Luke 20:9–18

Read the passage.

Having met the challenge to His authority, Jesus teaches a parable about a landowner and wicked tenants. The landowner sends slaves to get his portion of the harvest of the land from the tenants, but the tenants refuse to hand it over. Instead they beat the slaves and send them back to their master. Three times they are sent and three times they are beaten and turned away.

In real life, after the first time the tenants refused to pay, a landowner would likely send soldiers to enforce the agreement he had with the tenants. In this story, though, the landowner sends his son whom he loves, thinking the tenants may respect him. However, the tenants see an opportunity to muddy up the legal waters. If the heir to the land is dead, then who might it pass to when the owner dies if not themselves? So they take the heir outside of the vineyard and kill him.

At this point, Jesus tells the people that the landowner no longer has mercy on his wicked tenants, comes back to his vineyard, kills the tenants, and hands over the vineyard to others to manage. The reaction of the crowd is interesting, I think. “Surely not!” they cry (v. 16); a vehement rejection of what Jesus said. They understood that the parable was about God’s relationship with Israel, where He sends the prophets to the people, who reject them. Eventually He sends His own Son, and He is killed, so they are thinking that Jesus says God will replace Israel as His chosen people.

They have forgotten that God had already done that before, way back when they were about to enter the Promised Land for the first time. A whole generation of Israelites died in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb because of their unbelief. God’s promise to Israel can’t be broken, even by Himself, but the individuals within the group can be changed.

Jesus is then very direct when He quotes Psalm 118 to them. The verse He mentions comes in the section celebrating God’s victory over evil in the last days. Altogether He is linking the landowner’s son with the rejected stone that brings about final victory, crushing those who stumble over it.

Let us rejoice and be glad in the Day of the Lord, when You prove Yourself the ruler of all the earth.

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