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The Parable of the Tenants

    Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

    The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his own son to them. "They will respect my son," he said.

    But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, "This is the heir. Come, let's kill him and take his inheritance." So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

    Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants? -- Matthew 21:33-40

This parable speaks of the privileges that God had bestowed on the Jewish nation, and the abuse that had been returned. In this illustration of the importance of parabolical teaching, the Jews were forced to convict and pass sentence on themselves, and to have the enormity of their wickedness put before them.

In context, Jesus was addressing the chief priests and elders in the temple courts.

    "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." -- Matthew 21:41

Jesus then quoted Psalm 118:22-23

    The stone the builders rejected
    has become the capstone;
    the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes.

And said ...

    Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed. -- Matthew 21:43-44

It wasn't until then that the chief priests and the Pharisees knew that Jesus had been talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but were afraid of the crowd which had surrounded them.

The privileges conferred

  • They were leased a vineyard, planted and complete
    • The Jews had a dispensation of light and mercy
      • Ordinances
      • Priesthood
      • Oracles
      • Divine presence, care, protection, blessing
    • Consider our ourselves, here in the United States
      • Freedom to worship
      • Word of God in several versions
      • Christian influences
        • Parents
        • Friends

How these privileges were abused

  • Refusal to give the fruits to the rightful owner of the vineyard
    • A portion of these fruits belonged to the owner
    • Owner's request was fair and reasonable
    • Tenants refused
  • Evil treatment of servants sent to them
    • Literal facts
      • Many of the prophets were put to death or abused
      • Most of the apostles were put to death, and all were abused
      • Many Christians throughout history were abused or martyred
  • Murder of the heir
    • Predictive of the death of Jesus Christ on a cross

Just punishment

  • Before they realized that Jesus had been talking about them, the Jewish leaders passed a righteous sentence upon themselves
    • A sentence which was to be put into execution when the Romans destroyed their city
    • God's wrath against all unpenitent and incorrigible sinners
    • No escape for those who despise the gospel, neglecting their own salvation

Application of the parable

  • Learn how to rightly estimate and improve your privileges
  • Earnestly seek to obtain and retain the favor of the Lord
  • Be prepared to surrender your accounts, with joy rather than grief

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