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This is a difficult parable.
Context matters. This entire parable is told by Jesus right after the religious leaders in Jerusalem question him about his authority. Jesus tells this parable the last week of his life, between Palm Sunday and Good Friday.
The image of a vineyard was the central image in the Old Testament for Israel as the people of God. God makes a covenant with Israel, but then Israel has responsibilities because of that covenant. The people listening to Jesus understand that he’s talking about Israel, which is why, when tells he them what’s going to happen, namely that the owner of the vineyard will give it to others, they reply the way they do:
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”Luke 20:15b-16
When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
Jesus then quotes from Psalm 118:22:
“The stone the builders rejectedPsalm 118:22
has become the cornerstone”
The point is that what the religious leaders have despised will be the foundation of the new thing that God is going to do.
No wonder they crucified Jesus–you can understand how angry this parable would make the religious authorities in Jerusalem.
Jesus tells the leaders of the Jews that, if they reject him, they will lose their role in God’s plan to bless the whole world through them.
And that’s what happened.
Here’s the question for us: are we living productively and faithfully, in response to God’s call on our lives? We are not entitled to be part of God’s plan to save the world–it’s a gracious gift to be involved. But, if we don’t take responsibility to live faithful lives, God will move on to other people who are willing.
How can you say “Yes” to the Lord today?