The parables that Jesus spoke were for the purpose of veiling His Words so that an unbelieving people wouldn’t be given truth that would do them no good. Mark 4:10-12 illustrates this:
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that
“‘they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.’”
While in Jerusalem during Holy Week just days before His crucifixion. Jesus related the Parable of the Wicked Tenants as He taught in the temple. This parable spoke of how the owner of a vineyard arranged for tenants to tend for it while he was away on a long journey. When he wanted to reap some of the fruits of his land, he sent various servants to claim them. However, the tenants had turned against the vineyard owner and mercilessly beat the man’s servants. Worse, when he sent his son to claim what was rightfully his, they killed the son. The parable declares that the tenants would suffer a terrible fate for their wicked actions toward the vineyard owner.
Jesus, of course, was speaking of Israel and what had happened over the years between God and the Israelites. God had provided a land filled with milk and honey, a bountiful vineyard. Everything in Israel and the world belongs to God. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10). He expected nothing from His children other than their allegiance, i.e. the fruit of the vineyard.
In His absence from Israel, God sent many prophets to remind the Israelites of where their worship should be directed. They had turned away from Him and lifted up foreign gods, so the prophets tried to redirect their hearts back to Him. Instead, the wickedness of the people’s hearts overcame their common sense. Rather than responding positively to the Word of the Lord through His prophets, they inevitably killed many of them. They had decided they wanted nothing to do with Yahweh, the One true God, who had given them all things. They thought they could be self-sufficient and follow other gods with no consequences.
In speaking of the vineyard owner sending his son whom the tenants killed, Jesus prophesied about His own death at the hands of God’s very children. Because of this atrocious sin, great evil would come upon them in a rightly deserved judgment. Because God sees and knows all things past, present, and future, Jesus spoke of their fate where they would lose all they had, even their very land.
Jesus spoke this parable within the parable in Luke 20:17:
But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
He was the cornerstone that the people of Israel rejected. In spurning Jesus, they fell upon Him and were crushed. Within forty years the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 AD. By 135 AD the Jews had been almost completely separated from their God-given land. The Romans even renamed it Palestine to cement their dismissal and loss.
In a flash of insight, the scribes and chief priests recognized their part in Jesus’ parable, as we see in Luke 20:19:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.
In seeking then to deliver [Jesus] up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor (Luke 20:20), the Pharisees actually became a part of the fulfillment of the prophetic Word of the parable.
Did they understand that aspect, i.e. that they were no different than the people before them who had killed God’s prophets? Would it have made any difference if they did?
Unfortunately the attitude of these religious men was the same as so many today that spurn the Word of God. Rather than read and understand the Bible for what it is, they interpret it for their own purposes. Whenever anyone does this and strays from Scripture’s truth, it’s as inevitable as night following day that they will turn even further from God.
The Bible’s truth is absolute. It says that in these last days, great apostasy will occur. Such turning from God can only happen in the house of God. Indeed, we see this in more churches throughout our land and the world than we can possibly number. It has to be this way as preparation for the evil that will overcome the world in the 7-year Tribulation, as sad and grievous as that is.
However, these dark times also provide those who truly follow the Lord Jesus Christ with the opportunity to be salt and light in the world that He said we should be. There is great fear in the hearts of many. Some of them will respond to the Gospel – the Good News of salvation through Christ alone.
There will be no grand revival in these days before the Rapture of the church and the subsequent Tribulation; that will occur only during those awful seven years with many coming to Christ but also being martyred for their faith. However, the fields are ripe for harvest right now.
Are we being obedient to the Lord and harvesting? Or are we cowering in fear because the world system is against us? This is a choice every single one of us must make.