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Having the Kingdom Taken Away


Matthew 21:33‑46; Mark 12:1‑12; Luke 20:9‑18


 The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers


Having already told the religious leaders the publicans and harlots would enter the kingdom before them, Jesus went on to give a parable explaining a part of the reason.  In it, the kingdom is compared to a vineyard.  The landowner planted and completely equipped a vineyard.  He then leased the land to some vinedressers.  They agreed to pay the landowner out of the fruit of the vineyard. 


When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to collect the rent.  The vinedressers beat, stoned and killed the multiplied numbers of servants sent to collect.  "Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, 'They will respect my son.'"  However, the wicked vinedressers plotted against the son in hopes of getting his inheritance, which would include the vineyard in which they worked (John 11:47‑50). They then cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.  It appears this parable is suggesting the Jews knew they were rejecting a special messenger from God when they killed Jesus.


Obviously, this is a reference to the plots against the life of Christ.  They finally succeeded in casting him outside the city of Jerusalem and crucifying him (Acts 7:51‑52).  The writer of Hebrews speaks of this.  He makes an apparent reference to the Day of Atonement when the bullock and goat for sin offering were burned outside the camp.  Jesus had to die outside Jerusalem because he was an offering for sin (Leviticus 16:27; Hebrews 13:11‑13).


Christ's Question and the Leaders' Answer


Jesus then asked, "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"  Some of Christ's listeners correctly judged the owner would destroy those men and lease the vineyard to others who would honor their agreement with him.  Others, perhaps recognizing the full import of such a conclusion, said, "Certainly not!"  However, the correct answer was the former.


Their answer exposed the Father's thinking about them.  Coffman calls special attention to the fact that the son was sent last. The Jews had rejected a multitude of messengers from God right down to John the baptizer (1 Kings 18:13; 22:24‑27; Matthew 14:3‑12; Hebrews 11:35‑38).  Jesus is God's last spokesman to sinful man (Hebrews 1:1‑2;2:1‑3).  Those who reject him will not receive another messenger from the Father.  He waited with patience and longsuffering as they rejected the prophets.  Then he asked his Son to take the form of a servant so he could send him (Philippians 2:5‑8).  He served as the final messenger and the only fully acceptable sacrifice (Hebrews 10:26‑31).  Since they rejected him, they could only look forward to judgment with fear.


God Foretold The Rejection of Christ


Jesus went on to quote Psalm 118:22‑23.  He told the religious leaders the kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a nation which would bear fruit for him.  McGarvey says the quotation "is here by Jesus applied as a prophecy to the Pharisees, who, in their treatment of him, were like unskilled builders who reject the very corner‑stone of the building which they seek to erect."  He went on to say, "They blundered in constructing their theory of the coming kingdom, and could find no room for one such as Jesus in it."


The religious leaders stumbled at the teachings of Christ.  They were broken by them in the sense that they were condemned for not accepting him for who he was.  "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).  When he comes in judgment, those who have not obeyed him will be crushed under the weight of his judgment.  "In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel" (Romans 2:16).


Applying the Parable


It is important to make application of this parable to our day.  After all, we have been greatly blessed by God.  He has provided a wonderful kingdom for us.  "He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13‑14).   We have a protective hedge around us in the form of his promise to always provide a way of escape for us (1 Corinthians 10:13).


All that he expects in return is our bearing fruit to his glory (John 15:1‑8).  We must give him our lives in sacrificial service.  "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:1‑2).


To fail to give God the fruits of our labors is to jeopardize our eternal life with him in heaven.  We must be careful not to reject and kill his Son afresh (Hebrews 6:4‑6).  It would actually be better to never have known God's way than to be a part of it and turn back to the ways of the world (2 Peter 2:20‑22).  The Father will surely punish those who abuse his last great messenger, Jesus, the Son!


Discussion Questions


1.  Describe the blessings of Israel's relationship to God in light of the parable.


2.  Explain why Jesus portrayed the son as dying outside of the vineyard.


 3.  What was the thinking of the Father toward the religious leaders?  Why?


 4.  What verses did Jesus quote?  What do they mean?


 5.  Having seen what happened to the religious leaders, what should we do?