39 – Losing the Inheritance
And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
- Vineyard: A place to grow grapes
- Winepress: A place to crush grapes to get the juice from them
- Tenant: Someone who hires a place
- Heir: Someone who receives something after the death of its owner
Which different characters appear in this parable?
Have you ever thrown something away, only to realise that it is more valuable than you realised?
Although he has refused to answer the question of the leaders, Jesus keeps on trying to explain to them that he is the one that God promised he would send to save his people. He does this by using parables. The picture of a vineyard is very familiar to them. It appears several times in the Old Testament as a symbol of Israel as the people of God. For example, Isaiah 5 describes the way that God planted Israel like a vineyard, but because it didn’t bring forth any fruit, he punished the people and let them be conquered by another country.
In this parable, Jesus uses this picture to show how Israel has lost its way. Although God has done so much for these people, they have turned away from true worship, depending instead on how well they could live. Like the man who sent his servants to receive the fruit, God sent prophets to lead his people, but they rejected every one of them. In the end this man sends his son, but they treated him in exactly the same way because they wanted to keep hold of their power. Now God had sent his own Son, and they were still rejecting him. This is a serious warning to the people.
Jesus warns that them that the kingdom of God is like a building. At the time they were rejecting him just like a stone or a brick that didn’t look good enough. But eventually they will realise that he is the most important part, which holds the entire building together. If they continue in this way, then, exactly as the owner of the vineyard came to punish the tenants and to give that which they had to other people, so God is going to punish them for rejecting his Son and will give the kingdom to others.
Why do you think the tenants in the parable behaved in the way they did?
At the end of the story the owner of the vineyard gave it away to other people. Why is this good news?
that God would help you to be faithful with what he has given into your care.