You can tell as a glance that Luke has edited the material he has chosen significantly. Matthew adds two more pericope to Mark’s standard passage where as Luke omits four. Luke therefore has the shortest coverage in terms of the number of pericope covered, Four less than Mark and 6 less than Matthew. This is typical of Luke’s approach. He often reduces the complexity in order to bring some aspect into sharper focus.
Notice the Luke inclusion of verses 20:17-19 are seemingly a standard package put together with the Parable of the Vineyard. The two segments are inseparable. All three synoptic gospel writers combine these two together. These things happened in this order at the time they were spoken and the gospel writers keep them together. The “stone” theme is strongly connected with the two stories – the Triumphal Entry and the Cleansing of the Temple. Why is that? And in this case it is not a Lukan theme, it runs across all three gospels. There is more to it.
Let’s pick out some of Luke’s distinctive comments as we make our way through his account.
Jesus began to tell this parable. This indicates that He turned from addressing the leaders to the people. The leaders are still there listening to what He has to say to the people. Luke makes it very clear that Jesus has stopped to talking to the Leaders and is now talking with the people about the leaders. So much so that in the end the Leaders get it and want to arrest Him because He is telling the story against them. This parable addresses the question raised by the leaders of Israel. He won’t answer the question as to where His authority comes from but instead he tells a story. The imagery is taken from the OT, there are references here to several portions of the Old Testament which would immediately come to the mind of the hearers of this parable. I would suggest you follow up on the ones that are most obvious to you. It will help to unlock the depth of the things that are going on. As I tell my Deeper Bible students make the connections; look for the links. Understanding the Old Testament references will help you unlock the puzzle. There are people who say they only read the New Testament, they don’t need to read the Old Testament because that belongs to the Old Dispensation. But that is crazy because if you don’t know the Old Testament you can’t understand the New Testament. All Jews had an advantage over you because they had memorized large chunks of the Old Testament. Jesus merely had to cast an allusion to a part of the Old Testament and they would pick up the inference.
The owner of the vineyard in the parable represents God, the vineyard represents Israel, the servants represent the prophets sent to Israel at different times throughout history and the Son is a clear reference to Jesus. Even more so with the use of the word “beloved”. Notice that this is Luke’s own addition. Note the number of times this occurs in Luke’s gospel – I.e. The number of references to “beloved Son”
Note that the vineyard owner was gone a long time. Luke then starts the next sentence with “In time” and not the “At the time of the grape harvest” that the others use and is standard. The two contractions add to the sense of the time being long. What does this refer to. The “long time” refers either to the long time before the Parousia and the coming of the Christ or to the length of time since the sending of the prophets to the sending of the Son. I will expand that thought more below. This portion of all three Gospels is pregnant with meaning. It is another one of those that I am not sure where to start to pull it all together.
- Note the owner sends a servant, “decides to try again” and then “tried a third time”. There is a definite perseverance to this owner.
- He sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect the profits, but they beat him up and sent him off empty-handed.
- He decided to try again and sent another servant. That one they beat black and blue, and sent him off empty-handed.
- He tried a third time. They worked that servant over from head to foot and dumped him in the street.
- Note the escalation of the treatment of the servants. This is the fate of the prophets who came to Israel with God’s message. The last one, the Son, is killed.
The coming of the Son infers either:
- The Landlord has died and the son has come to collect his inheritance
- The father has transferred title of the vineyard to the son.
Anyone who had the use of the land for three years was deemed to own it in the absence of a counter claim. Squatters rights
Note how reminiscent of portions of Luke this is. In Luke 14:15-24 – He sends his servants to invite people to a banquet and he gets lame excuses. This is exactly what the prophets were doing. In the parable in Luke 14 grace us extended to the all the servants, even the one who was unfaithful. This is our God, our redeemer King. The one who came to seek and to save the lost. The one who first loves us. He will not allow his enemies to determine his response – will you? What a shock! This is reminiscent of the Parable of the Prodigal. There is another shock factor buried in the text. Did you see it? What can I do? I will send my beloved Son. That is exactly God’s response. Fortunately God doesn’t allow those an enmity with Him (us) to determine His response. Total and utter surprise. What! How can He do that when they have already responded to the servants with increasing violence?
The inheritance is far more than the land and the nation – its eternal life too. Note in Luke 10:25 a lawyer asks “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In Luke 18:18 a ruler asks the same question. Ah these farmhands are hoping to inherit the land by squatting and beating off any overtures the owner makes toward them. But there is far more at stake than inheriting the land. The leaders of Israel were clearly confident that their role of leading the vineyard of Israel would last forever: a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. They were sadly mistaken. They only had limited tenure. They perceived He had told this parable against them. Well how perceptive of them. What was it that was being given and who was it given to?
Take note of Luke’s statement “and threw him over the fence”. See if you can connect it to something. Note also the following statements:
- “Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others.”
- Those who were listening said, “Oh, no! He’d never do that!”
- Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean?
If you can make sense of the connections here, you are well on your way to working out what is happening and why Jesus told this parable. With this parable He masterfully connects the Triumphal Entry with the Cleansing of the Temple.
I am going to stop here and leave you to figure some of the pieces out.
Many “deep” teachers are actually just muddy! Jesus taught profound truth in simple ways. We do the opposite. Jesus never does.Ian Vail
You regularly trust power you cannot see to do work you cannot accomplish. Jesus invites you to do the same with Him.Max Lucado
Want to see a miracle? Plant a word of love heart-deep in a person’s life. Nurture it w/a smile & prayer & watch what happens.Max Lucado
All you need is found in Jesus and the Word of God. He is waiting for you to find it before He unfolds and reveals it to you.Anon
Ask Him for a reveal His Word to you; He is busting to do that; but are you ready to receive it?Ian Vail