Life is all about stories and every person has a story. God, too, has a story – the grand metanarrative – that makes sense of every human story; for the sacred Scriptures make known two kinds of wisdom so that every human being can make sense of, and interpret properly, his or her story in light of His story:
+. a soteriological wisdom: to make us wise unto salvation which is by grace, through faith, in Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 3:15)
+. a hermeneutical wisdom: to help us make sense of life’s story in light of His story and the many stories recorded in Scripture (Matthew 13:11, 16-17, 51-52; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
One third of the recorded teaching of Jesus consisted of parables. In the parables, Jesus is describing the kingdom of God in action and telling us something that happens when God is busy re-establishing Himself as King among humankind.
In “the parable of the wicked tenants,” what essential teaching does Jesus share with us about humankind’s response to the Good News of the kingdom so that we might benefit from its wisdom and grow in our discipleship as “a wise scribe, trained for the kingdom”? (Matthew 13:52)
33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard sand put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants3 to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them.37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
+. what did the parable mean “then and there?”
+. the background to this parable comes from Isaiah 5: a vineyard is planted on a very fertile hill…in this vineyard, the owner cleared it of stones and planted it with choice vines…he expected it to yield grapes but it yielded only wild grapes
+. vines and vineyards were a familiar part of everyday life…in this parable we have a large, absentee landowner with tenants working his property
+. in this parable the tenants object to handing over the portion of the crop which has been set as their annual rent payment
+. they want more, and preferably all, of the fruit of their own labors for themselves; and they refuse to honor the contract
+. they beat up the servant who comes to them on behalf of the owner; over time, a succession of servants are sent and they are met with a hostile and violent welcome
+. the climax of the story is when the owner sends the son; and the tenants kill him and throw him out of the vineyard; in response, the owner gives the vineyard to others
+. God would send His people special servants to remind them who they were and what kind of lives they should live; yet they often rejected their message and would mistreat these servants; the final messenger was the son of the owner whom they killed
+. because of Israel’s unfaithfulness and unwillingness to bear fruit the vineyard, warned the prophet, would be given to others – these “others” would be given the privilege of being His people and being engaged in the purposes of God
+. Jesus pronounced this final warning and invitation during the Passion week: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate!” (Matthew 24:37-28)
+. the parable makes it clear that Jesus sees His own death as the climax of the people’s rejection of God’s invitation to them to fulfill their ministry as His people
+. Jesus saw Himself in continuity with the prophets, bringing the word of God and calling people to serve God
+. Jesus also saw Himself as more than a prophet; He was the beloved Son
+. the nation of Israel had a privileged position in God’s plan; they were the tenants of God’s vineyard, responsible for being fruit – for doing His will and working out His purpose
+. what does the parable mean “here and now?”
+. the parable addresses God’s judgment on the Jewish nation for failing to fulfill their part in God’s plan
+. they refused to: bear the appropriate fruit…hear the word of His messengers…listen to and put their faith in the Son, the promised Messiah
+. as a result, they forfeited their role as His tenants and the responsibility of making the Gospel known to the nations will be given to others
+. what is your mission in life?
+. nearly a decade ago, Paul Huneke and I had the privilege to write an article for Issues in Christian Education…and here is one paragraph from that article:
Everyone has a mission, that is, everyone is being sent by God to do something, somewhere, at sometime; whether they fulfill the purpose for their sending, that is another matter. Personally we have embarked on many mission projects in our lives. Some of them are rather trivial, such as Tony’s fifty-year quest now to get a hole-in-one in golf. But other mission projects are much more important such as earning a paycheck to provide for our families; being a loving spouse and caring fathers to our children; and good friends to many.
Yet our primary mission, the foremost reason that we exist according to God’s plan, purposing and sending, is to “go and make disciples of all nations.” This mission is to permeate all of our life and, if you are a Christian, it is to permeate your life as well. Forrest Gump, in the movie Forrest Gump, would periodically ask his mother, “Momma, what’s my destiny?” Your destiny, as a Christian, is to be and live as His disciple and to make disciples of the nations.
+. the vital importance of bearing fruit in our lives as His servants and messengers; the kind of fruit that will last for eternity…sharing the Gospel others, teaching our children and grandchildren the Christian faith, praying for the salvation of others…
In closing, let us impress these words from Scripture upon our hearts that address the great privilege we have to be, and live as, people in the world and bearing much fruit:
+. “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13, 14-16)
+. “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me…” (Matthew 25:34b-36)
+. “Come to Him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious; and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:4-5, 9)