The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
The parable in today’s gospel is very disturbing. The response of the people tells us that this is disturbing. When Jesus told this parable to the people, they responded with the words, “Surely not!” they responded with these words in the hope that there was still time to avoid the dire prophecy in the parable.
The parable takes place in and around a vineyard. This vineyard represents the special heritage that God gave to His people Israel. The owner corresponds to the Lord. The tenants represent the people of Israel especially the religious leaders such as the priests, the Levites, the scribes, and so forth. The agents that the owner sent to collect rent represented the prophets that God sent to His people.
Then there is the son that the owner sent to collect the rent. Jesus is very obviously talking about Himself. Just as the tenants threw the son out of the vineyard and killed him, so the religious leaders would arrange to have Jesus marched out of Jerusalem and killed on a cross.
Jesus ended the parable with the verdict against the evil tenants. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others. God deeply desires to give His rich heritage of salvation to all people, but those, who reject it, will have no part in it.
As we study this parable, the question that just screams to be asked is: “What was the owner of the vineyard thinking when He sent His son? Who in their right mind is going to do that?” If it were a normal earthly owner, he would send the first agent. When the first agent returned all beat up, the typical landowner would send a hit squad to collect the rent with extreme prejudice. In our day and age, we would call the police and ask them to arrest those criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. The one thing we would not do is send our son to collect the rent after the tenants had put three of our rent collectors into the hospital.
No earthly land owner would send his son in this situation. Never the less that is exactly what God the Father did with His Son. You see, in spite of our tendency to treat His servants like yesterday’s trash, God still loves us. It is in that love that He sent His Son in spite of the fact that He knew He would die. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, [Romans 5:8] God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is interesting that all Christians know that Jesus loves them, but did you know that, in all four Gospels, there is only one account of Jesus actually saying, “I love you?” The reason we know that Jesus loves us is that He demonstrated that love with His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. He came into this world even though He knew He would die a horrible, cruel death. Instead of talking about love, Jesus does love.
Think about it. As the Son of God, Jesus lived in the glory and holiness of heaven. Never the less, He left heaven to spend nine months in the womb of the Virgin Mary. That is the way Jesus says, “I love you.” After His birth, He had to spend about thirty-three years surrounded by sinful human beings. That is the way Jesus says, “I love you.” Satan made Jesus his personal project with relentless temptation. Never the less, Jesus never sinned. That is the way Jesus says, “I love you.”
Then we have the ultimate demonstration of God’s love for us. Nothing more clearly demonstrates God’s love for us than the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Jesus suffered more than the pain of the crucifixion on that cross. When He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me,” He was experiencing something that we cannot even understand. Somehow, one part of the Triune God was forsaking another part. We can’t even imagine what that means except to say that that forsakenness was infinitely more painful than the physical pain of the cross. In that agony, Jesus demonstrated His love for us in a way that can’t be expressed with a mere word. You cannot talk about God’s love for us unless you talk about Jesus on the cross and if you do not talk about Jesus on the cross, you are not talking about God’s love.
Jesus has a vision for His church. The Holy Spirit inspired Luke the Evangelist to record an account of that vision when Jesus spoke to His disciples [Luke 24:46-47] 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” In this vision statement, Jesus tells His church that they are to tell of His love by proclaiming repentance and the forgiveness of sins to all nations. Since God has planted us here in Moountain View Jesus’ vision for us is to proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins . Since this is Christ’s vision I have to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins every time we gather in this place. That is how Jesus has told me to serve His love to you. If I do not tell you something about repentance and the forgiveness of sins, then I have really not told you about God’s love.
We find God’s love in Holy Baptism. When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, He purified the waters of Baptism by taking the sin of the world onto Himself. When someone acted as the agent of God in your baptism, they applied liquid love to your body when they applied the water of baptism according to Christ’s command.
The union of baptism continues throughout our lives as we regularly confess our sins to God and receive His forgiveness. When I say those words, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all you sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” – when I say those words, Jesus is saying, “I love you.”
On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He took bread and wine and instituted His supper. He made the promise that whenever we consecrate the elements of bread and wine according to His command, He will somehow be present in those elements. He has promised that He will give us His body and His blood in, with, and under the bread and wine of the sacrament. That body is the body that died on the cross, but now lives forever more. That blood is the blood that He shed on the cross, but now is a living blood. When I distribute the elements of His supper, I have the overwhelming privilege of placing the love of Jesus Christ into your life in the form of His body and His blood. The very nature of the distribution of these gifts means that I am individually, personally, intimately, giving God’s love to you. God is saying, “I love you,” How can you blame me for wanting to give you that love every time we gather in this place?
Every time we say the creed, we give a short summary of the love that Jesus did for us: conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, Suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, dead, buried, descended into hell, raised from the dead, ascended into heaven, promised to return to take us home. All these are the love of God that is done for us in Christ Jesus.
In the first chapter of the Bible, God tells us about His love in creation. In the last chapter of the Bible, God tells us that the church is the bride of the Lamb. The Bible is founded on love from beginning to end. The focus of that love is the cross. If you do not see love when you look at Jesus on the cross – if you do not see Gospel when you consider His death for you, then the rest of the Bible, especially the parable in today’s Gospel, will be total nonsense. For if love is not the reason for sending His Son to certain death, then we are only left with two other choices: God is insane or God is totally evil. As the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write, [1 Corinthians 1:23-24] “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.
This message from Rev . James T. Batchelor is brought to you by Grace Lutheran Church, Web and Park Street, Mountain View, Arkansas. For prayer or more information, contact Pastor Kenneth Taglauer by email: [email protected]. A Pass it On Project , You can read more at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church