Theme: God’s Justice
This parable warns that we must act now, in the day of grace.
“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.
The first of Christ’s great parables of judgment, which we looked at last week, shakes us out of our lethargy. It was meant to demolish presumption. In that parable Jesus taught that unless there has been a noticeable change in our lives, so that we now forgive others as we have been forgiven, we dare not assume that we have been born again even if we can give the right verbal answers to biblical questions. We are not saved by a transformed life; but if we have been saved by the mercy of God in Christ received through faith alone, transformation will follow as surely as spring follows winter or day follows night.
The parable did not examine the depth of the human problem, however, though it suggested it. It did not show in explicit enough terms that our natural mistreatment of others actually betrays a hatred of those other persons and that this in turn is an expression of our hatred of God. That point is made in the parable to which we come now.
The parable of the wicked trustees tells how men who had been selected to manage a vineyard for its owner mistreated the owners 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 in 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) cf. It is correct to say that man in his sinful state does precisely the opposite. He hates the Lord his God with all his heart and with all his Soul and with all his mind, and he hates his neighbor as he hates himself
When Jesus began his story by telling how a landowner planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a winepress, and built a watchtower, he was pressing the 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), Jeremiah had recorded, “I had planted you like a choice vine of sound and reliable stock” (Jeremiah 2:21). Ezekiel declared, “Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches because of abundant water” (Ezekiel 19:10). 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).
That imagery was well known to Christ’s hearers. So when he told the story of the landowners vineyard, there could be no doubt in their minds that he was speaking of them and of those who had responsibility for their spiritual development.
What does our mistreatment of others indicate?
Who do the characters in this parable represent? What commandments were broken?
Recite the first two commandments.
Explain the imagery Jesus uses to describe
An understanding of the cultural meaning of key imagery gives deeper meaning to the Old Testament.
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 in their grasp.