John T. Willis

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants--Luke 20:1-19

While Jesus was teaching every day in the temple (Luke 19:47), the chief priests and scribes and elders of the Jews attempted to bring a charge against Jesus so they could arrest him and later put him to death. Jesus responded by asking a counter question, and then give a parable about the wicked tenants against these Jewish authorities. This section appears in Luke 20:1-19, which naturally falls into two parts. I. Jesus Responds to the Critical Question of the Jewish Authorities. Luke 20:1-8. a. One day when Jesus was teaching the Jewish people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jews approached Jesus, and asked this question: "By what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?" The authorities in Jerusalem attempt to bring Jesus to an inquisition and demand that he declare publicly the source of his claim to teach and preach. The Jewish Sanhedrin know that Jesus is not a rabbi in the normal sense in Jewish culture. Thus, they hope to catch Jesus in some admission that they could arrest him. 20:1-2. b. Jesus responded by asking his questioners with this question: "Did the baptism of John the Baptist come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" When Jesus asked this, he knew that the Jewish people held John the Baptist is high esteem. John the Baptist preached "a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins"--Luke 3:3. In asking this question, Jesus does not identify himself as the Messiah or as a prophet or contest the authority of the Jewish leaders. Jesus' question is what the Jewish authorities actually thought about the baptism of John the Baptist, implying that John's authority is from God. John the Baptist was not a rabbi in the normal sense in Jewish culture, but had authority that had the respect of the people. A similar dilemma appears in Acts 5:38 with the question posed by Gamaliel. 20:3-4. c. Instead of responding to Jesus, the Jewish authorities entered into a discussion between themselves, knowing that Jesus had caught them in a dilemma. Obviously, they were not interested in the real issue which Jesus faced them, but about the consequences of the answer which they must choose. If they say that the baptism of John the Baptist is from heaven, Jesus will say, Why then did you not believe him? Note that "heaven" here is a circumlocution for God the Father. To believe John is to submit to his baptism--see Luke 7:28-30. BUT, if they say that the baptism of John the Baptist is from human origin, all the people of the Jews will stone them for taking this position, because they are already convinced that John the Baptism was a prophet. 20:5-6. d. Caught in this dilemma, the Jewish authorities PRETEND that they do not know where the baptism of John came from. Jesus replied that he will not tell them by what authority Jesus is doing these things. Obviously, Jesus' point is: If John the Baptist's authority came from God, Jesus' authority also comes from God because John the Baptist himself had already declared Jesus was more powerful than John (Luke 3:16). If John was a prophet, Jesus would also be a spokesman of God sent from heaven. The Jewish authorities FEARED two things: the Jewish people might stone him, OR they would have to admit the truth. The Jewish authorities are not competent to judge John the Baptist, and thus certainly they are not competent to judge Jesus. In contrast, Jesus knows clearly that he has authority from God his Father. 20:7-8. II. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants. Luke 20:9-19. a. Jesus immediately turns to the Jewish people in the crowd and tell them a parable to expose the sinful hearts and question to Jesus about the source of his authority. The Jewish authorities immediately knew the meaning of this parable--20:19. This is the parable: A man [God] planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants, then went to another country for a long time. The planting of the vineyard calls to mind Psalm 80:8-19; Isaiah 5:1-7. The "long time" symbolizes the intentional delay of the man to demonstrate God's tolerance and patience with this people to have plenty of time to respond to God positively. But if the people respond negatively, in due time, God will punish them. 20:9. b. In due time, the man who planted the vineyard sent a slave to the tenants they them might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard, but the tenants beat him and insulted him and sent him away. The man sent two additional servants to the tenants, but the tenants treated them as harshly as they had done to the first servant. The real problem was that the tenants had worked very hard in the vineyard and had grown very successful, and thus had become arrogant and disregard their contract with the man who planted the vineyard. Thus, now they are prepared to go to any length to keep for themselves what they had produced. 20:10-12. c. The owner of the vineyard [God the Father] pondered as to what to do, and finally decided to send his "beloved son" as a final effort to persuade the tenants to honor him and do the right thing. 20:13. d. When the owner's beloved son arrived, the tenants "discussed it among themselves" as to how to respond. Since they were self-centered and arrogant, they concluded: "This beloved son is the heir; so let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours." So they threw the beloved son out of the vineyard and killed him. Then Jesus asks: "What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?" Here the "beloved son" is Jesus, and the tenants are the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. This parable announces the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus at the hands of the Jewish authorities. 20:14-15. e. The owner of the vineyard decides to destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. The Jewish people responded by saying, This cannot happen. But Jesus said: Read the Bible in Psalm 118:22: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone." Then he refers to Isaiah 8:14-15, which says that everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on which it falls. See further Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4-8; Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45. This emphasizes the truth that when religious people oppose God through Jesus Christ, they may "kill" the "beloved son," but God the Father will raise him from the dead and bring severe judgment against those who oppose him. 20:16-18. f. Suddenly, the Jewish authorities realized that Jesus' parable addressed to the Jewish people was directed against them, they wanted to lay hands on Jesus, arrest him, and put him to death, but they FEARED the people. 20:19 This blog repeats the first part of the previous blog to complete the study of Luke 20:1-19. There are deep, important truths in this pericope. Ponder this carefully and increase YOUR faith. Share YOUR understandings and misgivings and reversals and insights and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU. John Willis


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