Luke 20:9-18 tells the parable Jesus gave of the owner of a vineyard who went away and how the tenants desired to wrongly own the vineyard themselves. In order to maintain control of the vineyard they abuse messengers sent by and even kill the owners son. As with all parables, we must be careful not to push details of the story too far, but the main idea is that the owner of the vineyard has the rightful claim of the vineyard and that the tenants are wrong in their desiring to own the property. The parable points back to the Old Testament and how Godâ€™s prophets were sent to the Israelites and the world and their ultimate rejection of these prophets. It also points to Jesusâ€™ ultimate (as the Son) death at the hands of the religious leaders and sinful mankind.
Luke 20:9-18 “9Â And he began to tell the people this parable: â€œA man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10Â When the time came, he sent a servant2 to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11Â And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12Â And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13Â Then the owner of the vineyard said, â€˜What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.â€™ 14Â But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, â€˜This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.â€™ 15Â And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16Â He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.â€ When they heard this, they said, â€œSurely not!â€ 17Â But he looked directly at them and said, â€œWhat then is this that is written: â€œâ€˜The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstoneâ€™? 18Â Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.â€’
But there is a common question that I have encountered in ministry that this passage helps us to understand. In conversations with non-believers and discussions of the Bible I have heard something like â€œif God is so loving why would he tell the Israelites to kill everyone on the land they were conquering?â€
The root of the answer is â€œwho has rightful claim to the land?â€ God created the world, and as Creator it is His (Genesis 1:1 ff.).Â He created man and sent them out (as His followers) to â€œfill the earth.â€ His original design was for the world to be filled with those who bear His image to reflect His character and bring Him glory. But sin came into the picture and whole nations rejected the One True God and followed false gods.
God also, in His mercy and love, sent prophets among the nations to warn them of the consequences of their rejection. So by the time we see passages like 1 Chronicles 21, Deuteronomy 3, Joshua 6, Judges 21, and 2 Kings 10 these nations are not innocent. They have all rejected the One True Creator God, and as the owner of all, God had the right to take certain land from one group of people and give it to another group of people. Also, in many cases Israelâ€™s conquering and killing was a judgment upon these pagan nations. This same judgment would also come upon Godâ€™s own people when they apostatized throughout the Old Testament.
The Holy/Promised Land (as was the entire planet)Â was a place that was to be dedicated to the worship of the One True God (the Creator). So when the owner of the â€œvineyardâ€ demanded that they give him a portion of the harvest (worship, praise, tithes, adoration, etc.), we can see how evil it is for the tenants to reject the messengers and even kill his son. God owns everything in all of creation, and yes, even you (for you are wonderfully and beautifully made). Our choice is to accept this as God’s Word lovingly and mercifully warns us, or reject it and face the ultimate consequences of trying to claim something that is not rightfully ours.