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THE WICKED VINEYARD TENANTS
A series of confrontations about Jesus were
caused by the Jewish Religious Leaders. Jesus warned the people against
the teachings of the Pharisees.
Jesus likened these teachers to tenants, whose landlord had sent messengers to collect the fruit due at harvest time, but with no success so he sent his only son. Wickedly they plotted and killed the son.
The Chief Priests and Pharisees became furious as they realized Jesus had talked about them and were desperate to arrest Him. Jesus quoted a prophecy Psalm 118: 22-23.
The Religious Leaders challenged Jesus' authority, which led to this parable. The narrative is focused on the rejection of God, His Kingdom and His Son by Israel. The first part of the parable is historical, the last part prophetic, part of which was fulfilled in less than a week.
Matthew 33-46 "Now listen to this story: A certain landowner planted a vineyard with a hedge around it, and built a platform for the watchman, then leased the vineyard to some farmers on a sharecrop basis, and went away to live in another country. "At the time of the grape harvest he sent his agents to the farmers to collect his share. But the farmers attacked his men, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. "Then he sent a larger group of his men to collect for him, but the results were the same. Finally the owner sent his son, thinking they would surely respect him. "But when these farmers saw the son coming they said among themselves, 'Here comes the heir to this estate; come on, let's kill him and get it for ourselves!' So they dragged him out of the vineyard and killed him. "When the owner returns, what do you think he will do to those farmers?" The Jewish leaders replied, "He will put the wicked men to a horrible death and lease the vineyard to others who will pay him promptly." Then Jesus asked them, "Didn't you ever read in the Scriptures: 'The stone rejected by the builders has been made the honoured cornerstone; how remarkable! what an amazing thing the Lord has done'? "What I mean is that the Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation that will give God his share of the crop. All who stumble on this rock of truth shall be broken, but those it falls on will be scattered as dust." When the chief priests and other Jewish leaders realised that Jesus was talking about them--that they were the farmers in his story-- they wanted to get rid of him but were afraid to try because of the crowds, for they accepted Jesus as a prophet.
Jesus taught this parable within the precincts of The Temple at Jerusalem toward the end of His mission.
The story is directly aimed at the Jewish Religious Leaders, who were those in spiritual leadership over the nation and Jesus tells that The Kingdom of God will be taken from them and given to another leadership who will produce fruit for God.
The vine was the noblest of plants, needing great care but repaying abundantly. The vineyard was well known to the Jewish Leaders as a symbol of the Nation of Israel.
The certain Landowner represents God and the vineyard depicts the Kingdom of God in the nation of Israel.
The hedge is the divine protection by God's Laws, the hedge of laws and ordinances set Israel apart from other nations for 1500 years and preserved them as a distinct people.
The watchtower was a raised wooden platform which was made for guards to survey the vineyard, especially when the grapes ripened. The guards dwelt in watchtowers, the whole of the surrounding area could be observed. The tower suggests God's watchful care of His people. God, the Landowner provided for the vineyard's (Israel) well-being. The winepress was for the fruit of the vineyard.
The vinedressers who leased the vineyard are personified by the Leaders of the Nation of Israel, including Priests, Levites and Scribes.
The servants represent the Old Testament prophets. God had sent His prophets to reap the fruit, many of whom were beaten or killed. The prophets were God's ambassadors who had been shamefully treated.
The Son represents Christ, who was also condemned to death by the Religious Leaders who were the spiritual guides of the nation. The Owner of the vineyard sent His Son, because that's who He was before He was sent.
The tenants had abused their privileges, they became selfish and unscrupulous, being wicked both in principal and practice. The tenants of the vineyard attempted to overrule the authority of the owner, and rebelled. The residents' decision was to kill the heir.
Israel became established as a nation and fruit bearing was the purpose of God. Fruit takes time to produce. Over the centuries there was no fruit forthcoming to the Landholder from His vineyard, and His servants were sent for the produce. They had not been respected so He sent His Son, who had the same authority of the Owner. The Landholder, hoped that the tenants would respect His Son but they killed the Son just as they rejected, beaten, mocked and killed the Landholder's other servants.
Jesus asked the Religious Leaders what they thought the owner of the vineyard would do. The Jewish Leaders all agreed that the tenants be killed and the vineyard should be handed to others, for failing to produce fruit in answer to Jesus' question. After pronouncing their own judgement they realised Jesus had been talking about them.
By evoking Messianic Scriptures Christ made His meaning quite clear. Jesus set before them who He is, who sent Him, and the death He was to die by them. He then exposed Israel's past history and its future punishment.
The Chief Priest, Scribes and Elders knew and understood the message of the parable that Jesus told them. The Pharisees and Scribes had not believed Jesus as having authority from God. Jesus had confronted His enemies with the prediction of His death by the Religious Leaders. Jesus also predicted their sentence. After listening to their self-pronounced doom, they perceived Jesus knew of their guilt and wanted to kill Him immediately, but they feared the crowd's reaction. Jesus warned those who were plotting His death that He would soon be exalted to the most honoured place of all. The final straw for The Jewish Religious that brought God's wrath upon them was the rejection of His Son. These Leaders would no longer be the mediators for God's authority.
The parable was designed to indicate Jesus' authority. He was higher than God's prophets, His servants, Jesus was His Son. The Jewish Leaders did not heed the warning given. The builders of God's Kingdom had rejected Christ the chief cornerstone, He, the topmost stone who is highly exalted above everyone. The Jewish leaders also stumbled over Christ the Stone, and when He returns, those who reject Him shall also be crushed. Jesus the Cornerstone, is the basis of hope.
A capstone, if too low could be tripped over, if insecurely fastened in place, it could be dislodged and fall on the heads of those passing by. The capstone chosen by God was the most important stone but also a dangerous truth. Jesus referred to Himself as the stone that was rejected and He became the cornerstone of the new Temple building, all believers are living stones. The Chief Cornerstone anticipates Jesus' resurrection, He was the cornerstone in God's redemptive plan. The Messianic Kingdom is the stone that would crush those who discard The Truths of Christ.
Jerusalem was destroyed in that generation and was the end of the age of Judaism's Religious Legal system. Daniel the prophet spoke of a Kingdom of God as a rock. By killing Jesus, they had incurred divine wrath. After the death of Christ, Peter the Apostle did charge the Jewish rulers with the murder of Jesus.
The parable depicts Israel's rejection of God's beloved Son. The rebuff and death of Jesus were divinely ordained as prophesied in Psalms 118:22,23 and by the prophets Isaiah and Daniel.
Jesus gave the spiritual leaders of the nation the revelation of the truth, of His divine rights, the restoration of the lost order, for this purpose He, as the Son was sent to the vineyard. The Landholder destroyed the tenants and the vineyard was transferred to other tenants who would produce seasonal fruits for the owner of the vineyard. The Jewish Religious Leaders had passed the judgement upon themselves. The new citizens of the nation were of the Holy Spirit and not of the Law.
The destruction of Jerusalem meant the end of Judaism, which was carried out by the Roman Army who destroyed the city.
The vineyard is given to the Body of Christ and its ministries. God's new nation is composed of Jews and Gentiles. The Body of Christ is to bring forth fruit including repentance, righteousness, holiness and maturity of growth of the Holy Spirit in disciples.
The removing of The Kingdom of God from Old Testament Israel, does not imply it will not be returned, under the same conditions of The New Covenant, that they accept His Son as their Messiah, and the new nation of Jews and Gentiles.
The Truth was opened to those who responded to God's Son, whether Jew or Gentile. This principle covenant is still in force today. The Kingdom of God and its power will belong only to those who are faithful to Christ, those who will seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
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