Summary: This parable reflects the events that will unfold during the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. It also summaries the whole of biblical history including the gospel story.
LUKE 20: 9-19 [JESUS’ LAST WEEK SERIES]
THE PARABLE OF THE TENANTS
This parable reflects the events that will unfold during the final week of Jesus’ earthly life. The refusal of the leaders to accept Jesus’ authority (vv. 1–8) leads to this parable that not only clearly affirms that authority but also alludes to Jesus’ death and His subsequent vindication. The parable also summaries the whole of biblical history including the gospel story (CIT) [Evans, Craig. New International Com. Luke. 1995. Hendrickson Publishers. Peabody, Mass. p. 298].
In this simple story the landowner sends servant after servant but the tenants refuse to hand over any fruit of his vineyard. Finally, the son is sent and he is murdered. This outrage demands the punishment of the tenants and the transfer of the vineyard to others.
A parable about a vine and vineyard was not new for Israelites. The vineyard was a familiar image of God’s investment and expectation of return from His people (Isa. 5:1-7; Ezek. 15:1-6; 19:10-14). The symbolism would have been clear to the hearers (Ps. 80:8-13; Isa. 27:2; Jer. 2:21; Ezek. 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1). [The owner represents God, the son, Jesus; the tenants, the religious leaders charged with cultivating the religious life of Israel (as they acknowledge in v. 19); the servants correspond to the prophets and the others the gentile church.]
I. GOD SENDS HIS SERVANTS, 20:9-12.
II. GOD’S WORD REJECTED, 20:13-15a.
III. GOD’S SENTENCE GIVEN, 20:15b-16.
IV. GOD’S CHOSEN STONE, 20:17-18.
Jesus opens the story in verse 9 by referring to the historically rich imagery of a vineyard. “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.
The story was based on a common practice of landowners hiring out their land to tenant farmers. In the recent past we called them share-croppers. The owner of the land rented out his property to tenants who were to give him an agreed upon portion of his property’s yield. The vineyard owner then takes long journey for an extended period of time. Patiently he waited for the vineyard to produce its fruit.
Verse 10 reveals the outcome of the owner’s request for his portion of the land’s production. “At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.
At harvest those who tended the vine would get a certain share of the crop and the owner would get another portion. The servant went to gather that portion. He went to speak the words of the owner. The return was fair and what they agreed on. But the property’s tenants revolted refusing to pay the owner’s share of the income then even mistreated his servant or messenger.
This pictures God and Israel’s covenant relationship. God blessed the nation of Israel abundantly and invested them with great productive potential. All He asked was that they obey His Word and return to Him a spiritual harvest out of their lives. Instead of being grateful for their blessing and joyfully returning to the Lord His due, they proceeded to rob God and reject His messengers [Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible Exposition Com. Victor Books. Wheaton, IL. 1989. Vol 1. p. 257].
Our noble and enduring God continued to send servant after servant to them as verse 11 depicts. “And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed.
Jesus likened the prophets to a series of servants sent to collect fruit from the vineyard. They were rejected, beaten and treated shamefully. Never did these servants illicit the payment due for God’s provision.
The amazingly long-suffering owner continues to send more servants as verse 12 indicates. “And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.
The first messenger was beaten. The second messenger was not only beaten but also treated shamefully. The third messenger was permanently wounded. What would be the vineyard’s owner’s response to these ungrateful tenants?
II. GOD’S WORD REJECTED, 20:13-15a.
In verse 13 the vineyard owner, who represents the Lord God, decides to send them His beloved son hoping the tenants would respect him. “The owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’
We can see here God’s willingness to make Himself total vulnerability by sending His beloved Son [the address the Father used at His baptism (3:22; Mt. 3:17)] in order to win His people back to Himself. Sin though has a way of making people blind, proud and disrespectful, even to the most loving, most humble, and most holy person or action.