Luke 20: 9 – 19 The parable of the tenants

Luke 20: 9 – 19 The parable of the tenants

He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”

But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’

When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

‘ “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”?

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

*       *       *

St Luke includes this parable to show the increasing tension between Jesus and the Jewish leaders as his mission reaches its climax. This is the context: Jesus enters Jerusalem to acclaim from the crowd; he drives out the merchants in the temple courts; he refuses to answer the leaders’ demands to know his authority; and now he tells this parable.

The vineyard is the Holy Land. The owner of the vineyard is God. The tenant farmers are the Jewish leaders. The servants whom he sends to collect rent are the prophets. His son, sent last of all, is Jesus.

When the tenants realise it is the son who has been sent, they talk the matter over and cold-bloodedly decide to kill him. They feel confident that they will inherit the vineyard. The owner has been away for a long time; perhaps the farmers don’t believe he will come to reclaim his land. However, Jesus says that the owner does indeed return, kills the tenants, and gives the vineyard to others.

There are two strands to this parable.

The first is that the Jewish leaders opposed Jesus because his message ran against their self-interest. The tenants of the parable don’t want to give the owner of the vineyard the produce that was his due; it was against their self-interest. Historically, the Jewish leaders had persecuted the prophets, who had pointed out their corrupt practices. And it was to protect their self-interest that the Jewish leaders wanted to kill Jesus. All that restrained them was fear of the people.

The second strand is that the farmers forget they are only tenants. They aspire to own the vineyard. However, the owner returns, kills the faithless tenants, and gives the vineyard to others.

One of the arguments for killing Jesus is recorded in St John’s gospel. “Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ ” (John 11: 49 – 50) The Jewish leaders were afraid that the Romans would destroy the state of Judea.

So, the second strand of the parable is Jesus telling the Jewish leaders that they will not inherit the vineyard; instead it will pass to others, that is to say, to the Romans.

The leaders understood what Jesus was saying.

When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’

Jesus then added a quotation from scripture to drive home the point.

Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

‘ “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone”

Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’

It’s hard to imagine that the Jewish leaders didn’t take the warning seriously; indeed, they pressed ahead with plans to have Jesus killed.

The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.

It is a terrible thing to see the destructive power of human sin. The Jewish leaders were normal people; respectable people; law abiding people. But the structure they were responsible for maintaining had become rotten. Piety masked exploitation; respectability concealed the abuse of power. Threatened with the loss of their privileges, the Jewish leaders respond by cold-bloodedly planning to kill Jesus.

And they do this after being warned, in this parable, of the consequences.

How truly dreadful.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

Thank you for the teaching of Jesus. Thank you for the bible that has passed on his teaching. Please help me to follow Jesus’ teaching faithfully.

In Jesus name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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