Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.
In Matthew 21, the religious leaders questioned where Jesus got his authority to teach about God, so Jesus told them this story.
After renting his vineyard to sharecroppers, a landowner went away for a long time. At harvest, he sent servants to collect the rent. But the tenants beat one servant, killed another, and stoned a third.
Finally the landowner said, “I will send my son, whom I love. Perhaps they will respect him.” But when the son showed up, the renters said, “This man is heir to the vineyard. If we get rid of him, we’ll be the owners.” So they killed the son.
Jesus asked, “What will the owner do when he returns?”
The listeners replied, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and rent the vineyard to others who will pay the rent.”
“Exactly,” replied Jesus. “In the same way, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to others who will produce its fruit.”
Here are three observations:
- First, Jesus borrowed Isaiah’s picture of the nation of Israel as God’s vineyard. Isaiah predicted that God would destroy his vineyard when it didn’t produce fruit. Jesus states a similar conclusion: God will evict the troublesome tenants from his property and install cooperative renters in their place. Many interpreters think the Christian church has replaced Israel as God’s vineyard, but when I look at two thousand years of church history, we have a sketchy record of producing fruit for the owner.
- Second, it was silly of the landowner to think that the renters might respect his son, and it was silly of the renters to think that killing the son would make the vineyard theirs. Perhaps they thought the owner wouldn’t return and claim his rights. Jesus’ story reminds us that God’s prophets were ignored, mistreated, or killed by Israel. And then God sent Jesus, the rightful heir and the son he loved. But Jesus said he expected the same treatment as the prophets.
The religious leaders had a big problem: how to know if Jesus was really God’s son, the true heir and rightful overseer of their religion. They expected God’s messenger would respect their interpretation of the Bible, and would approve of their high moral standards.
Today, the church has a similar problem: how to know what branch of Christianity is the true vineyard, and which branches are just obstinate tenants farming Bible interpretation and systems of church and theology for themselves instead of God.
- Third, the story asks a personal question: have I produced fruit in God’s vineyard? I say I believe Jesus is the son and heir, but does my life produce a harvest of peace and love?
Jesus, how can the modern church produce a harvest for God? We are much like the Pharisees in your story. We too have a rigidly defined theology, a clear set of expectations for moral behaviour, and a system of religious observance that proves we are right and others are wrong.
Jesus, son and heir, beloved of God, open our eyes to who you are, open our hearts to your message of repentance and change. Teach us to work for you and with you, in God’s vineyard, producing fruit for him, and not for ourselves.
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.