Parable of the Wicked Tenants

04 Oct

Fruit of the VineDays before he was crucified, Jesus told a parable in the presence of the Jewish authorities, which told of a man who owned a vineyard and leased it out to tenants. When it was near the time for the fruit to be ripe, he sent servants to receive his portion of the fruits. However, the tenants mistreated them, beating some and killing others. The master of vineyard then decided to send his son, believing the tenants would respect him, but when those wicked men realized the son had come, they decided to kill him and steal the vineyard for themselves (cf. Matthew 21:33-39).

We need to understand that the vineyard in the parable is Old Covenant Israel, and Israel was God’s Kingdom. The problem was that Israel had killed all of the prophets the Lord had sent to her. The fruit the Lord had sought was righteousness, but when the prophets were sent, calling out for repentance, they were abused and slain by the authorities who governed Israel. Throughout her history, those who governed Israel and Judah had slain the prophets (cf. Acts 7:52), and Jesus prophesied that he would send prophets and wise men to that very generation in which he lived, but they would persecute whomever were sent, killing some and wounding others (Matthew 23:34-36).

Jesus interrupted his parable to ask the Jewish authorities what they thought should be done to those wicked tenants who had slain the son of the master of the vineyard:

When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. (Matthew 21:40-41; emphasis mine)

Of course, there is little doubt that Jesus was speaking of the Jewish authorities, themselves. He even predicted they would slay him. What is interesting is that Jesus causes these same authorities to condemn their own behavior, before they realized the point of Jesus’ parable (cf. Matthew 21:45). They said “those wicked men” would be destroyed, and the lord of the vineyard would lease his property out to other tenants who would render to him the fruits that were his (verse-41). But notice, as well, the time when Jesus claimed the wicked tenants would be punished—at the coming of the lord of the vineyard (Matthew 21:40). In other words, Jesus pointed to 70 AD, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Roman armies.

This parable makes no sense at all when one tries to force it into the context of our modern times. It was Jerusalem that killed the prophets (Matthew 23:37), not New York, London or Paris. Jesus fit the context of the parable within his own generation (Matthew 23:36; cf. 24:34). The chief priests and rulers of the Jews understood Jesus spoke of them (Matthew 21:45), and Jesus said the Kingdom would be taken from you, meaning the authorities of his day. They ruled over God’s heritage and kept God’s people from receiving their Messiah (Matthew 12:23-24; cf. 23:13). What political leaders are able to do that today? Who today is guilty of killing all the prophets of God sent to his people?

The only people that Jesus could have been referring to were the Jewish authorities of his day. It was they who would have the Kingdom taken from them and given to others (Matthew 21:43). It was they, whom Jesus would destroy when he returned (Matthew 21:40-41). Therefore, the coming Jesus spoke of could point only to his 70 AD coming to judge Jerusalem and destroy the Temple (Matthew 26:64).


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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in 70 AD Eschatology


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