The Gentiles have been heirs of a blessing that was not theirs originally, but have shared it with others, including the Jews.
By Dr. Donald Whitchard
“And 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. And at the harvest time, he sent a slave to the vine-growers in order that they might give him some of the produce of the vineyard, but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send another slave, and they beat him also and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he proceeded to send a third, and this one they also wounded and cast out.”
“And the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son, perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, therefore, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.’ And when they heard it, they said, ‘May it never be!’
“But He looked at them and said, ‘What then is this that is written, ‘The stone which the builders rejected; this became the chief cornerstone? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
- Luke 20:9-18 (NASB)
As we continue our look at the last week of Jesus’ ministry in Jerusalem and the impending road leading to the cross, He is continuing to teach the people within the Temple as they are underway with preparations for Passover and the details that are involved with this most important of the feasts prescribed in the Law of Moses received from God at Sinai so long ago. The people are hearing the purity of the Word of God instead of rote interpretations of laws and traditions that have been a fare of the Pharisees and Sadducees for centuries, hiding the truth of God’s Word under the load of unnecessary self-imposed regulations that made days like the Sabbath a time of dread instead of celebrating God’s design of rest from labor.
In His teachings, the Lord Jesus is among the people, connecting with them, enjoying a good story or joke from the children who always seemed to flock to Him, probably having a light snack with the apostles when time allows, hearing the latest news from Galilee and the regions, and keeping an eye on the actions of the officials as they attempt to find ways of discrediting His ministry or His character. He knows, however, that this scene of activity and mutuality, these people who embrace Him now will call for Him to die in a few short days.
For now, the pilgrims and worshippers who have come to the Temple are able to pray and study the Scriptures without the noise, stench, and confusion that had brought about Jesus’ condemnation and cleansing of God’s House, restoring it briefly to its rightful place as the symbol of God’s relations with His people. With the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus also had the opportunity to confront the leaders with the question of John the Baptist’s authority and why His words were not obeyed if they knew where His source originated already. He put them on the spot and silenced their incessant cry for Him to show them a sign or reveal His own source and foundation for the authority He so obviously displayed and taught.
These priests, scribes, Pharisees, and others knew perfectly well that they were answering their own question, and were enraged at Jesus for cornering them with their own self- assumed righteousness, hypocrisy, and lack of submission to the fact that His teachings, miracles, healing power, and authority over the dark powers were clear and unmistakable evidence that He was the Promised Messiah foretold by the prophets. They refused to abandon the idea of a political warrior and deliverer who would free them from Roman rule and re-establish the land and Kingdom of Israel as an independent nation under God. They refused to admit that they were just as sinful and distant from a real relationship with God as were the pagan Gentiles who made up the Roman Empire’s population.
The Jewish nation was in the grip of idolatry and apostasy, serving a religious system that was nowhere near what an authentic and real relationship with God meant or was truly practiced by anyone in Israel. They had grown cold, formal, rote in their idea of worship and sacrifice, and no sense of the significance of what their ceremonies represented anymore. They were acting out the rituals with no display of reverence nor an awe of God. The spiritual atmosphere of the nation was as good as dead and had turned worthless as far as having and effect on the soul. Even though there was still a fraction of respect for the Temple by a few, it had also become merely a beautiful and majestic structure, where someone could have painted the word “ICHABOD” on the doors, for the glory had departed and would not return until the specific time that God had decreed for the future annals of history and prophecy to take place.
The parable that Jesus would tell His audience was different from the leaders and authorities He had cornered. The crowd needed to understand that they were just as much a part of the apostasy and wickedness in Israel as were the priests and the entire religious system that had corroded with each passing year. Jesus used a familiar part of Jewish social life to show that the LORD was about to change everything and bring about a judgment that would result in bringing the nation’s existence to a temporary end, and with it, years of inevitable misery and sorrow for their deliberate rejection of their real Messiah.
The prophesied sixty-ninth week foretold by Daniel was at its conclusion, and the Messiah would be cut off, to return later in history and be recognized by the Jewish people at the end of the prophesied “time of Jacob’s trouble”, or the “Great Tribulation”. This was to come later. For now, the people need to be told that their history as “God’s chosen people” was nowhere near that ideal definition, but had been a mix of piety and paganism since the period of the Judges and the following centuries of kings like David, Jehoshaphat, Asa, Uzziah, Jotham, Josiah, and Hezekiah who ruled in the fear and worship of God, and reprobates such as Jeroboam, Ahab and Jezebel, Menahem, and Manasseh, who was the worst of the lot, leading the land of Judah into rank idolatry and perversion toward the end of the monarchies.
The descent into national and personal wickedness resulted in the exile to Babylon in 586 B.C. and seventy years of captivity in a foreign land as punishment from God. With it came the final purging of Israel’s link to idol worship and the evil practices that accompanied it. Upon returning to the land of Judah, now a part of the Persian Empire (538 -332 B.C.), the people rebuilt Jerusalem, began reconstruction of the Temple, and committed themselves to living as God commanded through the preaching of Ezra and the leadership of Nehemiah. Prophets foretold of a coming Messianic age and the forerunner to the Promised One from God who would be a type of Elijah. Time progressed, and other empires such as Greece (332 -163 B.C.) and Rome conquered the land (63 B.C. – 476 A.D.).
Zeal for the things of God weakened over time, and foreign officials began placing lackeys and subservient Jewish leaders in the office of High Priest instead of the descendants of Aaron as commanded by the Law of Moses. Corruption arose, and faith ended up as a system of rote practices, with only a remnant truly committed to the things of God, and there was no word from God for four hundred years until the day the angel Gabriel visited Zacharias (Luke 1:5-25). Jesus used this sweep of history to illustrate the attitude and murderous act done by the vine-growers in the parable. The vineyard owner is God Himself, who had sovereignly chosen the Jews to be His people and messengers to the world. Instead, they had gotten content with being on the land and hoarding the harvest that was due the owner. The people of Israel had allowed themselves to stay confined in their land and not spread the word of God to the other nations. They kept the blessings to themselves and threw away the opportunity God gave them to be an example of devotion and obedience to people that had no concept of one God or of His ways.
God, as the owner, sends a series of servants to the vineyard, which were the prophets, to collect the harvest that He expects, only to be met with hostility and violence from the vine-growers who want no part of hearing from them or to be reminded of their responsibilities.
The nation of Israel tended to ignore and persecute God’s messengers, vying for a false sense of security and belief that God would never do anything to punish His chosen one or alter their destiny. The vineyard owner decides to send his beloved son, an obvious reference to the Lord Jesus Himself. The wicked vine-growers had now become delusional, thinking that by killing the heir, they would receive ownership of the vineyard and to live as they pleased. When the act of murder was done, these deluded, evil individuals were met with swift and sudden retaliation as the owner killed all of them and gave the gift of the vineyard and its harvest to another people. This was a clear warning that the blessings and promises that God had given to Israel in the past would now be given temporarily to other nations that needed redemption and would spread the message to others throughout time and history. The apostle Paul would explain this plan and its purpose when he wrote the letter to the Romans (Chapters 9-11).
Nowhere do we read of God abandoning the Jews or that they have forfeited the promises made to them by the LORD. They have not been replaced by the church, but will be used in a mighty way to bring about the conclusion of history and to usher in the eternal rule of their beloved Messiah and King who will deliver them from all oppression, evil, and schemes of the world and the devil to eliminate them as a people. Their eyes and hearts will be opened to the fact that Jesus had been their Messiah all throughout their history and will weep at what had been ignored or taught by unbelieving clerics concerning Him. The Gentiles have been heirs of a blessing that was not theirs originally, but have shared it with others, including the Jews over time. Israel will be given the blessings and favor again, but Jesus has just told them in this parable that they have stumbled over the chief cornerstone of their faith and belief that is represented in Him, and in doing so, will build upon traditions and regulations that are no more solid than sand. They will not build on the Rock, who is Jesus Christ, as will most of humanity will refuse to do as well, and wonder why everything they have collapses as a possible answer to the question of why their empty souls are never filled. Now is the time for all of us in God’s vineyard to get busy, share the harvest, and tell of the Rock that will never waver, and of Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for all time. Have you come to Him for salvation, peace, and a sure foundation yet? Take care of that matter TODAY.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic Cajun country of south Louisiana. He is a 1978 graduate of LaGrange High School in Lake Charles. He is also a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1994) and Andersonville Theological Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, 2000). He is an ACPE Certified Chaplain with training in Trauma/ER, NICU, and Psychiatric Pastoral Care from the McFarland Institute in New Orleans (2003). He has over thirty years of ministry service, which concluded when he was called to serve as pastor of Meadowbrook Baptist Church in Muskogee, Oklahoma from 2017-2018. Due to health concerns, he retired from public ministry in 2020 and now devotes his time to internet evangelism through the writing of Bible studies, sermons, and articles on current issues for varied Christian webpages and ministries. He is a regular contributor to sites such as Rapture Ready and Sermon Central as well as Inspirational Christian Blogs. He and his wife Cathy are both active members of Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Muskogee. Don will often serve as a panel member of the Gospel Rescue Mission Pastor’s Round Table Broadcast, shown monthly on the mission’s Facebook page as his health allows. He has a personal evangelistic blog as well and can be contacted at his Email address.