Tenants and Tombs
September 27 - Nº 270 Matthew 21:28-46; 23:13-37; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19
Jesus skillfully avoided the religious and political traps the Jewish leaders had set for him (see #269 - Tricks and Traps). As the day continued, he turned the tables on the religious leaders. He trapped them with their own words. He started by telling several parables. One of them was about a man who had two sons. He instructed the first son to go to the vineyard and start working. “No,” the son responded. “That’s not what I want to do with my life today.” But later he regretted his decision. He changed his mind and went to work in the vineyard the rest of the day. The father said the same thing to the other son, but that son responded, “Sure, I’ll go.” But he never showed up! Jesus asked his listeners, “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted him to do?” The religious leaders, who had stuck around still hoping to find fault with Jesus, responded, “The first son!” Jesus nodded. “I tell you the truth, tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. Although their lives were filled with sin, they repented. Your lives are filled with useless words, and your hearts have never obeyed God.” Jesus had just told the religious leaders that the people they despised the most were eligible to enter God’s kingdom, and they were not! He then told a parable about a landowner who planted a beautiful vineyard. He rented it to some farmers and went on a long journey. When it was harvest time, he sent a servant to collect some of the fruit they owed for rent. But instead of cooperating, the tenants beat the servant and sent him away. They did the same to several other servants the owner sent. Finally, the owner had no one left to send except his own son whom he loved. He thought, “Surely they will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw him, they thought, “This is the heir. If we kill him, then we can have the inheritance!” So, they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What do you think the owner will do to those tenants?” Jesus asked. “He should kill them and rent the vineyard to other tenants who will give him his share of fruit at harvest time,” his listeners replied. “That’s exactly what the Scripture predicted, and it is exactly what is happening!” Jesus responded. “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to people who will produce fruit.” The chief priests and Pharisees were incensed. They realized that Jesus was accusing them of mistreating the prophets God had sent to warn them. Plus, he was claiming to be God’s son—whom they had already chosen to reject! This made them want to kill him even more. Jesus continued to point out their hypocrisy. He called them out for how nitpicky they were about external practices like tithing. They gave a tenth of everything they owned to the priests (including their mint and dill!) to show how righteous they were. But they neglected the important internal attributes that God required—like justice, mercy, and faithfulness. “You are like whitewashed tombs,” he said criticizing their insincerity. “You are beautiful on the outside, but inside you are filled with dead men’s bones.”
Is God pleased with the “real” you? How would He grade what is going on in your heart? God is far more concerned with what is going on inside of us than what people see on the outside.