Just try to trick Jesus
It has been two days since Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Yesterday, He cleared the temple of all the robbers. Today, He would teach, and in the process tell the “caretakers” of the temple, the chief priests, scribes and elders, that their days were numbered. They probably couldn’t believe that Jesus was back after yesterday’s tirade, and they were probably still really ticked off at Him — after all, Jesus drove out one of their biggest sources of income. Today, they wanted to trap Him somehow so they could stone Him. Let’s see what they did.
The Pharisees attempted to trap Jesus by asking Him: “Who gave you this authority to do these things you are doing?” Jesus cleverly said that He would not answer them unless they first answered His question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men?” If the Jewish leaders said “from heaven,” then Jesus would say, “then why did you not believe.” If they said “from men,” they would be beaten to death by the mob. They could not answer, so neither did Jesus.
Jesus could have stopped right there, having achieved a “victory,” but He then told a parable that even the Jewish leaders could understand — and it was about them. In this parable, God was the owner of a vineyard (Israel, the place that God dwelled) that was very well protected and held every advantage. He rented the vineyard to some vine growers (the Jewish leaders). At harvest time, he sent a slave (a prophet) to collect the produce. The caretakers beat him up and sent him on his way. The owner sent another slave with the same results. The caretakers either beat up or killed everyone the owner sent. Finally, the owner sent his only son (Jesus). Surly, they would listen to him. The caretakers, upon seeing the son thought, “Great, if we kill him, we can keep this place!” They killed him in their shortsightedness, because they did not realize that the owner would then come and destroy all the caretakers and give the vineyard to someone else.
This was not just a parable, but also a prophesy. Jesus WAS killed by the Jewish leaders and God did come, via the Romans, in 70 AD to “clean house.” The Romans leveled the temple and killed or scattered the Jewish leaders; and the “vineyard” was transferred to new owners, the Christians, at Pentecost.
Jesus then ended with a quote from Psalms 118:22-23. A rough translation goes something like this: “The stone (Jesus) that was cast out (by the Jewish leaders) became the cornerstone (of the “new” church).” What the Jewish leaders rejected, Christians embraced. Jesus became the foundation of our church.
The Jewish leaders couldn’t do much but grumble at this point, so they left and began to plot Jesus’ death.
What an awesome responsibility we have as the new caretakers of God’s vineyard. We need to grow good fruit (lift up Christians, and be a witness to others) and we must be ready for the harvest when Jesus comes again. Pray today that we can be ready when the Son of the Owner comes, and that we will not reject Him, His plan, or His purpose for our lives when he arrives.