9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
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.’ 14 “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.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone’?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. Luke 20:9-19
The use of a good story always gets the listeners’ attention. Jesus has just had his authority questioned (Luke 20:1-8) by the Sadducees and the Pharisees. He responds to them and then turns and tells a good story, a parable, to the crowds. The story of tenants and vineyards was about a common experience of the day, so the listeners knew the expectations of the land owners. What catches them is the response of the tenants.
Jesus describes the tenants as violent and self-centered. They harmed the owner’s servants and ultimately killed his son. The owner simply wanted his rent and finally says, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.” There was no regard for the son or for the owner. The listeners expected a harsh consequence for the disregard of the owner’s authority.
The crowd is drawn into the story. They understand the judgment and react, “May this never be!” There are also other listeners, Pharisees and Sadducees. They know Jesus is speaking to them and now they are seeking a way to arrest him.
Yes, the good story does catch our attention. No one wants to be the bad guy. We always see ourselves as the hero supporting the righteous cause. Yet, there is a struggle – the struggle of self-righteousness. We all struggle with the Pharisee heart of self-justification. And this will always push us to deny the true righteous one, Christ.
For your consideration: Where do you find yourself acting out your self-justification? We all do it. When you look in the mirror and see that Pharisee behavior, what do you do with it? Own it? Deny it? When you feel the Spirit nudge, do you respond or ignore it?