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THE VINEYARD PARABLE,
THE FACT and the FORECAST
Christ Spoke of the Future as We of the Present:
Walk with Him and You Know Where You are Going
The prophet Daniel predicted that the Messiah, the Christ of God would die about A.D. 30 in our terms; and so He did. This was foretold some 600 years before it happened, and it was explained in the New Year Sermon. He described it like this, that Messiah the Prince would come there would be NOTHING FOR HIM. In other words, as Isaiah pointed out, He would be hated by His own nation (Isaiah 49:7), and killed, so that
"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities,
the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
"All we," said Isaiah, "like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).
He was brought as the Just One for the unjust, in order to bring us to God (I Peter 3:18), the substitute for penalty, the Saviour from sin, for FAITH. Thus Isaiah asks first in Ch. 53: "Who has believed our report ?"
Again, it is WHEN YOU MAKE HIS SOUL AN OFFERING FOR YOUR SIN, then He will SEE HIS SEED. No children did He have, being killed; but when you accept His sacrifice for your sin by faith in Him as the Son of God, then YOU become a child of God.
When Jesus was telling the parable of the VINEYARD which we are about to consider today, this was just about to happen. Popular with the people because of His healing and words, His way and His works, He was hated by the priests, and they were jealous of His power. Fancy being jealous of your employer! of your GOD! They were more and more afraid that the Roman troops would come because Christ was a KING. A king ? My kingdom, He said is not of this world, otherwise My servants would fight. So there it was, they killed Him who came to die for their sins, and in their very murder, they acted almost like priests, offering Him up! But they did not know it. NONE of the sins are forgiven, Christ declared, if you do not believe:
"Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins
if you do not believe that I am He"
(the Messiah, the Son of God), He said (John 8:24).
It was, then, just before they did these things, that Jesus told them a parable, that of the vineyard.
THE VINEYARD PARABLE, THE FACT AND THE FORECAST
THE PARABLE (Mark 12)
This background we have just considered. The fatuous priesthood, as in much of its leadership it unfortunately had become (cf. Jeremiah 5:30-31, Malachi 2), was as noted in Malachi, becoming more interested in profaning the covenant (Malachi 2:10), importing false gods, in adultery, in breaching the covenant than in reaching the lost (2:17, 6), exhibiting a vast decline in moral integrity, mode of life and zeal for righteousness. Jeremiah stresses their radical official decline leading to a popular decline, for at the least, being at the head of it they moved downward with their listeners, instead of upward and away from devastation and its preludes and ingredients(Jeremiah 23:21-22).
"I have not sent these prophets, but they ran," God declares, adding:
"I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
"But if they had stood in My counsel,
And had caused My people to hear My words,
"Then they would have turned them from their evil way
And from the evil of their doings."
Christ spoke very much along these lines in addressing the lawyers, whose wily and vehement searchings for ways to overthrow Him in His words were a popular farce, pursued in hypocritical blindness, and provided with leering power. It was one in which the Sadducees would join:
"Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter in yourselves, and those who were entering in you hindered."
We read this:
"And as He said these things to them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to assail Him vehemently, and to cross-examine Him in something He might say,
that they might accuse Him."
As to those super-religious Pharisees, He spoke to them at length as seen in Matthew 23, weeping deeply for them as a misled, spent and heaving morass, Jerusalem, was drifting, pushed here and there on its way by traitors, to a just ruin. This city was often an object of His pity and desire, but because of vehement follies, its drift gained dynamic, for now it was surging like a wave of shame to its crashing shores and a terminus fitting, as it crucified The Truth (Matthew 23:37ff., John 14:6). In this, it was an examplar for the Gentiles in their apostasising civilisations to come.
Indeed, if these things happened in that day, then they have in no small measure happened in ours, except that it is the servants of God, rather than their Lord, who are so treated, since He is no longer available for crucifixion. It is the people in the pews who are now so often misled by spiritual meanderers and fallen stars, as Jude and II Peter 2 both forecast, and Paul often enough (I Timothy 4, II Timothy 3-4).
It is good to consider then the message to the Jews, for God is no respecter of persons, and if their time with a TWICE destroyed temple, and twice ravaged Jerusalem, despite vast and patient warnings, if notorious, so is that coming for the Gentile world. Theirs ? it was both predicted and fulfilled; that of the Gentile world of today, it is predicted and now in process of fulfilment (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5). Let him who has ears, as Christ declared, hear!
The parable of the vineyard, to this we shortly come, but in brief, it spoke of usurpers, people hiring a vineyard, a place for profit, and keeping the proceeds in a long developing situation, in which at length they KILL the HEIR and seek to KEEP the business by murder and theft, to themselves.
The point ? It was simply this. Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, their heir actual and apparent to the world which He created (John 8:58), before incarnation, as the eternal Word of God (cf. The Bright Light and the Uncomprehending Darkness Ch. 10), was coming now in person. His office was to bring the people back to spiritual life and fruitful productivity by having them know the God of creation and salvation, so that instead of renegacy, their should be fruit, and that for God, not lust or lordliness. They however, having long resisted the divine provisions that they might be personally holy, just and equitable, happy in faithfulness and alert to His goodness, simply plotted to kill the Son, remove the heir, take the property, so that there would be none there any more to protest. As to God, they had grown very flaccid, like drooping leaves, derelict and fanciful, coarsened and corrupt (cf. Malachi 2:17).
This meant one thing: They were to kill Christ and He knew it. It was a spiritual scenario of long standing, revealed in antiquity, right back in the days of the Psalms, and in fact, the slithering course was clear in outline in Psalm 118, where the "stone which the builders rejected" was to become the chief stone of the corner, a thing the Lord's doing and wonderful to behold. In fact, Christ quoted this immediately after delivering His parable (Mark 12:11). In fact, the killing was both foreknown and foretold in Psalm 22 as in Isaiah 52-53 in great detail, just as were the results in the end (Psalm 2) and the salvation resulting for those heeding and taking, receiving and finding relief in Him (Isaiah 53:10-11).
The profiteers, as they are in this parable, "sought to lay hands on Him" - right then at the time of His speaking the parable; but the time was not yet ripe, so that they deferred their evil dynamism, even though "they knew He had spoken the parable against them."
The end of the parable is also of primary significance: "Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do ? He will come and destroy the vinedressers and give the vineyard to others." That happened in A.D. 70, as far as Jerusalem was concerned. A generation elapsed, and many who were present at His crucifixion would be there when not the Jesus but the Jerusalem which killed Him, was destroyed, many by report being crucified by Rome about its environs. What needs to be remembered is this: not the result of collision with reality and tirades against truth, but the longsufferig of God, year by year, to overlook it, and to seek to distance the end of it all, giving much in the way of reformation, revival and encouragement, if by any means some might find Him, and rejoice in Him, who paid all for all who would take it!
Israel, figures so much in the Bible, just as does the Gentile world, but Israel has the first innings! As to the Gentiles, that body of nations is given no small place in the Old Testament, both for good (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, Psalm 67, 72:17, Genesis 12:3, Jeremiah 16:19ff., Deuteronomy 32:43) and for rebuke (Micah 7, Ezekiel 38-39, Nahum), both in individual and more general senses, and much place in the New Testament. However, at this point when Christ is speaking on this earth, Israel is in strong focus as both then and in the Age to come, it has been a case of massive prophetic fulfilment.
As such, it is most educative to see the thrust of things for it, for as to God, His ways do not change (Habakkuk 3:6, Malachi 3:6), but are everlasting; and indeed, it is He who created time (Romans 8:39).. Moreover, even in the New testament, Israel has her own section with vast significance, there also (especially in Romans 11, where the entire plan is outlined pithily and fruitfully to the understanding*1).
Thus, the murder of Christ was not a singular episode in terms of spiritual slaying by Israel, and the fact that He was the heir, did not alter the fact that many had been sent before He came in person, and had been mauled or murdered. This was the historical fact, that nothing could ever remove, one requiring repentance in terms of any nationalism or tendency towards repetition.
As Stephen, just before being killed for his later testimony to Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, was to put it:
"You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do you.
"Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them who showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom you have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
Thus there was, for example, the folly of the murder of Zechariah (mentioned by Jesus Christ as seen in Matthew 23:35). This case had left a deep scar on the national psyche, for in this, a young king when a boy, was delivered from ambitious murder by a great and loyal priest, at considerable effort and with much ingenuity, and this youngster the priest trained and led until he became king and he nurtured the young life until his death. Soon the child now mature man, showed a very different heart than that which had earlier appeared, and filled with the blood of manly intoxication, he not only went astray as king, but murdered the son of the old priest into the bargain. He would heed not correction, till the grave brought to him his due recompense and judgment would claim what was apt.
Jeremiah also was put in a foul pit where he might sink in the earth at the base, to starve and to die of dehydration, but he was rescued. In II Chronicles 36 we read: "... the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy."
Similarly, we read of the killing of prophets in no small style in I Kings 19:10, Nehemiah 9:26. It other words there was a certain continuity of spiritual crime, now reaching a climax, just as later there was a certain continuity in spiritual crime on the part of much of Europe, and Russia, in pogroms, in the abomination of the Inquisition, in arisings and resurgencies, in depredation and destruction, in theft and in murder, against the Jewish race, before Hitler brought out the master stroke for the master-race that was, but was not, and is not, but was misled.
The Continuity of Spiritual Crime
Examples include Jeremiah (Jeremiah 26), Zechariah (II Chronicles 24:20ff.),
The Contemporary Example: John the Baptist (Matthew 14)
and Stretch on in an Anguish of Folly
Thus the examples of Israel afflicting and downgrading its prophets are numerous; but as to those of Jeremiah, in which there is abundant testimony throughout his prophecy (cf. Jeremiah 26 and 44:1-17), and Zechariah, because in this there is a veritable dénouement of ingratitude and evil that swells towards the boundless, these are a strong index to the nature of the case. It is however in John the Baptist that the matter reaches the climax, before the crucifixion itself.
Before however we turn to this, let us consider the Jeremiah 44 case. Jerusalem had been warned with pity and compassion that was heart-rending to the prophet (as in Jeremiah 9) who could hardly stand the prospect which faced his beloved people. Yet the massive masquerade of unspiritual spirituality continued, and the ruin to the city duly came; and in Lamentations, following Jeremiah in the Bible, we have his passion aghast in horror as he beholds with pitying eyes and internal horror, the price they have paid for obstructive vehemence in persisting in double-dealing with God. Would they have both His temple, and void its reality, using His name and adding their own ideas, concepts and false gods ? Then they could have their ideas without either temple or city; but for how LONG, they were warned by the prophets, Jeremiah being near the end.
It is just the same as what happened in the horrid history of Rome in the Inquisition days, killing the just very often, with mangling hands and brutalising subtlety mixed with force, while thieving the goods of their prey repeatedly to gain bloodied riches and vain pride (cf. SMR pp. 911ff., 1032ff.).
In the case of some Protestant Churches more recently, as they have attacked the just, removed students, assaulted the Bible, made up their own ideas, followed ludicrous gods such as the evolutionary dream (The gods of naturalism have no go!), and fornicated freely with spiritual fictions (to use the figure of Ezekiel 20, concerning Israel), so they have continued the unspiritual carnage (cf. SMR pp. 686ff.). The maw of hell is never in these ages, full, and it is greedy.
Attacking what is keeping to the WORD OF GOD as the only written authority from God to mankind on earth (Proverbs 30:6, Deuteronomy 4, 12, Mark 7:7ff., Revelation 22:18-20 cf. SMR Appendix D) has always been a favoured occupation of the falsely religious, and not of these only; for even the secular has had its mind so set as in China, although in fact Communism as shown well by Lester de Koster's Communism & Christian Faith (cf. The Meaning of Liberty and the Message of Remedy Ch. 9, News 37. 97 98), is a religion of its own*2. Some of its unfeasible faith is aptly put in Arthur Koester's Darkness at Noon and mocked in Solzhenitsyn's First Circle.
There is an extreme continuity in mankind's blasé and vicious assault on the word of God and its witness. What of the time just before Christ's own death on the Cross ?
Just before the climax of the crucifixion of Christ, which at the time of His parable was soon to follow, there was an epochal murder of that great prophet, John the Baptist. Christ had already scorned and mocked that ferocious and godless deed of King Herod, who had beheaded John the Baptist, whom he had respected though holding him in prison; for the death request had come from a dancer who charmed him (Matthew 11:12-15).
Christ's words were these ...
"And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.
And if you will receive it, this is Elias, who was for to come.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
In other words, the ludicrous concept of taking the kingdom of heaven, a matter of spirit (as in Matthew 5 and its beatitudes) and of discrimination, of the love of God and of spiritual understanding in the presence of Christ as Lord and Saviour, and taking it BY FORCE was given an irony, resplendent with searing rigoour, from the lips of the Lord. It "suffers violence": that is, what is contrary to its nature and an invasive force seeks to intimidate it. "The violent take it by force": in other words, so crass is the misconception of those who comically make force relevant to this kingdom of heaven, that Christ permits Himself the phrasing of force as having its accomplishment. They take it as a man takes a bird in his imagination, as it soars over him: he seizes it with his eyes, but it is gone. It is laughable.
Thus, actually they no more so take it than do those who KEEP their lives, save them! He who saves his life will lose it, Christ declared. So those who take the kingdom of heaven by force, first killing John the Baptist, a luminary in it and so the utterly depraved enemies of God - and then crucify for emphasis, Christ, its King of course by no means get nearer to it than a fly to a nearby planet. They are no nearer to it than were the pirates to the treasure they sought, when recently body of them "took" a multi-million dollar ransom for freeing a ship. Sailing out in a small boat to grab the dropped treasure from the sea, they had ... problems. It appears that in a squabble concerning these illicit riches, they oveturned the boat, and drowned along with their money.
As to those, similarly, taking the kingdom of heaven by force, Christ mocked their travesties of truth in his little children's parable, seen in Matthew 11:16-17! Never satisfied, they wanted mourning or joyousness, as the mood took them, and sullen in unspirituality had their follies merely as guides to gracelessness and their insistence as roads to ruin.
Take it by force ? This was of course in their illusory and pathological imaginations only. Take by force what has a King crucified, that against which the gates of hell itself cannot prevail (Matthew 16), the Church ? Hardly. We might similarly say, These rich gourmands take the ground of pleasure to themselves with bloated stomachs and vast pleasures, so living the good life. In fact we mean that their pretensions are illusory, their means are empty and their hopes are dreams, and we laugh at their folly and their pride. Life is not at all like that. Their pretensions are pilloried by repetition of their thought in the arid realm of reality, which lampoons them.
No, Christ continued, he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, great prophet though he was. Meaning ? Though John in the prophetic ministry is an all-time great one, yet the kingdom of heaven is a culmination of the entire history of God's chosen people, and to be in this sacrosanct, this gloriously cumulative and consummately lovely thing, where it is the meek who are blessed, as are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, and where the peacemakers are the children of God: this is such a thing of glory that the preliminaries pale beside it. It is a matter of a glory which excels, as II Corinthians 3:10-11 puts it! The kingdom of heaven is as far above these bloodthirsty bloodhounds as is space above a speck of mud.
So they had acted against John, and been exposed by Christ with crispness divine; and then they would kill the King of the kingdom of heaven, for a short time only because of His bodily resurrect ion to be sure, but for long enough to register their ... dissent, and difference! This line of conduct, of great antiquity, now reaching a climax against Christ, it would continue, the Lord Himself indicated.
The murderous malice and maledictions of the lost would proceed on their undivine way, Christ indicated in Matthew 23:33-36: "
"Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers’ guilt.
"Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell?
"Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes:
some of them you will kill and crucify,
and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues
and persecute from city to city,
that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth,
from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah,
whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.
"Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."
Possessors of the kingdom of
heaven taken by force ? Scarcely, for "on you comes all
the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel ..."
Rather in moral desiccation and spiritual ruin they face the entirety of
judgment as the last resort and end of apostasy, hypocrisy and devilishness,
subjected to a divine disdain made manifest in the ironies as in the explicit
As seen in the end of the previous section, this violence, this persecution, this intemperate tempestuousness continues to this day, and indeed it will continue until it reaches its Gentile culmination, indeed its world-wide summit of doom, in the regime of the antichrist (Revelation 17, II Thessalonians 2), which will be neither merciful nor lackadaisical, but treat as a massive business operation and spiritual crusade, its final endeavour to take over the earth in the absence of its Lord (kept in heaven until the restoration of all things as in Acts 3:19ff).
In all these ways, from Cain on, in the Book of Genesis, the beginnings, to the look of the end (as in Revelation 19-21), there have been and will be assaults, on the prophets, on the word of the Lord, on the Lord Himself, on His apostles and prophets, as Christ here in Matthew 23 predicted.
Deaths have accumulated (as in John 16:2's prediction), malice has compounded, incomprehension and evil ambition alike have tried to take or make or fabricate the kingdom of heaven (Communism the most ironically laughable act*2). The pulse rate of the devil has quickened in the last 100 years, as the prophecy of Revelation 6, the love affair with death as a motif, has blossomed with its evil flowers. His sallies have become commonplace, less artful in some nations, more so if possible, in others, as scam and scum alike mingle in the heaving seas of restless wickedness (cf. Isaiah 57:19-21).
Indeed, those words continue to apply, as Isaiah first was given them:
"But the wicked are like the troubled sea,
When it cannot rest,
Whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
" 'There is no peace,"
Says my God, 'for the wicked.' "
THE PARABLE ITSELF
This parable of Christ was a masterpiece of brevity with deep and far-ranging meaning and application. In itself, it was however very simple. A man with much effort (the Lord is seen in this way, in Isaiah 5, making a vineyard for His beloved - as in Isaiah 42, 49, the Messiah). He expends much meticulous effort on it until the whole structure and planting is mature and ready. Then he lets it. In time, the cost of leasing is to be met, as a time to time payment, able to be made of course from the fruit of the vine.
He sends a servant... he is sent away empty. More are sent, and they receive various treatments from scorn and scoffing, to wounding and eventually death.
He resolves to send His Son, and they, sensing that here is the heir, and that the distant owner will have no more to send, decide to murder Him with intent: the intention is to have the property, the work of another, all to themselves, and as both thieves and murderers, to pursue their frightful way in security.
What, asks Christ, what will the owner do ? He will miserably destroy these paraders of immoral vehemence and vast grasping hunger for unrighteousness, these pretenders, these falisifiers, these diplomats of deviousness and soldiers of squalid and serpentine ways.
For the Jews
- a Temple none could
destroy, to outlast time, Jesus Christ its name (I Cor. 3:11),
some of Israel participating, but not the nation.
This having executed their own Prince and Saviour, would wait long,
outcast from their own God-given land (Hosea 1-3, Ezekiel 36ff.*3),
before their predicted return (Luke 21:24),
and eventual salvation of a new remnant would suddenly add
to those who first made Christ, in Israel, their foundation
(Romans 11:25ff., Zechariah 12:1-13:1).
- destruction within a
generation as Christ had indicated would come (Matthew 24:1ff., 23:37ff.),
before its restoration to Israel (Luke 21:24) after a vast period,
in which many kingdoms would change,
and Christ's return there (Zechariah 14:5) to govern
and then judge this world (Revelation 20, Psalm 72).
For the Gentiles
like a mighty river turned in its course to another city, so the Gospel would
find many a nation, many kings indeed, who would believe, while Israel
languished (Isaiah 42, 49, 60-61, Deuteronomy 32, Ezekiel 36ff.).
The drama continues until the time up for the Gentile 'innings'
(Romans 11:25ff., Luke 21:24),
the terminal events for Jew and land, for this world,
for life and death arrive (Revelation 19-20)
and test is replaced by judgment.
- death, resurrection, foundation stone for the Christian Church, bearing His name and having the Spirit sent by Him (John 15:26, Romans 8:9), He is centre of the unchanging Gospel (Galatians 1), Head of an international people, returning to reign, and judge
The preliminaries have all
happened, and the centre is as it was, Jesus Christ, the place of pardon and
peace, or else the site for judgment to come (John 3:16ff., 36), the Gospel the
way (Galatians 1,3, 5), the glory the light of God, His truth governing history
to its end on this earth, and a new heavens and earth in which righteousness
(Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 24:35, Revelation 20:11-21:1),
leading to an eternity in life with the Lord.
For one and for all (John 1:12-14, 3:16, 36)
NO OTHER WAY (John 14:6)
NO OTHER GOD (Ephesians 4:4)
NO OTHER PARDON (Acts 4:11-12)
NO OTHER ENTRY INTO ETERNAL LIFE (Galatians 1, John 6:47ff.)
Make sure that you HAVE received Jesus Christ as your Saviour,
that you HAVE by Him received eternal life,
and that in Him, you have found the Way, the Life and the Truth,
for with God, there is no competition.
The Biblical Workman Ch. 3, Excursion, End-Note 1;
Ch. 8 pp. 140ff.;
Galloping Events Chs. 2, 3;
The Open Mind, The Closed Door and the Call of Christ Ch. 8
Aviary of Idolatry, Delusive Drift or Divine Dynamic Ch. 5,
News 37. 44, 69, 97 (the exploiters, the fanciful,
the Communists, the de-godders and the realities), 98,
News 150 - Taiwan,
The Grating Grandeur and Aggrandisement of Man,
and the Meekness of the Majestic Messiah Ch. 2
Beauty for Ashes
Hong Kong, and the movement of nations in the last century a
Tender Times for Timely Truth
Beauty of Holiness
(war and force, rising downwards, Tiananmen and truth),
Ch. 4 (liberty, Tiananmen, worship and its direction in time, its terms and code of truth); History, Review and Overview Ch. 1,
Impossible to Men, Open to God Ch. 5
See also Lord of Life Ch. 8.
*3 See SMR Appendix A, It Bubbles ... Ch. 10.