“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” (verses 38-41)
Jesus continues with his pointed exposé of the religious leaders of his day. They have portrayed themselves as being faithful to the Lord, but in truth their hearts are far from him, evidenced by their response to Jesus.
So he tells a parable about a vineyard. The property is established and planted and fully equipped by the landowner, and then rented out. He goes away on a journey, but when harvest-time comes, he sends servants to collect his share of the crop.
But the tenants refuse. Indeed, several times over. They abuse those who are sent, beating some and killing others. Finally, the landowner sends his son, expecting he will be respected. But he isn’t. The tenants kill him, thinking they will gain lasting possession of the vineyard.
Jesus then asks the listening crowd what the landowner should do. “Bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they say. They have rightly understood justice dictates that judgement should fall on the rebellious tenants.
We understand the pointed nature of the story, as did the chief priests and elders of the people who were listening in. It was spoken against them. Jesus was exposing their hearts once again. They, like their forebearers, had been entrusted with God’s own vineyard and yet had turned away from the messengers he had sent them. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,” Jesus would later lament, “you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you” (Matthew 23:37). And now, of course, they were already plotting to do the very thing the tenants in Jesus’ story had done – they were plotting to kill the Son, Jesus himself.
But taking a step back, the story is a description of the waywardness of the whole world. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Every one of us had a hand in the death of God’s own Son, for “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Having heard the story, the chief priests and Pharisees were infuriated and incensed. They continued to plot how to arrest Jesus and put him away, their plotting ultimately bringing the story itself to fulfilment.
We, on the other hand, have the opportunity instead to embrace more fully yet the One who has laid down his life for us. He came to the vineyard knowing what awaited him. He came for our sake. He came that our rebellious hearts might be fully redeemed.
Hallelujah. What a Saviour.
Lord Jesus, I acknowledge that apart from your sacrifice I would stand condemned with the whole of rebellious humanity. But you came to seek and to save what was lost. Thank you that you came for me.
Reflect: Pause to consider again the saving work Jesus has done in your own life. Consider again the price he paid. Give thanks. Pray for two or three of those you know who have not yet received this gift. Ask that their eyes might be opened to him.