This Week's Focus Passage

The Vineyard Parable

Focus Passage: Luke 20:15

‘What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do unto them?’

This is the question posited subsequent to the telling of the story of the ‘wicked husbandmen.’ In this parable, Jesus delivers an account of the behavior of certain men, perhaps a family, who were what have been referred to in the history of our country and others, as sharecroppers. These people did not own the land of which they farmed and lived. The property belonged to another, assumedly a rich landowner who lived at some distance away from his holdings. The agreement between the owner and the tenant-farmers was that they would tend his vineyard, hopefully bringing forth grapes from a profitable harvest. At the time of harvest, the landowner sent a servant to these tenants to collect his due portion—whatever had been previously agreed upon. In the account given by our Savior, these people refused to comply, they reneged on the deal they had made, sending the servant back empty-handed. The owner then sent another and a third. The second was beaten and mistreated while the third was wounded and flung out. The owner of the vineyard asked himself, ‘What shall I do?’ He determined upon sending his own son, fully expecting that they would accord him the respect due. However, these wicked persons saw their opportunity to have the vineyard for themselves. Perhaps thinking, because the son rather than his father had come to collect, that the owner was dead, they plotted to kill the son and claim the vineyard as their own. This plot they viciously carried out, brutally killing the heir and throwing his body outside of the vineyard. ‘What therefore will the lord of the vineyard do unto them?’ is the question posed by some hearers, or perhaps Jesus himself. He will come and kill those sharecroppers and give the vineyard to others.

Verse 19 informs us that the scribes and the chief priests perceived that He had spoken this parable against them. It may well have been the recollection of a Word of God to them through Isaiah the prophet, in his own ‘vineyard parable.’ That ‘vineyard parable’ concludes with the following stark statement in verse 7:

For the vineyard of Jehovah of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for justice, but, behold, oppression; for righteousness, but, behold, a cry.

These scribes and chief priests rightly judged that Christ spoke this parable of them and they tried to lay hands on Him but they were afraid of the people. How amazing that they were decidedly prepared to fulfill the parable about themselves in that very moment. Jesus proclaimed judgment upon Israel when he pronounced upon the sharecroppers that the lord of the vineyard ‘will come and destroy these husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others. God’s Word makes it known to us that; indeed, the scribes and the chief priests accomplished their design of killing the Son. And we know from the history of 70 A.D. that the Roman army under Titus destroyed the temple and much people of the Jews; their vineyard became the property of others. J. C. Ryle has aptly said, ‘The parable, no doubt, was specially intended for the Jews to whom it was addressed. But we must not confine its application to them. It contains lessons which should be remembered in all churches of Christ as long as the world stands.’

There are lessons from this parable for any and all ‘sharecroppers.’ By these ‘sharecroppers,’ we mean unbelievers who are enjoying all the fruits of the common grace of God to mankind, For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.—Matthew 5:45. It is not only spoken of those Jews that mistreated the servants of the Lord, His prophets, when they violently mistreated them, killing some, but it is spoken of the many in our day and the many days leading up to our day that have despised and rejected the message of God from His servants. These will be called to account at the great day of the Lord for their abuse of His great and marvelous gifts to mankind. But what may be said of the church? Is the church not the vineyard of the Lord? Christ is the true Vine; we are the branches. Christ has much to say regarding fruitless branches in John 15, as well as His letters to some of the churches in Asia Minor, Revelation 2 and 3. What has He declared in His ‘parting discourse’ respecting the branches that show no sign of life; that is, fruit? Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away—John 15:2. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered—verse 6. How is the church to abide in Christ? He has told us clearly. Abide in my Word; abide in my commandments; abide in my love. ARE WE ABIDING IN HIM? Take notice that it is not the size of the church building; it is not the number of members, but rather, do we love His Word? Do we love His commandments? Do we love His people? Do we love Him? The Jews responded to Christ’s pronouncement of judgment, saying, ‘God forbid,’ ‘May it never be.’ They never believed that the ‘vineyard’ would be taken from them; but it was. If it happened to God’s chosen people Israel, who are we to imagine that it could never happen to us? Remember what Christ spoke to the church at Ephesus,

‘But I have this against thee, that thou didst leave thy first love. Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.—Revelation 2:4-5

May we never hear the word spoken to Sardis, ‘thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.’ May the churches surrender their man-centeredness, become Christ-centered, and heed the exhortations of the true Vine. ‘Nevertheless, that which ye have, hold fast till I come.’ ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.’

David Farmer, elder,

Fellowship Bible Church

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