The Parable of the Tenants

Matthew 21:33-46:

“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.

“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

In this parable Jesus tells of a landowner with a vineyard who builds a wall around it to protect his investment.  He dig a winepress to harvest the vineyard’s bounty, and he erects a watchtower to oversee all that goes on.  Finally, the landowner rents out the vineyard to tenant farmers, then he goes on a long journey thinking his investment is safe.  When it’s time for harvest, the landowner sends his servants to collect the fruit, but the tenants seize each of the servants and kill them.

The landowner eventually sends his son to collect what’s owed him, but the wicked tenants kill him too.  The consequence for the tenants is that when the landowner himself returns, those tenants will have a wretched end.  The landowner will rent out the vineyard to other tenants who will be honest and faithful and give back their share at harvest time.

The vineyard that Jesus speaks of is Israel.  When God gave the land to the Israelites, He placed His protection around it and assured that it would produce a great bounty.  He promised in Deuteronomy 28 that if Israel followed God and all His ways, she would receive much blessing.

At the time of God’s choosing, i.e. the time of the harvest, He sent many prophets and finally His Son, Jesus Christ, to collect what was due Him.  He expected the Jews to obey, worship, and adore Him.  Instead, they killed the prophets and worshiped idols.  Finally, they killed Jesus and went so far as to accuse Him of being from Satan.

For their disobedience and rebellion, the curses of God—long since prophesied and known from Deuteronomy 28 and many other places in holy Scripture—came upon Israel.

Two times over the centuries Israel was scattered from the land.  The first complete dispersion concluded in 586 BC.  The final scattering was a two-part event.  The destruction of the temple occurred in 70 AD and the final dispersion of Israel from the land happened in 135 AD.

Following the first rebuke by God, he graciously brought them back after seventy years to the land.  Unfortunately, their hard hearts caused such rebellion, ending in their crucifying Christ, that God cast them out of Israel for 2,000 years.

This period since Jesus is known as the Church Age.  The Church is the new tenant that God gave the harvest to in order for them to share with Him.

For 2,000 years Israel was wretched, naked, and seemingly abandoned by God.  But He has gathered them again in the land of Israel.  He is not through with His chosen people, the apple of His eye.

Israel is destined to experience the time of Jacob’s trouble described in Jeremiah 30:7, which is the 7-year Tribulation in order that she might be saved.  Just like many people need to be completely broken in order to truly turn to Jesus, this is how it will be with Israel enduring the horrors of the wrath of the Lamb during this time of judgment:

Alas! For that day is great,
So that none is like it;
And it is the time of Jacob’s trouble,
But he shall be saved out of it.

As the verse says, a remnant will survive.  They will acknowledge the landowner’s Son as Messiah and God.

This remnant of Israel—finally obedient—will go into the Millennium with the Name of Jesus on their lips and serve God for all eternity.

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