Summary: “What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, did it bring forth wild grapes?” Is. 5:4
Theme: Producing Fruits of the Kingdom
Text: Is. 5:1-7; Phil. 3:4b-14; Matt. 21:33-46
In recent years it has become evident that the focus of many people in the world is no longer on Christ. Even in so called Christian nations Christ is being denied again and again in spite of constant reminders of His Lordship. Sometimes we even claim to accept His Lordship yet are not ready to listen to Him or see the need to focus our minds on Him. In today’s parable, Jesus Christ reminds us of the need to have the right focus. It is about a landowner who rented his vineyard to tenants after he had done all the necessary work to ensure a harvest. He built a hedge around it and a watchtower to protect and guard against thieves. He built a winepress to extract juice from the harvested grapes. Everything was in place when he gave the vineyard out to a group of tenant farmers and went on a journey.
The farmers were to take care of the land and the crops. The land was able to yield an abundant harvest to meet their needs and all that the owner required from them was his share of the harvest. This parable actually narrates the history of Israel. God created a beautiful place and gave it to them to manage. They were made tenants of what God had made and were to produce fruits in keeping with the Kingdom. God chose the nation Israel to reveal what He expected from man and Israel is often referred to as the vineyard of the Lord. Israel was blessed and given the best and was to bear fruit that would enable it to carry out God’s work. They were to bear a bountiful harvest and remember to give God His share of the harvest. They were to please God by bearing the fruit of obedience, holiness, justice and righteousness. The nation, however, proved unfaithful. Instead of producing large delicious grapes as the vine of God, they produced sour grapes. They produced the fruit of injustice, oppression and idolatry. They could not produce what God wanted because they went about it their own way and not God’s way. They did this in spite of God’s abundant love and care.
The landowner in this parable is a reference to God, the vineyard to Israel, the tenants to the Jewish religious leaders, the landowner’s servants to the prophets, the son to Jesus Christ and the other tenants to the Gentiles. The Jewish religious leaders were unfaithful to God and refused to listen to the prophets who remained faithful to God and proclaimed the Word of God to Israel. They reminded the Israelites that the vineyard belonged to God and that all the harvest belonged to Him yet He requested only a part of it. Their obedience was to be a great source of blessing to them. However, instead of yielding juicy grapes the vineyard only yielded sour grapes because they refused to give God, the owner, His part of the harvest. The history of what happened to Israel is being repeated in the Church today and it appears we have learnt nothing from history. God is our provider and He has provided everything that we have. We are to be His stewards and give Him His share of the harvest. The whole harvest actually belongs to Him but He only requires our tithes and offerings from us and like the Israelites many believers today are not prepared to give Him anything and would rather keep everything for themselves. Withholding from God what is rightfully His is to deny ourselves His blessings. Just as Israel was to point others to God by demonstrating the nature and character of God and producing fruits in keeping with the Kingdom so the Church should be pointing others to God today by demonstrating Christ’s nature and character and bearing the fruit of the Spirit.
This parable reveals the nature of man and his concern about pleasing himself rather than pleasing God. It manifested in greed. Instead of demonstrating the nature of Christ in our lives we often allow greed to dictate our behaviour and character. The tenants in the parable became greedy and no longer wanted to be tenants. They wanted ownership of what belonged to another. They no longer wanted to give any of the harvest to someone else. They wanted everything for themselves. They were ready to destroy anything and anyone that would oppose them. So when the landowner sent his servants to collect his rightful share of the fruit, the farmers mistreated some, beat up others and even killed some of them. Finally the landowner sent His Son expecting that they would at least respect Him and give Him what they owed. God in trying to reach the Israelites with His love finally sent His Son Jesus Christ. But they took him outside the vineyard and killed him. The Jewish leaders themselves testified to what would happen to the farmers when the landowner returned. He would destroy them and lease the vineyard to others.