Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lord's Vineyard

Life of Christ 153

          It is Tuesday morning. Jesus will die tomorrow afternoon. Today is the longest day of His or any man's life. Confrontation began in Jerusalem before He even arrived at the Temple and it will continue almost without interruption until His death on Wednesday afternoon.
          A moment ago He dispatched the Sanhedrin's attack on His credibility (see Jesus 1, Sanhedrin 0), and began an immediate counterattack on the Pharisees. He does this with three parables and today's post is the second of those three parables. (Matthew 21.33-41)
A vineyard in Judea, 2005
       In the Torah, the Psalms, and the prophets there are numerous examples of Israel being likened to a vineyard. Jesus knows this and He knows that His enemies know it as well. Thus, when He chooses to use a vineyard as the basis for this story He knows that His hearers will understand Him to mean this parable is about Israel.
          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. Jehovah carefully planted Israel in the land of Canaan. He then turned it over to husbandmen (the leaders of Israel).
          And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. Jesus is here referring to the many prophets and messengers Jehovah had sent unto Israel. These men, such as Jeremiah for instance, or John the Baptist more recently, were trying to get Israel to produce fruit and they were roundly rejected.
          But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. With this statement Jesus is clearly referring to Himself, and the crowd around Him knows that. They know that He claimed to be, not only Israel's Messiah, but the very Son of God Himself. He is saying here that He has been sent straight from Jehovah to a disobedient Israel in order to give her one last opportunity to straighten up.
          But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize the inheritance. You would almost think, reading that sentence, that Jesus had been privy to the private discussions of the Sanhedrin in John 11 after the resurrection of Lazarus. They were very concerned that Jesus would cause them to lose their positions as Israel's religious leadership and thus formally voted to conspire His assassination. (see One Man Should Die for the People)
          And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. Jesus' death is still completely unknown to the crowd around Him in the Temple that day, but it was well known to Himself, and to the Sanhedrin. In the middle of a Temple thronging with Passover pilgrims Jesus is calmly telling the Sanhedrin that He knows they will kill Him soon.
          One of the things that is absolutely amazing about Jesus is how He conducts Himself on this, the last week of His life. He is staring death right in the face. Even worse, He is staring the agonizing separation from His Father right in the face. All the horror of hell is about to be poured out on His head. His own people are rejecting Him. And yet He has the unmitigated gall to inform His enemies repeatedly that judgment will come down upon them as a result and that He will win in the end.
Harvesting grapes in Judea, 2007

          When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season. We have already seen the appalling judgment coming to a Christ-rejecting Jerusalem and Israel. (see The Lament Over Jerusalem) The Sanhedrin did not see it. The crowd around Jesus in the Temple that day did not see it. But Jesus did, and looking right down the gun barrel, so to speak, he calmly informs His executioners that they will lose in the end.

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