Parable of the Tenants

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What does the parable of the tenants mean?

The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:28-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19) may not be as commonly known as other parables Jesus told, but it is one of the most eye-opening. It was told to the religious elders who disputed Jesus’ teachings and resented Him entering the temple. This parable denotes God, who Jesus is, His purpose, and what He could foresee.
  • The landowner – represents God
  • The vineyard – His Kingdom
  • The tenants – specifically Israel’s religious leaders and all who reject Him
  • The servants – God’s prophets and faithful believers
  • The beloved son – Jesus Christ
Jesus tells them of a landowner who places his vineyards in the hands of tenant workers. Just as in many regions today, tenant farmers lease the land, care for the crops and reap reward from the harvest with a set amount going to the landowner. The allegory tells us that the landowner sent his servants to collect his share. The servants were beaten, driven away, and some were killed. Finally, the owner sent his beloved only son. The tenants, rejecting the son, killed him as well. Then Jesus asked in Mark 12:9, “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”

Jesus sees the temple ruler’s rejection of truth and doing the same as their ancestors -- killing the prophets (servants) who were sent to correct them and turn their hearts to God. The characters were easy to identify. Even the chief priests and Pharisees (temple tenants) recognized who Jesus meant. These religious leaders functioned strictly out of tradition and rigid law, with hardened hearts. They had no true love for God. Therefore, they rejected Jesus when He came speaking of grace, love, and forgiveness. They were angered at His non-traditional teachings. They wanted Him silenced so they didn’t have to consider their errors and face correction.

In the final verses of this parable, Jesus asked, “Didn’t you ever read in the Scriptures? ‘The stone rejected by the builders has now become the Cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous to see.’” Ephesians 2:20 tells us that Jesus is the chief corner stone in the structure of God’s house (see Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16). In this ‘tenants’ parable, Jesus is revealing that though the religious leaders reject Him, He is the foundation of the Father’s temple or church of believers.

Many of the world’s inhabitants or tenants have rejected God’s Son and have failed to work His vineyard. The population of the world (or size of vineyard) has grown and the number of souls to be saved has greatly increased. Ask yourself if you are working the vineyard as God desires. Ask if you are shamefully treating His servants and rejecting His son. “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?”



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