder God himself if he stooped to put himself within their grasp. What are the two great commandments? The first is: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” The second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39; see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). But on the basis of this story, it is correct to say that man in his sinful state does precisely the opposite. He hates God with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his mind, and he hates his neighbor even as he hates himself.
When Jesus began by telling how a landowner planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a winepress and built a watchtower, he was pressing his parable home upon his Jewish audience. Israel was the “vine” of God, and everything Jesus said in that opening picture was known to have been applied to Israel in the Old Testament. Isaiah had written, “My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well” (Isaiah 5:1, 2). The psalmist had written beautifully, “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it, and it took root and filled the land. The mountains were covered with its shade, the mighty cedars with its branches” (Psalm 80:8-10). See also Jeremiah 2:21 and Ezekiel 19:10.
That imagery was so well known to Christ’s hearers that when he referred to the vineyard, there could be no doubt in their minds that he was talking speaking of them and of those who had the responsibility for their spiritual oversight and development.
That fact tempts us to dismiss the parable as applying only to them and not to ourselves. But if that is how we interpret it, we misread Jesus utterly. Jesus told the story in that way because he was speaking to Jews. But would he not have made it equally pointed if he was telling it to us? He may have used another image, but we do not know what it might have been. Or he might simply have said that we, too, may be compared to vines, as Israel was. Has he not planted us in our lands, whatever they may be? Has he not fenced us in? Has he not watered and cared for us? Has he not built a watchtower for us? Has he not sent his servants to care for us and present our choice fruits to him when he returns for them? He has. Yet we have not been faithful, any more than Israel was faithful. We have also hated God and would destroy him if we could.
What initial connection is there between these two parables?
How do we, in our natural state, respond to God?
Ask God to help you love your neighbors and love Him more.