MEMORY VERSE: Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? [Matthew 21:42]
To understand this parable, we must describe the characters:
Owner of the vineyard ….. God
The vineyard ……………. Israel
The tenant farmers ……… Religious leaders of Israel
Servants of the owner …… The prophets
Son/Heir of the owner ….. Jesus Christ
Today’s Gospel lesson is about a place where grapes are grown, and it also has to do with second chances. There was a man who owned a vineyard, which is where the grapes are made. Some renters were hired by this man to take care of his land and pay for it. When the rent was due, however, and the man sent some individuals to gather the money, the renters decided not to listen.
They beat up the messenger instead. They threw rocks at another messenger, and they even killed yet another one! They certainly didn’t respect the owner of the land. You’d think he would get mad or give up on them, but he gave the tenants a different chance. He agreed, eventually, that he would send his son to collect the rent. The workers would surely listen to their son, would they? Hey, nope. Instead, they thought that maybe if they got rid of that man, they could have the land for good. And they, too, killed him! They killed their son in order to try to hold the property. The owner took the vineyard away from those wicked men, and found someone to take care of it instead.
Why will a story like this be revealed by Jesus? Oh, there’s always a lesson about parables. In this lesson, Jesus told the rulers of the church and the teachers that something, or rather, someone, was missing. God is generous and offers us a great number of second chances. God was trying to assist His people. He sent prophets to warn them, but the prophets were ignored and hurt by a lot of people. God eventually sent His son, and the leaders of the church still did not listen. They missed out on the most important message possible.
By explaining the killing of the son of the vineyard lord, Jesus was almost predicting his own death here. He knew he’d have to die. But he also said that “the stone rejected by the builders will become the cornerstone.” A cornerstone is a building’s foundational piece. Jesus stated that by his own death, the church would be found and founded by him. The church would no longer be only about individuals who always appeared to say or do the right things and obey the laws. The church would have been founded by other people, like the disciples … and the US! We should be glad that God has given us a second chance, and that He has given Jesus the second greatest chance.
We should also be grateful that He encourages us to be part of His mission to make disciples and develop the church.
Don’t deny Jesus’ good news. Believe it as a precious treasure and accept it! Why are we not thanking God right now for that?
When they heard this parable, the audience of Jesus would instantly think of Isaiah 5:1-7, where the prophet calls Israel the vineyard of God and warns that He would waste it because only worthless grapes were made. Jesus reveals that God expects fruit from His vineyard, but in sending many messengers, and eventually, His beloved Son, he stresses God’s great patience and devotion. If no fruit is created by His people and they destroy His Son, they will face His awful judgment. But even if they destroy his son, by being the chief cornerstone, he will prevail.
Not only do these things refer to ancient Israel, but also to us, whom God graciously grafted into his vineyard (see Rom. 11:17-24).
Five facts about God and those who profess to be His people are revealed in the parable:
1. God expects fruit from His people.
Why do you experience the issue of planting a vineyard when you don’t expect fruit? It was normal for an owner to rent his vineyard to tenant farmers who would pay him a percentage of the harvest each year. So, the owner rightfully sent a servant at the appropriate time to collect what the farmers owed him.
When we thought of these tenant farmers as bad sharecroppers who were oppressed by a demanding master, we would misinterpret the parable. They were, rather, greatly fortunate to be able to work in the vineyard of the owner. They did not have to plant it; it was done by the maker. They simply entered his vineyard, where they were able to work and make themselves and their families live adequately. The owner was not a selfish dictator, standing with a whip over them, dragging them mercilessly. He honestly entrusted them with the vineyard and let them run it as they saw fit. But they owed him, for these rights, a certain amount of fruit.
Even so, God did everything to provide for His vineyard, Israel. He wiped out the wicked nations and gave his chosen people Palestine. He saved them from being surrounded by fierce nations. He entrusted his people to leaders who would have harvested a bumper crop if they had been faithful. Israel was suppose to be a light to the nations, leading them towards Heaven, who supplied their needs so richly. God, who cared for His vineyard so abundantly, had the right to expect fruit.
So with us: we are privileged in that God gave us His Word and gave us all things concerning life and godliness. He needs us to bear the fruit of Christlike lives so they can taste and see that God is beautiful, those who are hungry and do not know Him.
2. The great patience of God, shown in His repeated, gracious messengers, should encourage us to live accountably with Him.
At this point, the parable is not like real life at all. Such wicked tenant farmers rough up and send away the first servant sent by the owner empty-handed. That would not have been accepted by any human owner. Any fair businessman would have thrown these bums out immediately, sued them criminally for their incompetence and violence, and replaced them with tenants who would be more loyal to his vineyard ‘s management.
I am glad to say that this owner, who serves God, was not a good trader. He sent in a second slave, who was mistreated as well. “Two times after that, someone else will say,” That’s it! These boys had more than just a fair chance! But the owner sends another one, who is wounded and thrown out. Jesus is showing us our gracious God’s irrational, illogical, supra-human patience. He sent His prophets back and forth to Israel, searching for fruit. But some of these faithful servants were ignored by the disobedient government, mistreated, and even killed. But God kept sending them, nevertheless, as a demonstration of His abundant patience and grace.
The history of Israel reveals the human heart’s tragic wickedness. There were no individuals as privileged by God as that covenant country, and yet they turned away from God repeatedly. When Moses got the Ten Commandments on the mountain Israel was carousing in the valley below before the golden calf. They grumbled time and again in the wilderness against God. When they crossed into the Promised Land, they imitated their idolatry and immorality instead of living separately from the pagan nations around them.
But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound (Rom. 5:20). God has patiently sent prophet after prophet well beyond any human standards to warn His people to turn away from their sins. I tell reverently, as a businessman, the owner of the vineyard failed. After the first proof of their revolt, he should have thrown these lousy tenant farmers out. Oh, but thank goodness, he’s not a hard-nosed trader! He’s a lot more patient than we can dream of. As a show of his ample patience and grace, he sends repeated messengers giving repeated warnings.
3. The great love of God, seen in sending His beloved Son, should inspire us to live with Him in a responsible manner.
The owner, his beloved uncle, had one more to give. “He said, “What should I do?” I will send forth my beloved son; they will honor him” (20:13). Again, the parable is not true to reality at this point. God does not wonder what to do or what will happen. Both the Father and Jesus the Son, as the next verse reveals knew that he was going to be rejected and killed. There was no surprise here. However, in telling the story, Jesus brings out the vineyard owner’s “quandary” to illustrate both the depth of God’s awesome love and the human heart’s intractable wickedness. The love of the Father is so great that after His servants were so oppressed, He was able to send out His beloved Son. In those who would not only neglect a son, but kill him for their own selfish ends, the depravity of the human heart is seen.
Notice the implied argument of Jesus here, too, that He stands apart from the other servants whom God sent. They were servants, but He is the Son of God. He is solely the Son of God, of the same substance as the Creator, one with Him, and closely relationship with Him in a way that no one else is. In human flesh, Jesus is God.
When the son turned up, the tenant farmers thought the owner was dead. Property not claimed by an heir within a given period may be claimed by the first party to do so under Jewish law. Therefore, they greedily presume that the property will be theirs if they get rid of the son. Out of mistaken identity, they did not kill the boy, but precisely because they knew who he was and they wanted his inheritance for themselves. The problem was, “Who owns the vineyard?” “They did not want to submit to the legitimate possession of God. They were trying to rule the vineyard.
If only the everlasting love of God who sent His Son to a world as corrupt as ours could be grasped! Have you ever thought about all the crude stuff that God sees every day in this wicked world? Law enforcement agents are getting more of life’s seamy side than any of us. They deal with rape , robbery, murder, neglect of children, and all other forms of crime. But God sees it all, not only in one place at the same time, but all the time all over the world.
But the parable reveals not only the great patience and compassion of God, but also His just judgment upon those who deny His Son.
4. The just judgment of God on those who oppose His Son should inspire us to live accountable to Him.
This parable shows what Paul exclaims in Romans 11:22, “Then behold God’s goodness and severity.” In His sending many more servants to rebellious Israel than she deserved, God’s kindness is shown. His magnitude is seen when his son was killed by these wicked tenant farmers. Jesus is the last messenger of God, the sum of His revelation to a man of sin. There is no other solution if we refuse Him. Only the judgment lies ahead.
If we think this parable was given to pagans, we miss the point. It was granted to men who professed that they knew God, to religious national leaders. But they believed mistakenly that they owned the vineyard. They felt it was a ministry of theirs. They were using it for selfish reasons of their own. As a consequence, they denied the rightful position of Jesus as the owner of the vineyard.
This church is not my church at all. It is not the Church of the Elders. They’re not your church. It is the church of the Lord. He’s the vineyard owner. We would be honored if He allows us to work in His vineyard. Any vineyard work we do is not for us; it is for the owner.
We need to be careful, because starting to enjoy the grapes in the vineyard is fast. Serving the Lord is personally gratifying. You like the pretty stuff people say to you. You appreciate God’s use. All this is all right as long as you note that it’s His vineyard and that it’s all for Him that you do. But you’ve just usurped the rightful position of the owner if you start serving for what you get out of it and drift into believing that it’s your ministry. He will come and remove you from your place of service in the vineyard if you continue to go in that direction.
God expects the fruit from His people. His great wisdom and grace, seen in the many messengers he sends to us, can inspire us to bear fruit when we get off track. His great love, seen in His sending forth His beloved Son, should inspire us to live before Him responsibly. His righteous judgment on those who deny His Son and usurp the vineyard ‘s ownership should empower us to live accountable to Him.
5. The certain, final triumph of God in Christ should inspire us to live accountably with Him.
The sovereign intentions of God can never be thwarted by our sin. Jesus quotes Psalm 118, from which the “Hosannas” of the Palm Sunday crowd were taken, to explain to these evil Jewish leaders that God would undo their sinful choice and make Him the chief cornerstone even though they killed the Messiah. (The word may also mean “capstone.” It’s hard to tell which is intended.) These men thought that by killing him, they could get rid of the son of the owner once and for all. Little did they know that God would raise His Son and install Him in the chief place of honor He deserves, even though they should have, as it was predicted in this psalm over 1,000 years ago.
Knowing that human sin will never thwart the authority of God is a great comfort. We are accountable for our sins, and God sovereignty commands all that happens and rightly judges those who do not adhere to His purposes. These wicked tenant farmers could destroy a son, but, just as His Word prophesied, God would raise him to be the chief cornerstone.
Before the creation of the earth, God decided that Christ will perish, yet those who wickedly condemned and crucified Jesus are accountable in compliance with the sovereign scheme of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28). God always triumphs, and those who oppose Him always lose. The fact should encourage us to continue to bear fruit in His vineyard, no matter how hard it may be or how much resistance we face. In the end, God’s side will prevail.
The sad thing is that we can understand and yet deny the facts. These men who heard this parable knew that it was against them that Jesus spoke. They knew that if they followed their course of action, He would foresee the judgment of God. Yet they continued to look for a way to take him. They were afraid of the multitude; they were supposed to worship God.
For two principal purposes, Jesus told this parable. He tried to inspire his faithful servants, who were beaten up and thrown out of the vineyard, to continue to be faithful. He owns the vineyard, and what is most important is that His servants bring fruit for Him. Second, he told them to warn those who falsely believe they own a vineyard that they don’t. There comes a day of reckoning!
We have to note that God is not a dummy, he is real! The rightful heir and proprietor of the vineyard is Jesus Christ. We either submit to Him and represent Him, or we face a certain judgement from Him. If we falsely begin to believe that we are the owners of the vineyard, the stone will fall on us and disperse us like ashes.
Oh, my dear God,
Thank you for sending Jesus, your son,
Thank you for providing us with second chances,
And if we keep making mistakes,
Help us to show each other love
Many thanks for your love,
God, we love you!
In The Name of Jesus, Amen!