Summary: how Jesus went to warn the very people who were plotting to kill him.

April 1, 2001 Luke 20:9-19

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, “May this never be!”

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 capstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, (and) but he 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.

Desperate people do desperate things. Imagine, for instance, if you were dieing of a rare liver disease that there was no known cure for. If someone told you that they had a new treatment that would be a great risk to you - wouldn’t you take it? Most would. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You see examples of it every day.

Jesus was in a desperate situation. He had warned the teachers of the law and the chief priests time and again. He showed them he was the Christ. Their eyes and their ears told them the truth, but their hearts couldn’t be convinced. It was now Tuesday of Holy Week, and they were STILL questioning his authority. Just prior to this text, they interrupted Jesus’ teaching and brazenly asked, “who gave you this authority?” They still didn’t believe. Now was not the time to beat around bush. Jesus had to lay it on the line with them - put all the chips on the table and roll the dice. And so Jesus gave them this parable for today.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

I. The desperate time

The parable that Jesus told is progressive. There is a progression in the violence of the farmers. If you’ll notice - the first servant they simply beat and send away empty handed. The second servant they beat and HUMILIATE and send away empty handed. The third servant they literally TRAUMATIZE - the same verb is used for what the demon did to the seven sons of Sceva - when he beat them so badly that they left the house bloody and naked. Then they sent him away. And then, finally, when the owner sends his son - they take his life. With every gesture of patience and kindness on the part of the owner, the farmers become more and more violent.

When Jesus told parables, the disciples were always asking him what they meant. Even the people didn’t often understand the meaning of them. But it seems that the chief priests and teachers of the law had no problem understanding them. They knew exactly what Jesus was portraying. He was summarizing the history of the spiritual leaders of the Jews. If you look at the history of the Bible - time and again you can see their violent acts against God’s prophets. Zechariah was stoned to death in the courtyard of God’s temple - ordered by the King. (2 Chron 4:21) Saul had 85 priests of the Lord murdered at once. (1 Sam 22) Uriah was murdered by King Jehoiakim. (Jeremiah 26) Jeremiah himself was beaten and put in stocks. Isaiah was thought to have been cut in two. The spiritual leaders were violent toward God’s prophets from beginning to end.

And what was the motivation behind all of this? Greed, wasn’t it? The farmers didn’t like the idea that the owner should ask for some fruits of HIS land back. They wanted to keep it all for themselves. In a spiritual way - this is what drove the spiritual leaders of the Jews. All they cared about was to have the POPULARITY of the people. As long as the people were happy - they could then get their HONOR and their POSSESSIONS. This was also the motivation behind the murder plot of Jesus. In John 11 they even admitted, If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.

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Jeffrey Wildrick

commented on Sep 8, 2015

This is a great exposition that focuses not only on the meaning of the text, but also the response God desires from us. Thanks!

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