Tom Hayes


Luke 20:9-18

Many Old Testament prophecies described the details of Christ's birth. The first prophecy said that He would be born of a woman (see Gen. 3:15). Later, Isaiah predicted that this woman would be a virgin (see Isa. 7:14). Also, we read that He would come from the tribe of Judah (see Gen. 49:10), and His birthplace would be Bethlehem (see Micah 5:2). We're even informed that this little one would eventually inherit the throne of David (see 2 Sam. 7:11, 12; Isa. 9:6, 7), and rule over the heathen (Psa. 2:8).

The prophecies that were most baffling, however, were those that spoke of the Messiah's rejection and death. He was to be despised by His own (Isa. 53:3), betrayed by one of His own disciples (Psa. 41:9; Zech. 11:12, 13), scourged (Zech. 13:7), and crucified between two thieves (Isa. 53:12). These and other prophecies underlined one conclusion - - Jesus was born to die! His birth in Bethlehem would lead to His death at Calvary. The babe in the manger would become the sacrifice on the cross.

A parable has often been defined as "an earthly message with a heavenly meaning." I like to refer to a parable as a spiritual object lesson. Often, Jesus took objects or figures from daily life and taught various spiritual lessons. In The Parable Of The Husbandmen, a special parable found in its entirety in three of the four Gospels (see Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; & Luke 20:9-18), Jesus used a common scene to declare that God sent His Son to die.

"The parable itself is a remarkable combination of figure, history, and prophecy" (J. C. Ryle). Without question, the vineyard represents Israel (see Isa. 5:1-7); the husbandmen portray the Jewish authorities and the people they rule; the rejected servants signify the messengers and prophets God had sent to His people; and the beloved son, with a dignity surpassing that of the servants, can only speak of Jesus, Himself, the Beloved Son of the Father.

Actually, Christ gave this parable to answer the religious leaders question concerning His authority (see 20:1-8). The message is plain and simple! As the Beloved Son, as the Sent One, with the Father's authority behind Him, He had every right to do what He chose to do! There are other special truths, Gospel truths, that stand out in the context, however, and we will do well to meditate upon them.

1. The Witness Of God's Patience

Alfred Edersheim points out that there were three ways land could be leased: ". . . the laborers employed received a certain portion of the fruits; the tenant paid a money-rent to the proprietor, or else that he agreed to give the owner a definite amount of the produce, whether the harvest had been good or bad." The third procedure seems to be the lease mentioned in the parable. The vineyard had been leased, and now the owner determined to collect what was owed (see 20:9, 10).

A. He Sent His Servants

Over a period of time, the owner of the field sent three servants to retrieve his share of the increase. All of them were rejected and abused (see 20:10-12), and parallel with three groups of the prophets: (1)The Early Prophets, like Moses and Joshua; (2)Prophets before the Babylonian captivity, like Elijah and Elisha; and, (3)Prophets after the Babylonian captivity, like Jeremiah and Isaiah. Similarly, through the years, God had patiently dealt with His people, sending them messenger after messenger, only to have them rejected.

B. He Sent His Son

Although his servants had been rejected, the persistent lord of the vineyard said, "I will send my beloved son" (20:13). As the story reveals, the tenants didn't "reverence him" either (see 20:13), but treated him with utter disdain. In a most particular way, however, the patience and kindness of God is conveyed here. For, while Jews and Gentiles alike mocked the divine message through the ages, "the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared" (Titus 3:4). Bless His Name! The "God of patience" (Rom. 15:5) still sent His Son.

The parable not only declares the witness of God's patience, but also reveals:

2. The Wickedness Of Man's Pride

It is true that God sent His Son to die in this world, and that Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). Yet, the exceeding wickedness of man's proud heart was unveiled in His death. Jesus not only died for the wicked, or in the stead of sinners, but by "wicked hands," was "crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23). No where is this emphasis more clearly given than in this parable.

A. The Wicked Designs Of Man

When the owner's son came to the vineyard, the wicked husbandmen "saw him," and "they reasoned among themselves, saying, 'This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours'" (20:14). Motivated by selfishness and greed, they "cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him" (20:15). From the time of the garden of Eden, man has had his fist clinched at God; his carnal mind has been filled with "enmity against God" (Rom. 8:7). This hatred and corruption nailed Jesus to the cross!

B. The Wicked Desires Of Man

These husbandmen did not intend to pay the debt they owed to the landowner. Initially, they had agreed to give him his share. But, having labored in the field, they wanted all the fruit, and the credit for all the fruit. Although man was originally created by God to glorify Him, since the fall, he has wanted the glory that is really due to his Creator. Only the grace of God can reinstate the desire in our hearts to praise, honor, and glorify Him.

We not only see the witness of God's patience, and the wickedness of man's pride in this parable, but, lastly, we also see:

3. The Wonder Of Salvation's Plan

Why did God send His Son to die? It was His great plan of salvation! Because of man's sin, His wrath had to be appeased; His justice had to be satisfied. Since God alone could satisfy Himself, the divine purpose was that God, in Christ, would die in our stead. Thus, He "sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). He did not send just another servant! But, blessed be God, He sent the most worthy One, His Beloved Son, to pay the exacted payment for sins.

A. The Horror Of The Cross

We have concluded that God sent His Son to die, but how was He die? He was to pay for our sins, but how would He accomplish that? He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8), and He must die as a lamb on an altar. The horror of the cross, God's chosen altar, was inevitable. On the cross, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:5).

B. The Head Of The Corner

Jesus explained that the very Stone that was not allowed in the religious building would "become the Head of the corner" (20:17). That is, the One Who was rejected, and crucified, would be raised up as Lord of all! Yes, He "endured the cross" and "the shame" of it. But, then, He was exalted to "the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:2). Therefore, our deliverance or damnation depends on our relationship to Christ and His Headship. To use His words, "Whosoever shall fall upon that Stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (20:18).

As were returning home from some Christmas shopping, we could easily see the seasonal cross placed on the radio tower on top of the mountain. It was all lit up! Remember seeing it at Easter time, our daughter, Akaisha, inquired why the cross was shining at Christmas time, a time when we celebrate Jesus' birth and not His death. To say the least, her preacher-father enjoyed explaining to her that Jesus was born to die. Oh, may our hearts embrace this truth with a renewed appreciation! Amen.