READ Luke 20:9-19
What was the worst experience you ever had with the neighborhood bully? How has it affected your life?
- How does this parable relate to the question of authority raised in 20:1-8? Whose authority is at question in this parable? What would Jesus choose this time to tell this parable?
- Do the people seem to have understood the parable? Why are they so upset in v. 16?
- What do you think verse 18 means? Rephrase this statement. How does your paraphrase reflect your understanding of this statement?
- Do the chief priests and teachers of the law understand the parable? Why or why not? How do their actions in verse 19 support your position?
- At different times in your life, how have you received Jesus? How do you make him feel welcome in your life each day?
- How would you write this parable in a more modern setting?
- Is Jesus more like a millstone (weight) or a capstone (one who holds
everything together) in your life? Why?
- Whom do you feel most like in this story? Why? How could your
Christian friends encourage you this week?
Who Has Authority Over the Vineyard? (20:9-19)
20:9. Before the delegation could leave, Jesus turned to the people and told a parable. The story began with a man who planted a vineyard (20:9). As soon as Jesus spoke these words, His first hearers would have recalled a much older allegory, a parable that the prophet Isaiah had spoken eight hundred years earlier.
In Isaiah’s telling of the story, a landowner planted a vineyard and hoped for abundant fruit (Isa. 5:1-2). Yet the vines yielded only sour grapes (5:2-4). As a result, the landowner uprooted his own vines, reducing the vineyard to a “wasteland” overgrown with the “thorns” of Adam’s curse (5:6; see Gen. 3:18). He even ripped down the walls that had once protected his vineyard (5:5).
In Isaiah’s allegory, the vineyard planter was God (Isa. 5:3-5), and the vineyard garden represented the people of Judah and Israel (5:7). God fulfilled these prophecies in 586 B.C. when He allowed the Babylonians to wreck Jerusalem and uproot His people from their land.
20:10-12. Jesus began by hinting at Isaiah’s prophetic allegory. Then, He took the story through several unexpected twists.
In Jesus’ telling, the owner of the vineyard leased the property to tenant farmers. Such arrangements were common in the first century A.D. Tenant farmers in these circumstances were responsible to care for the vineyard. In exchange for their labors, the farmers received a portion of the profits from the vineyard.
These particular farmers weren’t satisfied with their fair share of grapes. They wanted the entire vineyard garden. Again the central question was who possessed ultimate authority.
A long time passed before the owner sent a slave to represent his authority and to collect his rightful due. When the slave arrived, the tenants refused to hand over any of the vineyard’s yield. They beat the slave and sent him away empty-handed (20:10). Three times the owner and tenants repeated this pattern. The third time, the tenants did more than merely send the slave away empty-handed; they declared their total contempt for the owner’s authority. Theywounded the slave and threw him out (20:12).
20:13-15. When Jesus placed the clause, What should I do?, on the lord’s lips, He was paraphrasing a sentence from Isaiah’s allegory: “What more could I have
done?” (Isa. 5:4). Indeed, what more could this owner do? He could send his beloved son, and that is what he did (Luke 20:13). The owner’s hope was that, when the tenants saw his beloved son, they would submit to his authority (20:13). But that’s not what happened at all. Instead of recognizing the owner’s authority in the face of the son, the tenants decided it was time for them to take the vineyard for themselves (20:14).
According to certain rabbis’ interpretation of the law, if persons without a title deed cared three years for a tract of land, they could then make an appeal to become the landowners—but only if their possession of the property was undisputed. The tenants foolishly thought that, if they eliminated the heir, they might be able to claim hisinheritance for themselves after a time.
Jesus ended the parable by posing a question to the crowd and council: What will the owner of the vineyard do to them? (20:15). When Jesus asked this question, the atmosphere on the temple mount must have turned tense.
It was clear from Isaiah’s prophecy that the owner of the vineyard represented God and that Israel was the vineyard (Isa. 5:3-7). Throughout the Old Testament, prophets had been known as the Lord’s “slaves” or “servants,”; so the slaves in the story most likely symbolized the many prophets that God had sent to Israel. The beloved sonwas none other than Jesus. Twice already, God the Father had identified Jesus as His beloved Son—first at His baptism, then later when He was transfigured on the mountain (Luke 3:22; 9:35).
But who did the tenants symbolize? Who were these faithless farmers, more concerned with their own authority than with cultivating lasting fruit for their Lord?
The tenant farmers represented the religious leaders of Israel—and these leaders knew it. “The scribes and the chief priests … knew,” Luke noted only a few verses later, “He had told this parable against them” (20:19).
Past leaders of Israel had killed the prophets that God had sent (11:47; Acts 7:52). The scribes and priests of Jesus’ own generation were preparing to follow in their forefathers’ footsteps. Already, they were looking for a chance to destroy Jesus (19:47).
When Jesus asked what the owner of the vineyard would do, what He was really asking was what God would do to the scribes and priests of Israel. The answer that Jesus gave to this question would set the religious leaders even more strongly against Him.
20:16-19. Jesus’ prophetic response shocked His first hearers: He will come and destroy those farmers and give the vineyard to others. The crowd’s reply reflected their deep horror at this possibility: No—never! (20:16).
In the Old Testament, in the decades that followed Isaiah’s prophecy about a vineyard, God had used the rulers of another nation to punish His people’s rebellion (2 Chron. 36:15-21; Isa. 5:13-30). Now, according to Jesus, God was preparing to repeat this pattern—but with an important twist. This time, the result would not be exile. Instead, Jesus would endure exile in place of His people (threw him out of the vineyard, 20:15). The religious leaders (those farmers) and their authority would be brought to an end. In the meantime, God would raise up new leaders to oversee those who would become His people (give the vineyard to others, 20:16).
All of this happened precisely as Jesus predicted.
Before the greatest week in history was over, the ruling council would exile Jesus from the community of Israel, turn Him over to the Gentiles, and have Him crucified (threw him out of the vineyard and killed him, 20:15; see Heb. 13:12-13). After Jesus rose from the dead, God would give the vineyard to others by raising up apostles and elders to shepherd God’s new covenant people (Acts 15:2-6,22-23; 1 Pet. 5:1-3; see also Jer. 23:4). During the conflicts that resulted the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, every chief priest of Israel would die or be sentenced to die in prison, and the power of these religious leaders would come to an end. In this way, God did indeed destroy those farmers (20:16).
Jesus looked at the crowd in the same way He would later look at Simon Peter when the fisherman denied that he’d been with Jesus (Luke 20:17; 22:59-61). He looked at them knowing what was happening in their hearts. He drove home His point with a quotation from Psalm 118—the same psalm that some in this very crowd sang during the triumphal entry (Ps. 118:22; Luke 19:38): The stone that the builders rejected—this has become the cornerstone (20:17). In older stone buildings, thecornerstone was the first stone set into place. This single foundation block in the corner served as the reference point for all other parts of the building.
The religious leaders had rejected Jesus the cornerstone, preferring a temple and traditions that provided them with power over the people. Like the walls around the vineyard in Isaiah’s allegory, this temple would be torn to the ground (Isa. 5:5). Jesus would become the foundation stone for a new temple. This new temple would be a spiritual temple, founded on Jesus Christ and formed by bringing Jews and Gentiles together into one people (Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Pet. 2:4-10).
Long ago, the prophet Isaiah had foreseen a stone that would become a trap and snare to the citizens of Jerusalem (Isa. 8:14-15). Jesus concluded this parable by declaring that He was precisely that sort of stone. Anyone who rejected Him would bebroken to pieces; if anyone stood in His way, they would be crushed to powder(Luke 20:18).
When Jesus first spoke these sentences, He possibly used a few Hebrew words, especially since He was quoting familiar texts from the Hebrew Scriptures. If so, a play on words probably tied the parable of the tenants to the texts about the stone. The Hebrew word for “son” is ben; the word for “stone” in Psalm 118:22 and Isaiah 8:14 is eben. This playful use of similar-sounding words made it clear to the crowd that the son rejected by the farmers was also the stone rejected by the builders (Luke 20:13-14,17)—and that Jesus was the fulfillment both of the son and the stone!
Jesus’ central point was unmistakable: He was God’s beloved Son. His authority came from heaven, and anyone who resisted His reign would perish. The scribes and chief priests knew that Jesus had spoken these words against them. Still, they did not submit to His authority. Desperate to maintain their own power, they looked for some way to stop Jesus that very hour. The presence of the people prevented their plans from succeeding (20:19).
Source: Serendipity Bible Study Book, pp. 183-184