The Bible records many of Jesus’ sayings, but we have become so familiar with them, that we overlook how controversial many of them were:
“A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard” (Luke 20:9-10).
In parabolic form, Jesus explains that many times God sent prophets to his people. The writer to the Hebrews puts it like this: “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2).
In Jesus’ parable, he describes how badly the prophets were treated: “But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out” (Luke 20:10-11).
However, God didn’t give up and we read: “I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” (20:13).
God had every right to expect his people to listen to his son, but mostly they didn’t. Over the centuries, the Israelites hadn’t significantly changed their behaviour in response to any of the prophets’ messages. The parable continues with the landowner’s son being killed (20:15). Jesus predicted his own death, in the parable.
The parable shows us that God continually takes the initiative to reveal himself to us. He was the one who spoke through the prophets, not just once but many times and in various ways. He was persistent and creative in his desire to call his people back to himself. When this wasn’t enough, he sent his own son, who has spoken to us not only through his words but even more powerfully through his actions in dying for us. Remarkably God didn’t give up!
However, we read the response of the religious leaders: “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately because they knew he had spoken this parable against them” (20:19).
They were more concerned about their reputation than their response to God.