Jesus’ Parable of the Vineyard
As we come to Luke 20 we continue our study of the final week of Jesus’ earthly ministry prior to His crucifixion. He has made His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem. He has cleansed the temple of its corruption and He has taken over the temple; teaching in it daily. The chief priests and scribes are furious for He has ignored their authority and destroyed their livelihood. In verses 9-18 He preaches His final parable which directly attacks the corrupt Jewish spiritual leaders. This same parable is also taught in Matthew 21:33-46
The Parable of the Vineyard
A man planted a vineyard and then turned it over to tenant vine growers to care for it while He was absent. At harvest times He sent servants to receive some of the fruit for the owner. Three times He did this and each time, the servants were mistreated and sent away empty-handed.
Finally, the owner sent His Son with the hopes that He would be treated better. The vine growers, recognizing He was the owner’s Son and heir to the vineyard, killed Him with the hopes the vineyard would one day be their’s.
Then Jesus draws His listeners into the story. He asks them what should be done with the wicked vine growers? In the Matthew 21 account, they rightfully conclude that the owner of the Vineyard should destroy the wicked vineyard workers. In the Luke 20 account as they think on the consequences for Judaism in that day, they cry out, “God forbid!” They are stunned and shocked as they think what it means for Judaism.
Jesus then answer His question. The owner will come to the vineyard and destroy the wicked vine growers and turn His vineyard over to new, trustworthy vine keepers.
The Meaning of the Parable of the Vineyard
It’s quite obvious, is it not? The Vineyard is Israel and God is the owner. That is taught repeatedly in the Old Testament. See Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21 and Psalm 80:8, 15-16.
God turned the care of His vineyard over to the spiritual leaders, the Levitical priesthood. Often He sent His prophets to gather fruit for Him. Each time the prophets were mistreated by the spiritual leaders, as II Chronicles 36:14-17 described. Finally, in the fullness of time, He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to gather spiritual fruit from Israel and they ended up killing Him.
What Should be Done to these Evil Vine Growers?
Jesus asks His listeners this question. In stunned silence they listen to Jesus answer His own question. He will destroy the vine growers and turn the vineyard over to faithful vine growers who will produce fruit for God’s glory. As Jesus announces this judgment on Israel’s spiritual leaders, they cry out in horror. NO, NO ! May it never be so!
Why did the listeners respond so negatively? They were starting to comprehend the full meaning of the parable. They were hearing Jesus pronounce coming destruction on Israel. Jesus prophecy was fulfilled forty years later in 70 AD when the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and annihilated the inhabitants of the city.
Furthermore, the transition had already begun. He prophesied that He would turn His vineyard over to new vine keepers who would produce fruit for the glory of God, the owner. These new custodians of the vineyard were already beginning to take over. They were the twelve Disciples spoken of in Luke 9:1-6. They were also the 70 other disciples of Jesus, spoken of in Luke 10:1.
Through the conversion and ministry of Saul of Tarsus, described in Acts beginning in chapter 9, Saul, later renamed Paul, became the Apostle to the gentiles, Together, these new vineyard keepers began a ministry that continues to this day; that of winning Jews and gentiles to Christ and thus building the spiritual Kingdom of Christ as they build His Church.
Read Ephesians 2:11-22 and note that there are only three groups of people in the world: Jews, gentiles and Christ’s Church. His Church is composed of converted Jews and gentiles, who are no longer known by those names. Once you are converted to Christ, the Holy Spirit baptizes you into His Church, His Spiritual Body. You are no longer a Jew or a gentile. Though you may have Jewish blood in your veins, your entrance into God’s blessing is not through your Jewishness, but through your new relationship as part of Christ Body, Christ’s Church. Read Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3 to see what Paul thought of his Jewishness as a help in getting him into Heaven, once He was converted to Christ. It will shock you!
And so. in the closing days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, He met with His disciples in the Upper Room and in John 14-17. There He prepared His disciples for their new ministry of bearing fruit for Christ through the power of His indwelling Spirit whom He sent to His Church on the Day of Pentecost after He had ascended back to Heaven.
We Christians in this twenty-first century continue the ministry and work of the Apostles as we preach the Gospel and feed the saints so they can bear the Fruit of the Spirit and thus glorify our Heavenly Vineyard Owner, God Himself. We are the new stewards of the mysteries of God, as described in I Corinthians 4:1-2, Ephesians 3:1-11 and 4:11-13.
As Paul passed on the truth to young Pastor Timothy. He entrusted him with it, as mentioned in I Timothy 6:20 and he challenged him to pass it on to the next generation in II Timothy 2:1-2. Through my pastoral ministry and through this web site, I continue to pass the message of salvation and the challenge to work in Christ’s vineyard on to my congregation and to you.
Lord willing, we will continue this message next time as we deal with the cornerstone Jesus talked about in this 20th chapter of Luke. In the meantime, Truth has been passed on to you. You now have the responsibility of dealing with it by obeying what you understand or ignoring it and facing the consequences.
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