I have highlighted the Old Testament passages which throw light on the link to the Parable of the Vineyard.
Now I will sing for the One I love a song about His vineyard: My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill. He plowed the land, cleared its stones, and planted it with the best vines. In the middle He built a watchtower and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks. Then He waited for a harvest of sweet grapes, but the grapes that grew were bitter.
Now, you people of Jerusalem and Judah, you judge between Me and My vineyard. What more could I have done for My vineyard that I have not already done? When I expected sweet grapes, why did My vineyard give Me bitter grapes? Now let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will tear down its hedges and let it be destroyed. I will break down its walls and let the animals trample it. I will make it a wild place where the vines are not pruned and the ground is not hoed, a place overgrown with briers and thorns. I will command the clouds to drop no rain on it.
The nation of Israel is the vineyard of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. The people of Judah are His pleasant garden. He expected a crop of justice, but instead He found oppression. He expected to find righteousness, but instead He heard cries of violence. What sorrow for you who buy up house after house and field after field, until everyone is evicted and you live alone in the land. But I have heard the LORD of Heaven’s Armies swear a solemn oath: “Many houses will stand deserted; even beautiful mansions will be empty. Ten acres of vineyard will not produce even six gallons of wine. Ten baskets of seed will yield only one basket of grain.” What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk. They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties—lyre and harp, tambourine and flute—but they never think about the LORD or notice what He is doing. So My people will go into exile far away because they do not know Me. Those who are great and honoured will starve, and the common people will die of thirst.Isaiah 5:1-13
The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the LORD of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the One you should fear. He is the One who should make you tremble. He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah He will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem He will be a trap and a snare. Many will stumble and fall, never to rise again. They will be snared and captured.” Preserve the teaching of God; entrust His instructions to those who follow me. I will wait for the LORD, who has turned away from the descendants of Jacob. I will put my hope in Him. I and the children the LORD has given me serve as signs and warnings to Israel from the LORD of Heaven’s Armies who dwells in His Temple on Mount Zion.Isaiah 8:11-18
Let the doors of righteousness be open to me; I will go in and give praise to the Lord. This is the door of the Lord’s house; the workers of righteousness will go in through it. I will give you praise, for you have given me an answer, and have become my salvation. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone of the building. This is the Lord’s doing; it is a wonder in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has made; we will be full of joy and delight in it. Send salvation now, O Lord; Lord, send us your blessing. Blessings be on him who comes in the name of the Lord; we give you blessing from the house of the Lord. The Lord is God, and he has given us light; let the holy dance be ordered with branches, even up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will give you praise; my God, and I will give honour to your name. O give praise to the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy is unchanging for ever.Psalm 118:19-29
Well, looking at the passages from the Old Testament, it is clear where the Parable of the Vineyard originates from, isn’t it? Now we can see why the Parable and the following segment related to Jesus’ reference to the cornerstone and the falling and rising of Israel, are inextricably bound together. They both come from the same source in the Old Testament. Look at how many links to the Triumphal Entry there are in Psalm 118:19-28. It contains striking similarities to the Triumphal Entry.
- Procession going up to the gates of the temple
- Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord
- The carrying of branches in the procession
- The link to the provision and righteousness and therefore salvation to give you access to the temple
But in addition to that, there is the connection to the “stones” theme. No wonder Luke makes the stones theme a feature of his account of the Triumphal Entry. This “stones” theme is everywhere. Look at what we have in Ps 118:22 – “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief corner stone,” is made a central point of the meaning in what Jesus draws their attention to.
Jesus tells them:
“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!”Psalm 118:22
Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does this Scripture mean? ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”Luke 20:17-18
Jesus is deliberately asking them, “What does this Scripture mean?” because it is the key to the understanding of the parable Jesus tells. And furthermore, he has given them enough clues from the Old Testament to work it out. I love the translation from Eugene Peterson for verse 16. Right, He’ll come and clean house . . . Eugene Peterson has masterfully linked the Cleansing of the Temple to the Stones theme. This is why Jesus is cleansing the temple. How could He do anything else as God? When Jesus was talking about stones, He was referring to way more than just stones singing praise in the absence of any praise from us. And more than the stones of the Temple which would be utterly and forever destroyed. He was referring to the stones of Psalm 118. He was referring to His position as chief corner stone. That stone by which all others would take their alignment in the erection of the building of God. In Hebrew [ben] means son and [eben] means stones. There is a play on words in all of this. The stone which was rejected in the psalm is the Son in the Parable.
Note all of the other comments in the Old Testament reference, which make it clear what is happening. Allow me to “gather the stones” for you.
- Note Isaiah 8:14 where we are told that God will be both a sanctuary and a rock of offense.
- Note what Luke has already written about in Luke 2:34 in reference to what Simeon said of this child, who would bring about “the falling and rising” of many in Israel. It is not coincidence that falling precedes rising. Fall on the stone of Christ while you can, so the stone won’t fall on you and crush you.
- Note the other references in the background of the Old Testament references:
- He expected righteousness but all He got was violence.
- They furnish wine and lovely music at their grand parties . . . but they never think about the LORD or notice what He is doing.
- Those who are great and honoured will starve – remember Dives?
- The LORD has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does.
- Many will stumble and fall, never to rise again.
No wonder the Temple needed to be cleansed. The horror of the story is that the leaders of Israel would act in that way to their God. The leaders of Israel are doing exactly what the vinedressers are doing in the Parable. They are caretakers for the Lord’s vineyard – the people of Israel, in the words of Isaiah 5. Yet, they are about to kill the Son. This spells the end of Israel as God’s fruit bearers. These Chief Priests and Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel think they are priests forever, after the order of Melchizedek. But like the workers in the vineyard, their hold on the tenure of the vineyard is about to end. This is a reflection of the impending doom on Jerusalem and the
Temple. The fact that Jesus disrupted the afternoon sacrifice at the Temple, effectively shut it down and declared it obsolete. It is a prefiguring of the destruction of the Temple which He effectively prophesied.
Isn’t it interesting that after reflecting on the meaning of the Scripture that Jesus challenges them with, “The teachers of the religious law and the leading priests realized He was telling the story against them – they were the wicked farmers.” Ah, do you finally get it guys?
I drew your attention to the title of this Parable yesterday and suggested you come up with another alternative. I have been calling it the Parable of the Vineyard, but that is not a good title. The vineyard is not in focus. Neither the physical vineyard itself, nor the people of Israel in the terms of the parable in Isaiah 5. It could be the wicked vinedressers who are in focus. But I think there is something else in focus which we will deal with tomorrow. In the meantime, I look forward to receiving your suggestions for a title.
When you ask the right questions, the answers come tumbling out. What does this verse mean . . . ?Anon
Ask before you Assume. Know before you Judge. Commit before you Promise. Seek before you Surrender. Praise before you Wallow.Ian Vail
Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.Carl Jung
Your understanding will become even clearer when you ask for insight from the Spirit of the One who knows all things.Ian Vail