The Parable of the Tenants, part 1
[Luke chapter 20, verses 1-13]
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When we left off last week at the end of chapter 19, Jesus had just driven the money-changers out of the temple, followed by at least 3 or 4 consecutive days of teaching in the Temple – as one who had power and authority. Jesus interpreted the Scriptures as only the Son of God could, and I have no doubt that he taught them perfectly well. This week as we start chapter 20 of the gospel of Luke, we find ourselves in the Temple at Jerusalem with the Lord, together with the Twelve, as Christ is teaching. So let’s get started right now at verse one.
“One day as he was teaching in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things’, they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’ He relied, ‘I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?’ They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, ‘from heaven’, he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’, all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’ So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from.’ Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’” (Luke 20, verses 1-8)
Once again we are witnesses to Jesus’ power and authority being questioned by the Pharisees and teachers of the Law (the modern equivalent of theologians, priests and other dignitaries), and once again he stops his attackers in their tracks with mere words. Our Lord and Savior barely had to move a single muscle! His response, quite frankly, was nothing short of brilliant (particularly verse 8). Jesus was being told to explain and justify himself by the elders at the Temple at Jerusalem. ‘Who do you think you are, teaching here in ‘our’ temple’?, is essentially what the Pharisees were saying. These people simply walked right up to Jesus without so much as an ‘excuse me’, and interrupted his teaching to accuse him of being a counterfeit prophet. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think it took an incredibly arrogant and conceited person to accuse the Son of God of any kind of sin at all (the very definition of blasphemy)! Jesus then proceeded to throw their arrogance right back in their faces. If they were to admit that John the Baptist was a genuine prophet of Almighty God – which he most certainly was – they would lose all credibility with the people, whom they ruled over unmercifully. If they said otherwise, they would have been stoned to death by those same people, and justifiably so. “So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from’.” ‘Then neither do I’, is a paraphrase of Jesus’ response. Classic! Our Lord’s contempt for the religious establishment of his day was well earned. And now let’s move on to part 2 of today’s study, beginning at verse 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. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit from the vineyards. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty handed. He sent another servant, but that one they also beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty handed. He sent still a third, but they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’” (Luke 20, verses 9-13)
This parable is full of symbolism. Although I’ve seen varying explanations about its interpretation, the moral of the story remains the same. From the vantage point of Progressive Christianity, as well as some denominations who are teaching this correctly, the “vineyard” represents the greater Church, which Jesus planted, and which continues to grow to this day. The farmers who rented the farm are those responsible for the harvest. They represent church leadership in all its forms, and the ‘harvest’ represents the membership and the rapture of the Bride of Christ, which will take place roughly 3 ½ years before Jesus’ final return (see Daniel 9, verses 20-27). The ‘servants’ represent the prophets who came before him, as well as those who have come after. The prophets of old include Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah, to name a few. The modern prophets include Charles Spurgeon, Rev. Billy Graham and Rev. David Wilkerson, among others (search those). All the prophets of old were put to death by their contemporaries, and a day is coming soon when Christians will be put to death right here in the US, mark my words. Prepare yourselves accordingly.
“He sent still a third, but they wounded him and threw him out.” In modern terms, when the owner of the vineyard sent a third servant, presumably with some kind of security detail this time around, the servant got wounded in the shootout with the tenant farmers who had decided to simply take the vineyard for themselves since the landowner had been gone for so long. Obviously this was a deteriorating situation that was in need of some serious resolution. Unfortunately for the landowner, he was evidently very far away at a time when the primary mode of travel was on foot on by camel, with horses being reserved for commercial and military use, and as a mode of personal transportation for the wealthy. He couldn’t get on a plane and fly back there like we’re accustomed to today, nor could he get on the freeway and drive back since none of the above existed. So he had no easy solution to the serious dilemma he was faced with.
“What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” Here in verse 13, “my son” represents Jesus Christ, which confirms our suspicion that the vineyard’s owner represents Almighty God. Now it’s easy to see how the relationships line up here in this parable of the Lord’s. To find out what happens when the owner’s son arrives at the vineyard to collect his father’s due, you’ll have to come back next week for part 2 of Luke chapter 20. Until then, take good care – stay in prayer – always, everywhere!