Monday, April 21, 2014

PARABLE OF THE WICKED SERVANTS


Jesus told a parable about wicked servants. It is recorded in Luke 20:9-19. In the story, a man planted a vineyard and rented it to tenants. He sent servants to collect some of the fruit of the vine, to which he was entitled as owner. But the tenants beat the three servants that came. He then sent his son, who would inherit the vineyard someday, but they killed him so they would have the inheritance.

The owner of the vineyard is a symbol for God. The vineyard is God's kingdom. The put these tenants there to cultivate his kingdom and produce fruit for him. The tenants are a symbol of the Jews. They did not produce fruit for God. The ran the kingdom for their benefit and as they pleased. They rebelled against God repeatedly. Way back in the time of Isaiah, centuries before Jesus' ministry, God condemned the failure of his vineyard, Israel, to produce fruit and threatened to destroy it. (Isaiah 5:1-7)

God warned them repeatedly, as the parable shows. He sent three servants. The servants stand for the prophets. They were abused, ignored, ridiculed and killed. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus said "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and sones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wins and you would not!"

God said his response to the rebellion of he Jews would be to "come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others". (Luke 20:16) Jesus is telling them he will take the kingdom away from them and give it to the church.

The audience understood that Jesus was saying he would take away the kingdom from them. They responded "surely not!". (Luke 20:17) The scribes and chief priests perceived that Jesus spoke about them, so they sought to kill him. (Luke 20:19) Ironically, their response to the prophesy of Jesus was to fulfill it. They sought to kill the Son.

As Gentile Christians, we tend to read the gospel accounts only to understand salvation. But, there is a strong word of judgment on Israel throughout, with John the Baptist, then Jesus warning that their rejection of Christ will be the final rebellion which brings judgment down on their heads.

The last recorded words of the Old Testament are in Malachi. It is a book which states God's complaints about Israel violating the covenant yet again. He called on them to repent. Otherwise, he will take their kingdom away from them. Chapter 3 speaks of the Messiah coming to Israel in judgment (3:5). His last words, the last words of the Old Testament are "…lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction".

After that word, the Lord was silent for several centuries. Then, he sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the very Messiah who would bring judgment to Israel. He picked right up where Malachi left off. He preached "repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". (Matthew 3:2) In other words, repent because the Messiah is coming to inaugurate his kingdom and you want to enter that kingdom, not suffer judgment for rebelling against God. When the Pharisees and Sadducees came to see him, he said "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come. Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." (Matthew 3:8) The fruit motif was a constant in reference to Israel, God's vineyard.

John knew those leaders would have the attitude Jesus addressed in his parable of the tenets. So, John continued to say:

"And do not presume to say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our father, for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 3:9-10) This is a clear word of judgment. He was saying, being an ethnic Jew, a descendant of Abraham, will not save you. You must obey God, producing fruit that shows you do so. Otherwise, "his winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire". (Matthew 3:12)

Those who repent would come into Christ's kingdom, baptized with the Holy Spirit. (11). Those who reject Christ are destroyed, both in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and in the final judgment. (12)

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