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The Prophetic Parable of the Vine-Growers

In our daily meditations over the last few days, we have been thinking through some of the teachings of Jesus. After Christ went into the temple courts and threw out the money changers, the religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus because of His challenge to their authority. In front of many hundreds of people in attendance in the courts of the temple, Jesus spoke this parable:

9And He began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time. 10“At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11“And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. 12“And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out. 13“The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14“But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.’ 15“So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16“He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.” When they heard it, they said, “May it never be!” 17But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNERSTONE’? 18“Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.” 19The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them (Luke 20:9-19).

The man who planted the vineyard represents God, the Father. The farmers who have had the land leased to them represent the spiritual leaders of Israel, the very leaders standing against Jesus and challenging His authority. They were not owners; although they thought of themselves as such, they were tenant farmers with the land leased to them for a time. They were responsible for choosing their methods to sow the soil, protect the vines from savage animals, pull up the weeds, and maximize their harvest through their efforts. The Lord spoke in the third book of Moses as to whose land it was:

The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants (Leviticus 25:23).

The parable is a prophetic story of how God will call leaders to account both then and now for their rebellion and rejection of the Father's authority over His land and people (see also Ezekiel 34). All the Earth belongs to the Lord (Psalm 24:1), but God has expressly set apart, for His purposes, the land given in stewardship to the children of Israel. The vineyard is a picture of the nation of Israel, the representative of God's covenantal love and care.

There were evil spiritual forces at work (as there are in our time) to divide up God's land, destroy the Jewish nation, and take the land for their purposes (Ezekiel 36:5; Psalm 83:1-12). This battle over the land of Israel will continue until the Lord executes judgment on those who divide His land. Governmental leaders are not owners but tenants. God will bring them to account:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land (Joel 3:2).

The spiritual leaders of Israel were shepherds that were allowed to cultivate the land and bring forth a harvest for the owner, God. Men motivated by greed and lust for power managed to get into leadership positions in the nation, and their motivation was to hold onto power by rejecting God's authority. The leaders wanted profit and control but were in rebellion with the jurisdiction of God.

Sending servant after servant speaks of God's patience, love, and desire to bestow mercy on those who would come to Him in repentance. God sent prophet after prophet over several hundred years, but they were stoned and killed. He then sent John the Baptist to call the nation and the elders to repentance, but the ruling leaders would not change their direction back towards God. The Lord tried every option to reach the wayward shepherds of His flock, but things came to a head with the vineyard's owner sending His Son and seeing Him murdered.

As with all of Jesus' parables, the story brought people to the point where they became part of the story. Jesus got to the part where He stated the owner’s dilemma: “The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do’?” At that point, it’s very likely that the Lord stopped speaking and looked in silence around the crowd to let the question settle into their hearts. I wonder if people in the crowd interrupted with shouts, saying, “Get rid of those evil tenants.” His yearning for the leaders to repent and exhibit a broken spirit seems to spill from this parable. Peter the Apostle wrote, “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The mercy of God amazes me! Keith Thomas

Shortened from the more extensive study at the following link: The Parable of the Vine-Growers.


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