19 The Lord’s Vineyard


Before we study the parable itself, let’s have a look at the background leading up to why Jesus spoke this parable.

  • Matthew 21:23
    And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?
  • This text sounds familiar because we actually studied it in the previous parable. The priests and scribes were asking about the authority that Jesus had to teach and to preach and to do whatever He did. Jesus asked them back a question about the baptism of John, whether it was from heaven or not. At the end they refused to answer. And so Jesus then launches into two parables.

We have already studied the first parable. It was the parable of the two sons. Jesus showed them that they (the priests and elders) were the second son who said he was going to go and work in the dad’s vineyard but never went. He showed them that the harlots and publicans would go into heaven before they did because even though they disobeyed at the beginning they would repent and eventually do God’s will. Now we will look at the second parable.

  • Matthew 21:33
    Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country:
  • The parable is about a householder who owns a vineyard. He does many things for this vineyard that he owns.
  • He hedges is round about. That means he put a barrier, like a fence, around it so that it would be protected.
  • He put in a winepress and also built a tower.
  • And then finally he let it out, meaning he hired people to work for him, and moved to a far country.
  • This is the background that we are given of this parable at the beginning.

Now who does the householder represent?

  • The word householder actually means “master of the house.” That is none other than God. He is the master of this vineyard.

How about the vineyard? What does the vineyard represent? We have seen this several times already actually.

  • Isaiah 5:7
    For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.
  • The vineyard represents the house of Israel of whom Jesus was speaking to at that point.
  • That represents the church today.

What does the hedging represent?

  • Zechariah 2:5
    For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.

    • God had put a wall of fire round about His people Israel. He had been protecting them.
    • God said He would be the glory in the midst of her.
  • What does the word glory mean?
    • Exodus 33:18-19
      18 And he said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. 19 And he said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.
    • The word glory is connected to character, God’s character.
  • Not only did God protect them, but His character was set forth in the midst of all of them. They tasted of His love, His goodness, His patience and long-suffering to all of them.
  • What else is connected to God’s character?
    • Romans 7:12
      Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
    • The 10 commandments also reflect God’s character.
  • So not only was God’s presence surrounding them and His character revealed to them and Jesus sent to them. His law, the 10 commandments was given to them above all other nations. It would be a hedge of protection to them from the rest of the world and it was also a revelation to them of God’s love towards each of them.
  • Psalms 19:7
    The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

    • The law of God was perfect and it had the power to change any person. It wasn’t just a list and law of commands, but in each word that was spoken to them and written down, it had the power to turn a sinner into a saint!
  • So even though many might think that the law seemed like a burden to them, Jesus is saying that this hedge was a protection to the nation of Israel. They were blessed with the presence and knowledge and power of God so that they could reveal to the wicked, fallen world God’s perfect character and the principles of His kingdom.

Why did the owner build a winepress?

  • Obviously he was expecting good quality grapes from his vineyard so then the winepress could produce high quality grape juice from it.
  • But what happened?
  • Matthew 21:34-36
    34 And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. 35 And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise.
  • The owner of the vineyard send his servants to check on the state of his property and to also claim the fruit that should have been ripe already by this time. And the workers that he had hired to be steward over it saw his servants coming and they took them and killed them.
  • Once again he sent more and they did the same thing. Killed each one of the servants that he sent.
  • Who are these servants that God sent to Israel that they killed?
  • Amos 3:7
    Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.

    • The servants are the prophets that God sent to speak directly to His people.
    • Many were sent through the Old Testament.
    • From Moses all the way down to Zechariah and Malachi.
    • Some were great prophets of God!
    • Ezekiel and Isaiah.
    • Jeremiah was sent to instruct and warn but all the Israelites did were hate him, despise him and try to kill him.
  • The Israelites disregarded the messages from the prophets. And not only disregarded them, they killed them.
  • Luke 11:49-51
    49 Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute: 50 That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation; 51 From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.
  • It was the children of Israel that killed all of God’s prophets and His apostles. They were despised and hated by the ones that they came to minister and to save.

So what did the master do next after hearing that the workers in the vineyard were killing every single one his servants that were sent?

  • Matthew 21:37-39
    37 But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. 38 But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. 39 And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
  • The master would send his son. He thought that surely they would respect his son. After all, he was the direct representative of the family. The son coming to a business holds all the power of the father who owns a company right?
  • But what would happen? They saw the son and thought to themselves that if they would kill him they could take ownership of all his inheritance – namely the vineyard.
    • It must have been obvious that this vineyard was producing a lot of fruit and that it was profitable and that the master of the vineyard was a rich man.
    • So they wanted all the assets from the inheritance of the son.
  • Now, who is the son? Obviously it is Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus suffers the same fate as the prophets. Time has not changed anything.
  • Remember that the vineyard was hedged about. That the glory of God was put into the midst of her. Jesus was the greatest manifestation of God’s glory to the Israelite nation.
    • 2 Corinthians 4:6
      For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
    • John 1:14
      And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
  • God’s glory was given very clearly through Jesus Christ coming to the earth. And not just any part of the earth, but specifically to the Israelite nation.
  • They were blessed with the visitation of God to walk amongst them. But they didn’t appreciate it. They didn’t treasure it. They killed Jesus just like how they killed all the prophets that came before Him.
  • When Jesus is speaking this parable, obviously He is not dead yet. They haven’t killed Him yet. But it just goes to show the warnings that Jesus gave them, how He could read the thoughts of their hearts.

So, coming back to the parable, when the master heard how the workers treated his son, what did he do?

  • Matthew 21:40
    40 When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? 41 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.
  • Jesus actually asks the Scribes and Pharisees what should be done. And without thinking, what was their reply? Destroy those wicked men and give the vineyard to someone else who would produce and give the fruit at the right season.
  • Obviously these workers were already benefitting from the fruits that were being produced by the vineyard. They were partaking of all the grapes that were grown there.
  • And similarly the children of Israel were reaping the benefits from the gospel and from being God’s chosen people. But they never gave the fruits back to the owner of the vineyard. They did not produce the fruits in season that was justifiably asked for.
  • And in haste to reply, as they were absorbed in following the parable, they pronounced judgment on themselves!

Jesus absolutely agrees with the conclusion of the scribes and Pharisees.

  • Matthew 21:42-44
    42 Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? 43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. 44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
  • The kingdom of God would be taken away from the Israelite nation and given to someone else. And that is exactly what happened. Approximately 40 years after Jesus died, Jerusalem was destroyed and the message of the gospel was spread to the whole world. The children of Israel are no longer God’s chosen people, chosen nation. They are no longer the ones that are called from darkness into the marvellous light of God so that they can be witnesses to the whole world.
  • The Bible says that this privilege would be given to another nation. But we know that there is no singular nation that is called today but it is the Christian churches.

However, when Jesus said that the privilege of stewardship would be taken from them and given to another nation, it was not just any nation. There was a specific characteristic that was highlighted about who would qualify to fill their place. What was this characteristic?

  • It would be given to a nation that would bring forth fruits.
  • You see, it’s one thing to be called a Christian, but it’s quite another to be a fruit-bearing Christian.

How can we be fruit-bearing Christian’s today?

  • Let’s start with the most obvious.
    • Galatians 5:22-23
      22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
    • The fruit here is the fruits of the Spirit. It is love, joy, peace. All these good characteristics that should define every Christian.
  • You see friends, it’s one thing to call ourselves a Christian, it’s quite another to act like a Christian. We should have the character of Christ.
    • We should have the character of Christ more than just the day that we go to church.
    • When we are waiting in line to a bank, when we are in line at the shopping center, when we are servicing our cars, when we are studying at school, and while we work in the work place. The character of Christ is not something to turn on and off. Our characters are the essence of who we are.
  • The Israelites did not act like Christ at all. They were killing the prophets, they were filled with hatred, malice and envy for many people around them. Their characters were very much unlike Christ’s yet they claimed to be called God’s chosen people.
  • Some of us need a change in character.
    • Whether that is stopping lying or stealing. Or stop cursing. Or stop losing our tempers.
    • We need the sweet Spirit of Christ to fill us so that we can be kind, gentle, patient and long suffering.

But in order to have a character like Christ, what else do we need to be fruitful in?

  • 2 Peter 1:8
    For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • God wants us to be fruitful in the knowledge of who He is. And the only way that we can be fruitful in the knowledge of God is to spend time in His word and in prayer.
  • You see, the Israelites had forgotten who God was. They were caught up with forms and ceremonies to the point that even the scripture repeated had lost its meaning. And as a result, there was no transformative impact in their lives and their characters became more and more degraded.
  • They had lost the influence of His Spirit and His Word – the only thing that could change a person into a true Christian!

What other fruits does God expect from us today?

  • Philippians 1:11
    Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

    • God wants us to have the fruits of righteousness, the fruits of right doing.
    • Notice what is says right after that though. How? Which are by Jesus Christ.
    • We can try all we want to have good fruits, but without Jesus we can do nothing!
  • Colossians 1:10
    That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;

    • Though we are not saved by works, God cares about how we live our lives and how we conduct ourselves. He does care about our works.
    • Notice what Colossians says. If we want to be fruitful in every good work, we must also increase in the knowledge of God. It’s clear that spending time with Christ and increasing in our knowledge of Him every day will affect our works. It will transform us into righteous sons and daughter of God.
  • He wants us to be righteous. What does that mean?
    • Romans 6:22
      But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
    • He wants us to experience victory over sin. That is true holiness.
  • Our works and the life that we live should reflect our profession. Not simply to be just turned on one day a week when we go to church, but to be lived seven days a week. No matter the place or the time.
  • He wants us to be righteous. To live and act righteously. To experience victory.

What other fruits does the Bible talk about? Maybe you are spending time with Jesus and praying every day and have fruits of righteousness in your life. But there’s one more fruit that I want to highlight.

  • Proverbs 11:30
    The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.
  • What is this fruit that the Bible talks about? It’s leading others to know about Jesus! It’s telling others about the love that is burning in your heart.
  • You see, God wants us to be witnesses for Him. Not just know Him for ourselves personally but also tells others about Him.
  • The Israelites had all these blessings from God, but they kept it all to themselves. They didn’t share the gospel blessing to others as God had instructed Abraham to do. He wanted to bless Abraham so that he could in-turn be a blessing to the whole world!

The message was not just for the Israelite nation back then but even for us today as Christian’s.

  • How much has God blessed you? Can you think of blessings right now where you are? Can you remember all of God’s goodness to you? Or has sin blinded your eyes to every good and perfect gift that has come down from heaven to you?
  • And are you turning around and giving back to God the glory? What are the returns that you have made back to the Giver of all good things in your life? How have you been treating the claims of God?
  • Too many of us today are serving mammon, we’re serving money. Wealth, position and pleasure is our aim. And we’ve all but forgotten God.
  • Instead of using the gifts of God to be a blessing to humanity, we’ve hoarded it up for our own selfish purposes.
  • There are many who claim to be a Christian but who are not under Christ’s rule. We are not heeding His instruction nor showing fruits for His glory. And instead of being a savour of life unto life, because of our claim as a Christian, we become a savour of death unto death. We are doing incalculable harm!

Today we need to exalt Jesus Christ and His law gain. Not just from our mouths, but in our hearts. It is that law that has the power to covert a soul, to turn them from sin to righteousness.

  • Hebrews 10:16
    This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them.
  • Only as we allow God to put His law in our hearts and minds today can we then bear fruit for His glory and not for our own. Only as Jesus resides there can we live a full life on this earth.
  • It is only then that we can turn from self to the glorious possibilities that God has planned for us in Christ Jesus.

Let us heed the warnings from this parable today, that we might be fruit bearing trees and a saving influence to all around us.

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