“What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
He shall come and destroy these husbandmen,
and shall give the vineyard to others.” Luke 20:15&16
The church has often wrestled with two truths in scripture that appear to contradict each other:
1) the Fatherhood of God and 2) the justice and judgment of God. So often are they pitted against each other that one may be completely ignored, forgotten or even denied. We might reason: God is a loving Father so He cannot come in judgment against us or God is a judge and will show no mercy. Some have even concluded that these two ‘representations’ of God are, in fact, opposing facets of two different ideas of God or two different gods altogether.
We see plainly in our Lord’s parable of the vineyard that this is a false dichotomy. In this story He casts His opponents as those who are charged with care of a vineyard. These caretakers are required to give some of the bounty to the owner of the vineyard but when he sends his servants to collect what is his due, they treat them shamefully and cast them out. Finally the “lord of the vineyard” resolves to send his son that they may listen to him as his spokesmen. But, as Jesus tells us, they kill him instead that they may possess the vineyard themselves.
Now there are many truths gained from this parable (as it is clearly explained in the following verses – 17ff.). The Father has sent His Son, the heir of the vineyard, to claim what is His right. The church is God’s possession: He places men (office bearers) in her midst to tend to it but only for a time and only at His pleasure.
Furthermore, it may be implied that the people of the old covenant and the people of the new covenant possess the same ‘ground.’ As a result of the widespread rebellion of Jesus’ generation, the Father gives “the vineyard to others” (vs. 16). These are the Gentiles, or the nations of the world. This is the time we live in: the ascendancy of the Gentile nations to the vineyard and the bearing of fruit to God from the ‘uncircumcised’ peoples of the world.
But why? Why were the Jewish people, the physical descendants of Abraham, largely cast aside? They killed the Son. And we must realize that this was a far greater crime than any other crime committed in the history of the world. It was not just murder of a private citizen but murder of the Son of God. And murder of the Son enrages the Father. The Father will deal justly with them: “What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen” (vs. 16 -emphasis mine).
Nevertheless, witness first the kindness and love of the Father in His forbearance with His enemies. It is wholly probable that the servants whom the lord of the vineyard sent were ‘stand-ins’ for the prophets of old: the many witnesses of God’s truth who testified against their wickedness and called them to repentance.
And the Father’s ultimate witness is His Son, or in the words of the parable His “beloved Son”: the eternal Son of God in whom there was no guile and of whom the Father was well pleased. The one who committed Himself to the Father’s way and obeyed Him at every step. The one who was willing to go to the cross, yes even to hand Himself over to wicked men to suffer and die for His people’s sins. And what does the Father do in the face of such wickedness? Does He stand idly by while unrepentant sinners reject and abuse His Son? Does He ignore the pain and suffering His dear Son experiences? Not at all. Witness the vengeance of the Father: He destroys them. That is all. Indeed, some day there will be no pity or mercy left in this dark and sinful world. The Son Himself, as appointed by the Father, will appear in wrath and judgment against His enemies.
So do not pit the Fatherhood of God against His just judgment. Do not mistake His patience with sinners as a sign of His approval of your sins, or as ignorance of your arrogant and rebellious life. All those who reject Christ will suffer the same fate as those proud unbelievers of Jesus’ day. You only have one thing to do: repent of your rejection and believe on Christ and so escape the Father’s wrath. By faith, be found in Christ, His beloved Son, the one who brings you into the Father’s gracious presence.
“According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.”
1. A familiar theme lifted from the Old Testament scripture. See, for example, Psalm 80:8-16 & Isaiah 5:1ff.
2. See also Matthew 21:43 & Romans 11:16ff.
3. See also Matthew 23:29-35.
4. See Hebrews 1:1-2.