Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard

(Matthew 21:33-41)

The parable of the tenants in the vineyard shows the way that the teachers and preachers of Jesus day abused their position. The priests, Pharisees and scribes were appointed to do a job, just as the tenants in the vineyard were to tend the vineyard and produce fruit. The priests, Pharisees and scribes were to teach the people the ways of God, but they failed in their role. Instead they took these appointed roles and used them to have power over the people.

In Christ we see many places where the Lord teaches that we are a brotherhood. As God shows no partiality, neither should Christians show partiality. There should be no “bosses,” no benefactors in authority over the people. The gifts of ministry given to the church such as apostles, pastors, teachers, prophets and so on were not give so that these people would lord it over the people. These were given for the express purpose of building up God’s people so that all would come to maturity in Christ. We see this in Ephesians 4:11-13.

11 And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,
12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ

In this parable in Matthew 21 however we see Jesus talking about the priests, Pharisees and scribes who used their positions wrongfully. They used their position to gain power, authority and advantage over the people. Thus, when God sent his servants, the prophets and teachers, to rectify this situation and teach the people, the priests had them taken away or killed. We see they had John the Baptist beheaded and there were many of the prophets likewise killed or shamefully treated. This is what Jesus meant when speaking of the owner of the vineyard sending servants to receive fruit from the tenants, whom the tenants beat and killed. They were not prepared to give up any of the fruit of the vineyard, just as the priests would not give up their power and authority over the people. The priests refused to accept the authority from God and so removed anyone who stood in their way.

Then the owner of the vineyard sends his son, whom the tenants should respect. Likewise Jesus came as the Messiah and Christ and should have commanded the respect of the priests, Pharisees and scribes as it was evident to all the Jesus was doing the works of God. Instead they were jealous and like the tenants in the vineyard, they had the son killed so they could hold on to their power.

When asked by Jesus what they thought the owner of the vineyard would do, they rightly pointed out that the owner would remove the tenants and let the vineyard out to others who would be obedient to the owner. They were unaware they were talking about themselves and casting judgment upon their own situation. And this is what the Father did. He removed the Old Covenant through the death of Jesus and set up the New Covenant. He removed the power base of the priests and gave the promise and inheritance of the kingdom of God to new tenants, to those who followed Jesus Christ.

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