Summary: In our parable today I want you to think Temple of God, and the remarkable fact that God has continually allowed human beings to be his tenants both on the earth and especially here in the Temple.
We remember friends back in BC who had to rent the basement of their house out as most normal people who own houses have to do back there. They had nothing but trouble, people leaving stuff on the stove when they went out for long periods of time, and there’s always the issue of getting the rent on time, which you are very dependent upon.
Landlords have very little recourse, and it is very difficult to evict someone. We even had a great tenant in our basement suite, but sometimes we would go downstairs and the gas fireplace would be going while she was off at work, and it would literally be close to 100 degrees in the place.
Well, in our parable today I want you to think Temple of God, and the remarkable fact that God has continually allowed human beings to be his tenants both on the earth and especially here in the Temple.
The parable begins with a man (here obviously representing God) planting a vineyard (the nation of Israel), who let it out to tenants while he went away to another country for a long while.
Actually we can look at this on three levels. The first can be creation where God created a beautiful fruit producing garden where he actually seemed to dwell at times, and he appointed Adam and Eve to be tenants of this garden. They decided to make the place their own and were bad tenants. They got evicted.
The second level has to do with the nation of Israel. We can see this in Isaiah 5 and the first 5 or so verses. Read… God gave the people of Israel the privilege of being tenants over the land of Canaan, specifically what became Israel and Judah, but they became wild grapes doing their own thing without regard for their landlord, and were bad tenants. They got evicted at least temporarily.
And thirdly we have the Temple, which represents the home of God. He allowed the Priests and Pharisees to be tenants of the Temple, and this parable is a direct indictment of them as they also did things their way and became very bad tenants. Now the Bible says we are temples of the God, the Holy Spirit, so if that doesn’t get our ears perked up this morning, I don’t know what will.
Now as we put ourselves in the story I think it’s reasonable to say that we are kind of a fourth level where he is talking about the church and how we are in a similar way tenants or stewards of the church of Christ. It is a little different because supposedly we have Jesus living inside us through the Holy Spirit, but I think we can take some lessons from this parable, most specifically that our own bodies and the church are not ours and there are very specific guidelines from the landlord, for living in the body of Christ.
So with all that in mind let’s continue in this parable of the wicked tenants. “When the time came he sent a servant to the tenants”. He actually sends three servants and each one is simply asking for some fruit which is clearly from the rest of Luke’s writing, directly connected to obedience.
Now what does it mean, “When the time came?” Well, let’s look at Jesus own words here in Luke where he says in chapter 10 verse 2 that the harvest is plentiful, in other words ready, so we need labourers now. He said in John 4, “open your eyes the fields are ripe for the harvest”. Last week we heard that the banquet is now ready. The time is now, today is the day of salvation, and as his labourers, there should be fruit to give Jesus.
The idea of authority is the main theme here. In the previous verses the priests and scribes are asking Jesus by what authority he teaches and does these miracles. He doesn’t answer them directly because they will not accept or understand his answer, so he uses this parable instead, indicating that they are the tenants and God is the authority.
The servants refer to the many prophets that were raised up and sent to the Israelites, all of whom the religious leaders persecuted and/or killed. With absolutely no fruit whatsoever coming from God’s holy people. The temple itself had become a very business like institution with various rituals that had become meaningless and a large focus on making money and being friendly with the Roman government.
If we stop there, does any of that sound familiar as you reflect on the 21st century church at least here in North America? Consumerism, the Christian industry, the compromise in order to fit in with society and avoid persecution, rituals that do little to further the kingdom and reach people for Christ. This appears to be something that just seems to happen when human beings are in charge of any spiritual institution. We can’t seem to keep our comfort and desires out of the mix and allow the authority to come from the one we say we worship. It started in the Garden of Eden and it continues today.