Summary: Jesus compares his Father to a Landlord in Luke 20, and in this study we learn that the Lord is a perfectly patient Landlord, as well as a thoroughly just Landlord.
His name was Gerry Niebler. I got to know his name very well because I sent him a bunch of checks in the amount of $550. Gerry was a nice guy, I met him a few times, but I didn’t send him money just because he was pleasant and friendly person. And I didn’t give Gerry money because he was particularly needy either; in fact, I’m sure that he had more money than I had. So can you guess why I sent this guy $550 dollars every month? Because I had to. During our time in Milwaukee, Gerry was our landlord. He owned the apartment in which we lived.
Today, Jesus compares his Father to a landlord. And this morning as we study this parable of Jesus, we will look at, “Our Lord the Landlord.” We are going to see that the Lord is the perfectly patient Landlord, and the Lord is the thoroughly just Lordlord.
The tension was so thick that you could but it with a knife. It was Tuesday, a couple of days after Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It was Tuesday, a couple of days before Jesus’ midnight arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. We know how the story ended up with Good Friday and Easter Sunday, but on Tuesday no one really was sure of how the week was going to turn out. It was almost like watching the closing minutes of a college basketball game that was going down to the wire. Jesus and his enemies were trading baskets, and it seemed like the last team to score would win the game. And on Tuesday, Jesus was ahead. He had taken a comfortable lead in the polls on Palm Sunday, as he garnered the public’s support and approval. And he was doing pretty well on Tuesday also. Jesus was answering and defeating all the attacks and traps that his enemies were setting for him. Jesus had the people on his side so strongly that over and over again the Gospels tell about how the chief priests and the elders were afraid of the people. Our text ends with these words, “they were afraid of the people.” The tension was so thick, the outcome still in doubt, that one wrong move and it could have been the chief priests who were the ones being put to death by an angry mob.
No one was really sure which side would win, well, except Jesus of course. And this parable that he tells in the hearing of his enemies lets everyone know exactly how this struggle was going to turn out. With that background, this becomes a very easy parable to interpret.
“A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.” Jesus first mentions the Lord, his Heavenly Father, who is the owner. The vineyard is the Old Testament Church, and the farmers that were going to work in that vineyard were the Israelite church leaders, the priests, elders, and teachers of the Law. With that stage set, Jesus goes on with the story, “at harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” So far, so good. Everything is working according to the plan. The landlord expects to be paid by the tenants. The farmers don’t own the land, and so they owe this rent in the form of crops back to the landlord. But…“but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” Houston, we have a problem. We’ve got some unruly farmers here, farmers who don’t even own the land they work. And yet they are acting as though the vineyard belongs to them and the landlord is the unfair one, daring to ask them for rent!
I don’t know what Gerry Niebler would have done had he knocked on our apartment door one day, to give us a friendly reminder that we were 3 months behind in our rent, and I, after hearing that news, hacked up a huge amount of phlegm and spit in his face, and yelled, “get out of here, Gerry!” I’m not quite sure how Mr. Niebler would have reacted, but I think I can guess. He probably would have started legal proceedings to get us evicted, not because I spit in his face (though that didn’t help), but because I didn’t give him what I owed him. And he definitely wouldn’t be knocking on my door a month later with another “friendly” reminder…he would have learned his lesson.
Look at the unbelievable patience of our Lord, the Landlord! After his first servant is roughed up: “He sent another servant, but that one they beat and treated shamefully and sent him away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.” No way would this ever happen in real life, that an owner show that much tolerance to treacherous tenants. And that’s exactly the point that Jesus is trying to make in this parable. The Lord has an incredible amount of patience for sinners, far more than sinners deserve.