Luke: Parable of the Tenants

Read: Luke 20:10-19

The way Luke presents the narrative, Jesus simply keeps going after denying the chief priests an answer to their insidious question about His authority. This time, the parable is directly aimed at those who are still trying to figure out how to trap Him. One important lesson to draw from this chapter is that Jesus is not marching around with His nose stuck up in the air, He is bold and confident, not arrogant. Yet He does not change His story to appease those who oppose Him.

The parable reads like a horror movie, one that could easily be produced in this modern age where villains are heroes. A man plants a vineyard then goes away on a long trip. If you’ve never planted grapes you need to appreciate that it takes a very long time before the vines start producing fruit, let alone a harvest big enough for wine. Planting is just the first step.

After some time, the owner sends a servant to retrieve a sample, a sensible step for a winemaker. Instead of welcoming the servant and providing a reasonable response, they beat him and send him away. They repeat this action when the second and third servant arrives, the last one being injured in the process. Choice words come to mind to describe these tenants, none of which will be posted here!

But the worst is yet to come. This is where the chief priests and teachers of the law lean forward to hear the rest of the story. The owner decides to send someone who can best represent himself:

I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him. Luke 20:13

This action probably sounds familiar to you, but keep in mind those who were listening had no idea what was going to happen in the next few days. The next two verses contain the key to this parable:

“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. Luke 20:14-15

The tenants talked it over amongst themselves. As tenants, they have a responsibility to care for that which the owner has provided, yet they respond with arrogance and audacity as if the vineyard was their own to do with as they pleased. They gathered together to conspire against the master with brutal force — they killed his son.

Then comes the question: what should the master do? Ha! That’s easy, load up the 50-cal, we have a simple solution for you! Jesus provides the rhetorical question for consideration:

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Luke 20:15-16

The people are enraged by the story, “God forbid!” is their response. Absolutely! No one in his right mind would support the tenants in this story.

Jesus makes sure the point isn’t missed. I love the next line that emphasizes how He explained the parable, “Jesus looked directly at them…” Ouch! In my mind, He paused to let people soak in the story before continuing, making sure everyone was paying attention.

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’? Luke 20:17

Psalm 118 and Isaiah 53 come to mind as Jesus explains. Yes, we have the Bible to lean on, but I’m sure the temple leaders were familiar with both references, even without a smartphone. They knew what Jesus was talking about. Anyone who opposes the master will be severely dealt with. They will be broken to pieces, crushed, done.

Still afraid of public outcry, the priests back off, but their minds are completely set on killing Jesus as if they needed yet another reason.

We are the tenants of this parable and we have a choice to make. We can act like everything we have is ours for our own benefit, hold tight and say, “mine!” Or we can honor the Master who freely provides everything we need, who only asks for that which we can give.

Lord help us to be the people who not only say, “God Forbid!” but live lives that draw people to You, that reveal Your truth and Your desire for an eternal relationship filled with joy. May we be known as the people who sing Psalm 118 and boldly proclaim,

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Psalm 118:29

 

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This link includes a list of posts about Serving the Least, the Lost, and the Lonely.

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Let the Word evoke words. May your life encourage lives.

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