I AM THE VINE
Lord, we are mere laborers in Your service.
Read LUKE 20:9–19
The Parable of the Tenants
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and 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 kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’[a]?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
a Luke 20:17 Psalm 118:22
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” (Isaiah 1:17, ESV)
Having silenced the priests’ and teachers’ devious question over his authority, Jesus now goes on the offensive. The story of the man planting a vineyard recalls Isaiah’s love song of the vineyard (Isaiah 5:1–7). Isaiah sings of God as a careful vine dresser who established Israel with great care seeking fruit – notably, social justice. He found only wild grapes. Israel, as a result, is warned of exile.
Now Jesus sets forth an updated allegory of this same vineyard. The tenants represent Israel’s leaders, tending God’s people. Israel is to bear fruit – justice, righteousness, covenantal faithfulness, and light for the nations. The servants are the prophets, sent to warn the leadership of their failure and its consequences. On the whole, the prophets were treated horrifically and their message flatly rejected (Luke 11:49–51). The beloved Son is unambiguously Jesus, declared so at his baptism. The tenants kill him and expel him from the vineyard – foreshadowing their conspiracy in Jesus’ impending death. The owner, God, acts decisively against his tenants, destroying the vineyard – the devastation of Jerusalem again being predicted (cf., Luke 19:41–44; 21:5–24). The giving of the vineyard to others speaks of forthcoming Gentile inclusion into Israel’s covenantal relationship. The leaders understand but resist, fulfilling the parable by killing him, ironically declaring Jesus a prophet.
Here is salvation history in a nutshell, from Abraham to the world through the Prophet of prophets. We are warned: for now, we are mere tenants in God’s vineyard. Abiding by the Spirit in the Vine (John 15:1–10), we must perform better than Israel’s leaders. We do so by faithfulness to the new covenant and doing works of love, mercy, and justice. If we do not, God will give his vineyard to others. Such is the history of the church. As churches decline, they corrupt God’s word. Other churches are then raised up. Our challenge is to prevent this as God’s people for this generation.
Consider your church. Is it faithful? Merciful? Compassionate? Ask God to prune His vine so that we may be good tenants.
Lord, give us the grace to work Your vineyard faithfully in a way pleasing to You.