In Mark 12:1-12 or Matthew 21:33-41, you can find Jesus’ parable of a landowner and his vineyard. It can also be found in its entirety in part 1 of this blog, posted on 04/04/2013.
I have found that Jesus never wasted words, so each of the things in this parable represents something important. It’s also important to notice that the Bible specifically mentions Jesus spoke this parable to and “against” the Pharisees. Therefore it’s has an anti-religion meaning, which the Pharisees represent.
The landowner represents God Himself. The vineyard represents the area where God’s seed has been planted. The seed represents the word of God, His voice (Jesus said seed represents the word of God in Luke 8:11, as did Peter in 1 Peter 1:23). The hedge around the vineyard represents an established boundary between the vineyard (immature kingdom of God) and the rest of the world (the kingdom of darkness, devoid of truth). The winepress represents the ability to contain, process and obtain new revelation of Truth (wine represents revelation of Truth). The tower represents the ability to discern and fend off enemies of the Kingdom. All these things God built Himself, with the primary goal of producing and protecting fruit.
The vinedressers represent religion and law, typified by the Pharisees in Jesus’ day and Christians in ours. Their only task was to ensure the newly-planted seed matured into fruit while the landowner was away. Notice, the landowner leased the vineyard to these vine-dressers, for a set time. He never intended for them to inherit it. So too, religion and law was “hired” by God for a season only, but will not inherit His Kingdom. Paul wrote of this in Galatians 3:24-26 and elsewhere. These vinedressers had no real relationship or communication with the landowner. The servants of the landowner represent the prophets. These men weren’t a part of the vineyard (religion of Christianity), but had something better – a relationship with the landowner. They cared about His desires and were sent directly from him. Their task was to check for ripe fruit and report to the landowner.
When the servants arrived, the vinedressers beat, murdered, insulted them and sent them away “empty-handed.” Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t say why they responded so violently, but it’s obvious they had strong feelings toward these servants. I believe the vinedressers, lacking a relationship with the landowner, didn’t believe these servants were truly sent from him. Second, I believe the vinedressers acted violently because these servants exposed their failure – the fruit they were supposed to nurture never matured. I think also the watchtower was unmanned, the hedge was broken allowing pests and thieves in, and the wine-vat was empty. As a result, the vinedressers feared losing their position and security. Fear, stemming from a lack of relationship and concern for the landowner was behind all of this. Their vinedressers were only concerned with themSELVES.
Similarly, many Christians oppress the true prophets of God today because they don’t really know or care about God. They just like what He’s given them and can do for them. When the Bible says the vinedressers “shamefully treated” the servants, the Greek word literally has the idea of insulting and discrediting them. Many do this because their message is so contrary to what they know and hold dear, and they love the security of tradition over the pursuit of truth. Religion hasn’t changed in 2,000 years. God’s prophets are still in effect”beaten” or “killed” by religion, with the same goal in mind – SILENCE. The prophets expose the failure of the religious to nurture the seed to fruition and their ignorance of the landowner’s heart. Selfish religion just wants them silenced. Jesus was saying an encounter with the “hired” religious establishment leaves the prophets wounded, silenced, and discredited.
The son of the landowner represents Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us the vinedressers, in accord with their selfish nature, saw the son’s appearance as another opportunity for themSELVES. In the parable, their twisted minds reason since they were hired to care for the vineyard, if the landowner’s only son was killed, they would by default inherit the vineyard for themselves. They recognized him as truly teh son, but they killed him and threw him out, just as they had the servants. I don’t believe it ever occurred to them that the landowner could instead give the vineyard to foreigners. But He will.
The sobering truth is that the vinedressers in this parable mirror the religious within Christianity today, full of traditions of men, hypocrisy, blindness, and selfishness. Christianity has a lot of “good,” so it’s easy to overlook their lack of true perception, but atheists, Mormons, New Agers, and whatever else often labor diligently for “good” causes. That’s not the issue. The issue is producing sons of God, devoted to Him alone, with no selfish motive, who think like Him and have His spirit. The walk in the spirit, which requires diligence and self-denial, has been shunned in favor of easy formulas and false guarantees. Religion is based on fear of punishment, desire for reward, and enjoyment of blessing – not love for God. It’s become about self-improvement, not self-denial and knowledge of the Father. For the institution of “church,” it’s become about being attractive to the world and gaining “nickels, noses, and numbers.” But God doesn’t care about any of these things like religion does.
In part 3, which I will post soon, I want to look at where we are today and what Jesus prophesied is soon to happen. A revolution is coming and the kingdom of God is going to truly be seen again. Christianity as we know it is going to be destroyed and lose much of it’s influence as the body of Christ begins to follow the spirit of God, not the religion of Christianity, once again. Amen.