The Authority of Jesus Questioned
KV 20:13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”
Good morning. We just heard a special song from the Ruth team called “Give of your best to the master.” In the parable Jesus taught in today’s passage, the farmers and tenants were also asked to give some fruit to their owner. Sometimes we may ask ourselves why we should give God our best or even some fruit. Is he a demanding God? From this parable Jesus explains to those who questioned him that he is the son whom God loved. I pray that through this message today you may see how much God loved each of us first by enduring our evilness and willingly sacrificing his only son whom he loved. May God bless you to accept his love deeply and love him back by bearing spiritual fruit.
Part One (By what authority v. 1-8)
After his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus went straight to the temple. Since driving out the merchants from the temple area Jesus had spent everyday preaching and teaching at the temple. His teaching was so powerful and heart-moving that according to Luke, all the people were hanging on his words. When we hang on someone’s words we totally forget everything else and focus solely on what the speaker is saying. As such nobody dared to fall asleep, day dream, think about lunch or what they would do once he finishes his talk. In that way people were receiving much grace and understanding from Jesus and being saved. Even though he knew he was about to be crucified by some of the same people he was teaching, Jesus kept preaching and teaching the word of God until his final day. Despite their doubts and actions, he never lost patience or hope for them because he had a great concern for them to know their father’s perfect love.
Whenever the work of God happens Satan will try and come and to undo it. The chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders intruded on the scene. They said to Jesus, "Tell us by what authority you are doing these things. Who gave you this authority?" Still angered by Jesus’ cleansing of the temple they came with a heart to challenge him. As chief priests they were in charge of the temple but had seriously abused this privilege. The temple was supposed to be devoted to preaching and prayer. However, it had become a market place where many were being cheated. Jesus said in Matthew 23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces.” God wanted use them a source of blessing but they had become a big burden. The question they posed “Who gave you this authority?” was not a question seeking a legitimate answer but rather a question meant to undermine Jesus. If someone asks me “Who gave you a bachelor’s degree or who made you Sunday messenger?”. I would feel quite insulted and angered. But Jesus had the wisdom and patience to deal with their challenging heart and continued to teach them out of his love and hope for them. Jesus had clearly showed his authority by his miracles and teachings but they didn’t want to accept it because of their proud heart.
How did Jesus respond to this question? Look at verse 3 and 4. Lets read it together “He replied, I will also ask you a question. Tell me, John’s baptism – was it from heaven or from men?” Jesus responded to their question with yet another question. It was a common method of his when dealing with the Pharisees and others that came to him asking questions out of wrong motives. When they heard Jesus’ question they knew they were in deep trouble. Jesus’ question to them wasn’t deep, it was a question that everyone could answer. They made it difficult because they weren’t honest. They wanted to say it was from men because they didn’t want to believe in John’s witness about Jesus (that he was the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world) but they couldn’t because they were afraid of the people who all believed that John’s baptism was from God. They didn’t want to say it was from God because they then they’d have to accept Jesus’ authority. So they ended up pleading their ignorance saying “We don’t know where it was from.” Jesus responded in verse 8 by saying “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” From this short conversation we can see they didn’t have the right attitude so Jesus didn’t answer them directly. In short, they didn’t care what the truth was. They only cared about what seemed best to them, to maintain their position as the authority over the temple. We often quickly look down on the experts of the law and the Pharisees because it seems Jesus criticizes them in every passage. However, he does that to warn us because he knows how easy it is for us to become like one of them. Just like them we have a tendency to look toward our self interest. Without a proper relationship with God all of our actions will be influenced by what we think would benefit us. As we will see in the parable, when man looks out for his best interest and ignores God he becomes dishonest and turns to evil. We must come to Jesus with an honest and pure heart then he will bless us to receive more than we can imagine. I pray we may hang onto the words of Jesus and let go of our own ideas and interests.
Part Two (The Parable of the Wicked Tenants) v. 9-19
Look at verse 9. “He went on to tell the people a parable. A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time.” Here the landowner or man refers to God. The vineyard refers to his kingdom on Earth and the farmers specifically to the Israelites but in a broader sense to all man kind. Verse 9 shows us that the man planted the vineyard. He took the time and effort to plant it so it was his. According to Isaiah he planted this vineyard with the choicest of vines. In Genesis 2 God planted a beautiful garden, it was a paradise that was pleasing to the eyes and good for food. Now what did God decide to do with this precious vineyard? He decided to rent it out to some farmers. Last summer after getting married Msn Moses and Sarah Chang decided to rent my wife and I the basement of their house. We had little money and couldn’t afford many other places in the area. I heard they didn’t particularly want or need to rent it but because they had a shepherd’s heart and cared for us and knew that we needed it they offered part of their treasured possession to us. In the same way, the man had compassion on the farmers and gave them a job - to take care of his vineyard. After renting the vineyard out he then went away for a long time. From this God first showed his trust in man. Trust is the most important part of any relationship. If I want to have a deep relationship with someone, the first thing I should work on is gaining their trust. When that trust is broken our relationship is broken. God put us in charge of the garden and his vineyard and went away for a long time to show us that he trusts us so that we can build a right relationship with him.
Now look at verse 10a. “At harvest time he sent his servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” The owner of the vineyard desired and expected that the tenants would willingly give him some fruit out of their thanks and respect. It was a reasonable expectation, for who takes the time and effort to plant a vineyard and not expect anything from it. By giving the servant some fruit they could acknowledge that the vineyard was not theirs, but the owner's. They could maintain a proper relationship with the owner. Let us think for a moment what happens if we failed to pay the rent. If we have a mortgage on our house and failed to pay it for 3 straight months, the bank would send their servant to my house and throw my family out without any questions asked. By not paying my rent they are assuming that I’m not honoring them as the rightful owner of the house and have all authority to throw me out.
God, however is not like the bank. He alone doesn’t need our fruit. He doesn’t need it to make a living off of us but rather he wants to use it to restore our relationship and remind us that there is something greater than us and what we see in this fallen world.
Spiritually speaking God also expects us to bear fruit. He chose the Israelites to be his chosen people and treasured possession. Though the whole Earth was his, the Israelites were to be for him a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. What a privilege it was for the Israelites. He gave them his word and called them to be his witnesses so all the nations would be blessed through them. He gave them a land overflowing with milk and honey, a prosperous life, a mission to guard God’s glory. He sent his profits to them to produce the fruit of justice and righteousness but instead they rejected the profits message and worshiped idols. Because of their rejection and treatment of him the privilege to be his witnesses to all the nations is now for those of us who believe in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. He didn’t just save us only for ourselves but God wants to use us to bless all the people in this world by sharing the love of Jesus. Many people have a personal mission to help rid the world of its hunger or AIDS or literacy problems. While these are great goals and purposes, they can not be the greatest purpose. What good is it to teach a person to read only to see them spend an eternity without the love of Jesus. In the end only what was done for Jesus will last. We should praise and thank God everyday for this privilege to take part in something that will last to eternity.
God not only gave ourselves this wonderful purpose but he’s also blessed each of us with the perfect environment to carry it out. If we look around we should also be able to see how much God blessed us with this nation, this center and our co-workers. Unlike many other nations, we can freely setup a table outside the student center to share Jesus love with the college students. Though many of us may not be happy with our jobs, none of us here are homeless or starving. That is clearly not the case in most other nations in this world. He also gave us this center, just walking distance from the campus and most of our homes where we can teach the bible in a quiet environment. He also has provided and will provide most of us with suitable wives and husbands who support and encourage us in hard times. In short, God has given each of us a paradise in and of itself. If we know the love of Jesus we have no excuse for not bearing fruit.
Now lets look at how the tenants responded to the servants whom were sent. Lets read verses 10b-12 together. “But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.” We can see through these verses that the tenants’ actions got progressively worse. The first servant came and perhaps got a slap on the face and kicked on the behind and then was sent away with nothing. The second one came and got the same treatment except he was treated with shame, he was probably mocked, ridiculed and spit on before he was sent away. The third one was physically wounded and then thrown out like the Tuesday trash.
God’s servants here refers to the prophets whom he sent to Israel to help them turn to God and produce the fruit of justice and righteousness. By sending his servants he desired to bless them by helping them maintain the proper relationship with their creator. But because the tenants’ were covered in sin they couldn’t understand the owner’s intention. Their problem was their greed, they wanted everything for themselves. As such their hearts were darkened and they progressed in their evilness to become robbers and even murderers. It reminds me of the relationship between parents and teen-agers. The teens usually think they know what they want and misunderstand their parents intentions to help them by thinking of them as a big burden. They don’t realize how much their parents really loved them and actually wanted what was best for them. They are then often treated like the servants in this passage. Their actions hurt and wounds many parents but I can’t imagine the anguish God felt when his servants were rejected and wounded. His wisdom and love and life purpose for us is far greater than our own parents.
Lets now read the key verse, verse 13 together. “Then the owner of the vineyard said ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love, perhaps they will respect him.” The owner of the vineyard didn’t give up. He asked himself is there anything else I can do? He then thought it over and decided that he would send his son, whom he loved. At first glance this may not sound very realistic. The tenants kept persisting and progressing in their sin and evilness by rejecting and beating and wounding servant after servant. In this type of hopeless situation, why risk anything more? But whereas they kept persisting in their evilness, God kept persisting in his love. According to 1 Corinthians 13, love is patient, love is kind, it keeps no record of wrongs, love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres. We can see each one of these things in this passage. God’s decision to send his son was an act of mercy that showed how much he loved them despite their actions. His love was unconditional. He even knew what would happen to his son but he sacrificed him in hopes that the people may turn to him and experience that love themselves. Love heals and restores our soul. It is God’s desire for his love to do this and even more for us.
In China, it is very common for a wife or girlfriend to test their husband or boyfriend with a question. Whom would you save first your Mom or me if we both fell into the sea at the same time? Its such a hard and crazy question. My wife asks me this same question from time to time and I feel like an expert in the law wanting to say I don’t know whom I would save. Its her way of trying to see how much I love her. But without knowing the love of Jesus our love cannot go far and I cannot satisfy her fully with my answer. I once heard a true story from a man that clearly had accepted the love of Jesus and his actions moved many to share his story. He had taken his only son and his son’s friend out sailing when a storm came and blocked any attempt for the them to get back to the shore. The boat capsized and all three were thrown into the ocean. The father had to make the most excruciating decision of his life: to which boy would he throw the lifeline. The father knew that his son was a Christian and he also knew that his son’s friend was not. As the father yelled out, “I love you, son!” He threw out the lifeline to his son’s friend. By the time he pulled the friend back to the boat his son disappeared. The father explained his story like this “I knew my son would step into eternity with Jesus and I couldn’t bear the thought of my son’s friend stepping into an eternity without him. Therefore I sacrificed my son to save his friend.” Later because of the love he received from the father he grew up, accepted Jesus and became a blessing for many as a pastor. This story gives us just a glimpse of the love of God, and what it must have been like for him to make that decision to send his son, whom he loved to this unbelieving and sinful world. Which one would you have saved? If you have a hard time saying your son’s friend, then I pray for you to learn the sacrificial heart of love of God.
The owner’s actions to send his son should have touched the tenant’s hearts but instead lets look at how they treated him. Lets read verses 14 and 15a together. “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him and the inheritance will be ours. So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” These verses shine great light onto the reason for the tenants’ inappropriate actions. They wanted the inheritance, the vineyard. They thought they could gain the inheritance by rejecting God and killing the heir his son. Their refusal to give thanks to God by giving him some fruit from the vineyard caused their thinking to become futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. They became robbers and even murderers. In short though they thought they were wise, they became fools. Do you think if you worked for Bill Gates and decided to kill him that you would get his inheritance? Of course not but that’s how foolish their hearts had become. But there are many people just like this. They think that by denying God and not obeying his word they can somehow receive more out of our life. Sometimes I’m tempted to not give a full tithe to God, that somehow my money would go further and I’d meet more of my needs if I didn’t have to give this portion of my income to God. But somehow ever since I started tithing he has blessed me to somehow turn that small amount of money I seem to have turn into more than enough. It’s also easy to think that without this cross of mission and bible study that we could accomplish more in our careers and at home. But through these things he is showing me his love and guiding me in perfect wisdom. I know I’m accomplishing more than I ever would without him. I know for instance that without experiencing him, I’d never be able to stand up here in front of anyone and give this message. Jesus’ love restored my soul when nothing else could. I pray that each one of us may not hold onto our false hope trust him but come to him with an honest heart and accept his love.
But what will those get who still reject and kill even the son? Lets read verses 15b to 16a together. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Because God is just he will eventually fulfill his justice. People who reject God and their duty to him never want to accept this outcome. They don’t think God could do this. They are blinded because they fail to recognize his authority. Upon hearing this word from God they should have fallen on their knees and repented but instead they just said “May this never be.” Just by saying these 4 words they thought they could stop almighty God who created all things from carrying this just punishment out. Imagine a lazy college student who never studied was warned that he would be kicked out if his grades didn’t improve. What should his response be? Either he should change and study harder or accept the consequence that he be removed from school. He cannot just hold onto his false hope and say “May this never be”. In the same sense we cannot just watch campus students at the University of Maryland continue to reject God and turn to evil and shake our heads saying “May this never be”. We must pray that can bear fruit and help them to restore a proper relationship with their creator.
Jesus looked at those people directly whose hearts were still hard and kept teaching patiently who he was. He quoted Psalm 118:22 to refer that he himself was the capstone which God exalted though the people could not acknowledge him. He is the foundation and the head of the church and Father’s kingdom. Jesus fulfills salvation and he is also the judge. Whoever rejected him will be broken or crushed. Let’s be built in love of Jesus instead of regretting one day. After Jesus had finished speaking, the teachers of the law and the chief priests immediately looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. They were the tenants in this parable who killed the son, Jesus. Even after hearing this parable they still wanted to arrest and kill Jesus though they knew the punishment that would bring. Jesus himself told this parable to reveal what they will do to him a few days later. But it didn’t change his love for them. John 15:13 reads “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Through that Jesus showed his own love which can only come from the father.
After studying this passage and parable very deeply the one question I had was why didn’t the people want to give any fruit to the servant? Why did they go to all the trouble to beat, wound and then kill the servants and the sons who were sent? Its because they wanted to inherit that vineyard, they wanted it to be theirs. Do you think it was possible for them to inherit this vineyard? YES! It is possible because God said in Romans 8:32 says “He who did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him graciously give us all things.” God actually wanted to bless them abundantly and give them the inheritance of His kingdom but couldn’t because of their greed and pride. I learned that God deeply loves and knows what’s best for us. When we make him the authority of our life we don’t lose anything but are blessed with more than we could have ever hope for on our own. I pray that each of us may make Jesus the Lord of our life, that we may trust in his word and guidance always and experience his perfect love and love him back through thanksgiving and obedience everyday of our life. Lets read the key verse, verse 13. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘what shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”