Parable of the Vinedressers

Intro: Read Jesus’ parable in Matt. 21:33-39 – Jesus’ parables were not mysterious. But neither were they ambiguous. Some of them were quite discernable and applicable by Jesus’ audience. This story was discernable and applicable. In fact, as we notice at the end of this story, even the chief priests themselves knew that Jesus was talking about them.

  • But we can also discern the story. A similar situation exists today when a landowner dies and his children receive the family farm. They have no time to work it themselves, so they rent it out to tenants, who live on the farm property and work the land. At harvest time, the owners visit and collect their share of the proceeds.
  • Now, can you imagine your reaction if you see this scene unfold. The tenants who are living on and working your land, beat up the representatives you send to collect the proceeds that are due to you? Your representative is treated with violence and comes back with nothing.
  • So you send other representatives to collect your interests – but the same thing happens – some are beaten and killed.
  • So you decide – I will send my son, “They will respect my son.” Right? No way. They kill him and cast him off the land. What is your recourse? What would you do?
  • This is the question which Jesus asks His audience. Matt 21:40-41Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”

I. The Element of Outrage: There is one predominant emotion and response to this event: THIS IS AN OUTRAGE. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. This is precisely the reaction this story was intended to elicit. John MacArthur said that Jesus’ parables…. “often including a shocking element, to explain a profound truth that was unknown or generally misunderstood.” The profound truth declared in this story was that God’s chosen people had thoroughly betrayed Him in their rejection of the sent Messiah, Jesus, and that God would judge them for this rejection by giving the kingdom to others who will respect and obey Him.

A. Sufficient Provision & Privilege: Notice how Jesus describes the forethought and provision of the landowner: 33“planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower.”

• A conscientious landowner who desired a successful crop would first put a wall of stone or a hedge of briars around the vineyard to protect it from wild animals and thieves.

• He would then make a wine press, sometimes having to cut it out of bedrock. From there the grape juice would be poured into wineskins or clay jars for storage.

• Often the owner would build a tower, to be used as a lookout post against marauders, as shelter for the workers, and as a storage place for seed and implements.

1. God cared for His vineyard, Israel. Isaiah 5:1-7 5 Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, And also made a winepress in it; So He expected it to bring forth good grapes, But it brought forth wild grapes. 3 “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to My vineyard That I have not done in it? Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes, Did it bring forth wild grapes? 5 And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned; And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down. 6 I will lay it waste; It shall not be pruned or dug, But there shall come up briers and thorns. I will also command the clouds That they rain no rain on it.” 7 For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help. This Isaiah text helps us understand why the Jewish leaders so quickly surmised that Jesus was talking about them. Jesus took his story right out of the OT story. What more God have done to show Israel how much He cared for them, or what more did He need to do to gain their respect?

2. God expected a harvest, but got nothing. The landowner in Jesus’ parable did not simply “expect his money”. He sent other servants, those from his own home to help harvest the fruit. The story leaves no room for excuses or sympathetic reasoning toward these men. What they did was without provocation.

a. God’s provision for Israel was for a greater purpose than just their well-being. In the O.T. God calls on Israel to bear the fruit of God’s vineyard; holiness, submission, obedience, righteousness. He called on them to be Holy, as He is holy (Ex 19:6And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.‘) But what he observed was oppression. Earlier in Matthew 21 Jesus depicted physical Israel as a fig tree that produced nothing but leaves. It was destined to be destroyed.

b. Notice that the landowner never received even one small part of what He deserved. This is illustrated in the vinedressers immediate and complete rejection of his messengers. They were unwilling to even hear what he had to say. Isaiah, in that great messianic text that describes the rejection and suffering of the Son, asks, who has believed our report? ( 53:1). Later, in Romans 10, Paul utilizes that OT text to point to the downfall of physical Israel – Rom 10:16-21 – “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” 17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. 18 But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: “Their sound has gone out to all the earth, And their words to the ends of the world.” 19 But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” 20 But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” 21 But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.” Did Israel not know? They had provision and privilege. Have you? There can be no salvation apart from obedience to the revelation of God. You and I must not reject the messengers.

II. A Matter of Authority: Of course, our outrage and sense of injustice is heightened by the knowledge that these vinedressers who nothing but hired servants. They had no authority and did not own the vineyard.

A. The Jews had become so accustomed to being the people of God’s kingdom that they began to see the Kingdom as their own. Just as the wicked vinedressers indicate in the parable, the Jewish leaders had forgotten who was in charge.

B. “They will respect my son.”the statement by the landowner does indicate a lack of insight, or that he was naive. Rather Jesus is emphasizing the proper order of authority that was in play. The Son was the rightful heir and had the authority of his father. But the appearance of the son only drove the growers to greater greed and more heinous treachery. When the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.”

1. Not only did the Jews reject the authority of the Father, in their disobedience to the law, but they failed to recognize the inherent authority of the Son. They arrogantly asked Jesus for His credentials to teach among the people, or to run people out of their temple. (Mt. 21:23)

• John 8:38-47 – I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father.” 39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham. 40 But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. 41 You do the deeds of your father.” …Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth,”

2. In further explanation of the parable Jesus cited the 118th Psalm – Matt 21:42-43 – 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’? 43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. What a scathing rebuke for Jesus to ask if they had read the scriptures! Yet the Psalm clearly indicated that God’s purposes would not be denied through their efforts to seize His authority. God would simply bless those who would bear fruit for Him.

a. It is easy for humans to begin to think that they possess the authority to make their own decisions in God’s vineyard. But this temptation to take charge is not new. In fact, it was that very temptation that seduced the first couple. –Gen 3:4-5Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(NKJ)

C. Some applications for us: This disrespect that Jesus exposes here is a type of rebellion that is often seen among those who in charge of the vineyard. The disobedient lost sinner has a problem with authority, for sure. But some in the church have one too!

1. When the church is ruled by tradition rather than scripture. Consider the rebuking statements of Jesus toward the Pharisees elsewhere. Mark 7:2-9 – 2 Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. 3 For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. 4 When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. 5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” 6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” 9 He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. The Pharisees had forgotten who was in charge. They judged the righteousness of others by their compliance toward their traditions – and so defined the boundaries of God’s kingdom. We are also tempted to rule the church with our traditions or democratic decisions rather than allowing Jesus to rule through scripture. We easily speak of the church as though it belongs to us, and those who attack it or reject it as though they have sinned against us.’

a. We must never denigrate or fail to respect the message of God. We must seek scripture for all that we practice and teach. The New Century translation of 1 Pet. 4:11Anyone who speaks should speak words from God.

2. When we leave God out of our daily lives. If Christ is in charge, then He is in charge all the time – over every part of our lives. So why do so many Christians live like Christians only on certain days of the week, or only when they are with certain people.

a. Jesus describes Israel in the context of another parable is Luke 19 – servants who were given money to use for the profit of their master until he would return to receive His kingdom- But their response was, “We will not have this man reign over us” (Luke 19:14)- so on his return he punished them all. He is clearly in charge – and we must recognize his authority in every aspect of our lives.

b. Consider James admonition in James 4:13-16 “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Like those arrogant servants, we have our own plans.

Conclusion: there is another incredible element to Jesus’ parable. How could the owner of the vineyard have been so longsuffering? In fact, it seems beyond reason that he would send his own son to plead with such ruthless people. His patience is the only thing that exceeds their folly. And yet, God has so richly given everything good that we have in our lives; blessed spiritually with the opportunity to be His very children; heirs of his glory. What more could God do to show you how much He loves you, or to gain your respect?

• Eph 1:4-6just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. (NKJ)

• Rom 8:14-17 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs– heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.(NKJ)

Conclusion: Do you know who owns the vineyard you work in? Would you welcome His Son into your life and accept His authority to rule? If you do He will let you share in his inheritance.