Caretakers of the Vineyard!

06 Nov
from Google Images

from Google Images

Late in his ministry Jesus spoke a parable before the people and the Jewish leaders (Luke 20:9-19). There he spoke of God planting a vineyard (the Jewish people), letting it out (giving the oversight) to certain men among the Jews (viz. the priesthood of Aaron; cf. Leviticus 8:10-11; Deuteronomy 24:8; 33:8-10) In the course of time God sent his Son (the Messiah) to receive the fruit of what was his (Luke 20:13). The problem is that the caretakers had become corrupt and never intended to release the fruit of the vineyard to its owner. Rather, they intended to steal it by killing, God’s Son, the Heir (Luke 20:14). However, although they were able to kill Jesus, the Son of God, (Luke 20:15), their plan to usurp the inheritance was seen for what it was and foiled from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

After Jesus had corrected the Pharisees’ understanding of working on the Sabbath day (Luke 6:1-5), Luke brings us to the next Sabbath, which in the context of my study was actually the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a Holy Day. Jesus entered the synagogue, and, while he was teaching, he saw a man sitting there who had a withered right hand (Luke 6:6). The scribes and Pharisees watched Jesus to see whether he would perform a healing, for they sought an opportunity to accuse him of wrongdoing (Luke 6:7).

When Jesus understood their intent, he told the man with the withered hand to stand up and come forward (Luke 6:8). At this point, Jesus directed a question to the doctors of the Law (rabbis) and the Pharisees who were looking to accuse him. He asked if it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath  or to do evil—to save life or to kill (Luke 6:9). Jesus referred to lifting an animal out of a ditch on the Sabbath (‘doing good’ cf. Matthew 12:11), or perhaps killing the animal that may have broken its leg (‘doing the evil’ for the purpose of mercy). Jesus’ meaning was clear; he likened helping the animal to healing the man with a withered hand (‘doing good’ Matthew 12:12), and technically breaking the Sabbath (‘doing evil’ for the purpose of mercy; cf. Matthew 12:5).

In the days following the Babylonian captivity, the Jews’ enemies might attack them on the Sabbath day, and the Jews wouldn’t defend themselves out of respect for the Sabbath law. The Sadducees and Pharisees had their beginning during the era of the Maccabees. They taught the Jews, it would be lawful to protect and defend themselves on the Sabbath against any enemy who attacked them.[1] So, Jesus was comparing killing (destroying life) on the Sabbath in order to save life with technically breaking the Sabbath (Luke 6:9) in order to save life (i.e. making life whole). Clearly, Jesus used the authorities own teaching in an effort to show it was permissible to heal on the Sabbath day.

Nevertheless, the doctors of the Law and the Pharisees held their peace (Mark 3:4), and when Jesus looked around in anger (Mark 3:5) and being grieved in his heart over the hardness of their hearts (Luke 6:10a), he told the man to stretch forth his hand, and it was made whole (Luke 6:10b). The miracle was, no doubt, a sign for the caretakers of the vineyard that they might believe Jesus, in the same manner that the healing of the leprous hand of Moses was intended as a sign for the leaders of the Jews in Egypt to believe him (cf. Exodus 4:6-7).

Jesus’ healing of the man with the withered hand was intended to heal the unbelief or hard hearts of the doctors of the Law and the Pharisees, just as his earlier healing of the man stricken with palsy was meant to do (Luke 5:17). Both miracles were primarily for the leaders of the Jews. In the former miracle Jesus saw the faith of the men bringing their friend to him for healing (Luke 5:20). In the latter Jesus saw the unbelief of the doctors of the Law and the Pharisees who had no doubt set a trap for Jesus hoping for an opportunity to accuse him (Luke 6:7-8, 10; cf. Mark 3:5).

Immediately, the caretakers of God’s vineyard went outside the synagogue and conspired with the Herodians to kill Jesus (Luke 6:11; Mark 3:6). The conspiracy against Jesus was itself against the Law (cf. Leviticus 19:14; Deuteronomy 27:18). That is, it was illegal to lay a trap for one’s brother, hoping he would fall to his hurt. This was doubly so, since it was done on the Sabbath day. Moreover, not only did these men seek to entrap Jesus on the Sabbath, but, having failed in their efforts to accuse him of wrongdoing, they plotted to kill him on the Sabbath day. Thus, their corruption had become complete. They had become completely mad (Luke 6:11), when it came to understanding the depth of their error. They had become blind to their own sin (cf. Isaiah 5:20; 26:10; Matthew 6:23).


[1] See Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews 12.6.2

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Posted by on November 6, 2016 in Gospel of Luke


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