20. "The Wicked Trustees/Tenants"

Matthew 21:33–46

Today, Jesus offers another challenging parable on judgment. He sets the scene by describing the investment that a landowner has made in his vineyard. He details the time and energy expended in planting, fencing, digging, and building. He finally speaks of the landowner placing it under the stewardship of trustees/tenants.
Let's look at who's represented in this challenging parable, the responsibilities of the trustees/tenants, and the dire consequence of their not fulfilling them.

Parables of

Matthew 21:33–46 [Click to open and read this parable. Re-click to close it.]

"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 went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35"The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. 'They will respect my son,' he said.
38"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.' 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40"Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?"
41"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."

42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures:
"'The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes'?

43"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. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

The Wicked Trustees/Tenants

The landowner reasonably expects the tenants to fulfil their part of the deal — to work the vineyard and pay the rent — but the tenants have other ideas: They see the vineyard as theirs — anyone coming from the landowner was a threat to deal with accordingly.

Reading further, Jesus tells us that the tenants even resorted to killing the landowner’s own son. Jesus then poses the question: Accordingly, what should the landowner do?

The answer is straightforward: The landowner will deal severely with the tenants, handing the vineyard over to others. At this stage, they've not yet fully realized what Jesus meant.

So: Who was who in this parable? The vineyard was a symbol for Israel; God was the landowner; Jesus was the landowner's son who was killed; and the tenants were played by the Pharisees — those religious officials who rejected the people God sent. The story says that the tenants (Pharisees) were furious when Jesus directed his harsh words toward them, calling them the poorest of tenants. The consequence for being wicked tenants is shown in verse 43). [Click to read this passage.] "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."

Matthew was writing for the community of Jewish Christians who were coming to terms with the fact that the Kingdom of God was passing from Jewish hands into the hands of Gentiles. He was also warning those newly entrusted with the Kingdom that they do not own the Kingdom but are stewards of it and are required to be faithful to that stewardship and produce its fruit. Otherwise, they, in their turn, may see it taken from them.

Hearty application  God left us to tend to this vineyard and make it productive. When God gave it to us, the fields were lush and beautiful.

What kind of tenants have we been in his vineyard?

Can't we be better stewards by increasing
his crop? Sure we can. But how?

Take our Parables Quiz!

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