Luke 20:9-18 (ESV)
9 And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”
Jesus told a parable to explain how God felt about the religious leaders’ rejection of him and his authority. He began by saying that a man planted a vineyard. The nation of Israel was often pictured as a vineyard by the Old Testament prophets. For example, Isaiah 5:7 states, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel.” The Pharisees, scribes, elders, and even the people knew exactly whom Jesus was talking about. The vineyard was Israel, the man was God the Father, the servants were the prophets, the son was Jesus, and the tenants, who were supposed to take care of the vineyard or the nation, were the religious leaders of Israel. When the prophets were sent to the nation, they were rejected. They were beaten, treated shamefully, wounded, and cast out by Israel. The nation’s leaders didn’t want God’s authority over them, and they didn’t want anyone telling them to do things differently. So the man sent his son, but he too was thrown out of the vineyard and even killed. The tenants were afraid that the son would try to take his father’s rightful place of authority. Jesus told the religious leaders exactly what they were going to do to him. He also said the tenants who abused the man’s servants and his son would be destroyed. What did the religious leaders say in response? “Surely not.”
What a picture of God’s kindness and mercy. The man was patient with his tenants when they beat and rejected his servants. He even went so far as to send his own son to reason with the tenants. But in the same way the tenants killed the son, the nation of Israel killed her Messiah, God’s Son, Jesus. The religious leaders had grown so comfortable with “calling the shots” they didn’t really think God was going to do anything about the state of the nation. “Surely not,” they declared to Jesus. Many people are saying the same thing today. God’s people try to warn others that judgment is coming, and the unbelievers respond with “Surely not.” They don’t think that God is ever going to interrupt their way of life and call them to give an account for what they have or have not done with Jesus. God’s patience exists so that as many as possible might come to repentance. If in any area of your life, you are tolerating sin or disobedience to Jesus, repent today.