Friday, March 09, 2007

Matthew 21:28-46: Parables of the two sons and the tenants

Matthew 21:28-32: The Parable of the Two Sons This parable and the next based in Isaiah 5:1-7, the Song of the Vineyard.

Now Jesus bluntly accuses them. After questioning His authority, Jesus gives three extended parables (21:28-22:14) revealing God’s judgment on them for not fulfilling their responsibility to point people toward the Kingdom of God. Jesus condemns the method of the religious leaders in this parable. He condemns their motives in the next.

After these parables are four encounters with the religious leaders as they try to entrap Him, but He uses it to turn their challenges around on them and reveal Himself as the Son of God. He charges them with failure to respond to God. The teachers had never done God’s will or followed the Scriptures though they said they would. In this parable, Jesus condemns their method. In the next, he condemns their motives.

They are called Sons – implying a relationship of regeneration; God does not ask service from those who are not His; For every son there is a vine to care for.
First son – “I will not” no religious hypocrisy. Just rude refusal. Bold rebel
Second son – “I will” but did not. No repentance on this one’s part. False coward. Who of this group says they will go to the mission field and do not?

Israel often referred to as a vineyard (Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1). The son (21:31) who initially refuses is like those in Israel who were disobedient, the tax collectors and prostitutes, but when John came with a message of real righteousness, announcing the Kingdom, they obeyed the call and repented. The religious leaders by contrast are like the son who agreed but did nothing. Externally they obeyed the law, but they did not listen to John, God’s messenger.

Principle: Sometimes the most religious people are the most vile. My dad once told me that when a couple is all lovey-dovey in public, something is not right at home. They are trying too hard to overcome an insecurity. When a couple is affectionate but don’t go overboard in public, it is a sign that things are right at home. A similar reality is found in religious people. The more religious activity and pomp a person projects, the more red flags about that person’s character should raise.

Matthew 21:33-46: The Parable of the Tenants
Clear allusion to Isaiah 5:1-7, the Vineyard of Israel. Others: Psalm 80:8-15; Ezekiel 15:2-5

Another parable: A touch of satire in our Lord’s query: He mentions the prophets suffering. Jesus intensifies his rebuke of the leadership.

Vineyards often had stone walls and watchtowers for security from wild animals, thieves, and the like. There were many absentee landlords in Israel, Jewish business men who lived in another part of the Mediterranean whose ancestral property was in Judea. They hired the Jews in the vicinity to watch and work the land for them. These husbandmen were the chiefs and princes of Israel (Jeremiah 33:18; Ezekiel 34:2; Malachi 2:7; Matthew 23:2-3). They were notorious for treating the tenants horribly and brutally. Here the situation is reversed.
Jesus’ point: These servants are like God’s prophets through the OT (1 Kings 18:4; Jeremiah 20:1-2). Amos was murdered with a club. Isaiah was sawn asunder. Jeremiah was stoned. John the Baptist was beheaded. Stephen was stoned (1 Kings 18:13; 22:24; 2 Kings 6:31; 22; Jeremiah 20:1-2; Matthew 23:29-37; Acts 7:5; Hebrews 11:36-38).

21:37 – An unmistakable allusion to the Father’s sending his son. Jesus reveals their motives for hating him. They hate him because he owns the vineyard they have taken as their possession. Acts 2:23; 4:25, 27)

Kingdom taken away and given to other tenants: believing Jews of early church and Gentiles (Romans 10-11)
v. 42 – Psalm 118:22. Peter reminds the Sanhedrin of this moment a few months later in Acts 4:11-12.
v. 44 – “will be crushed.” Literally pulverized or made dust. Isaiah 8:14-15; Daniel 2:34-35
vv. 45-46: The leaders had to come up with something before Passover because according to religious rules, no hostile measures could be taken then.

[1] Lockyer, All the Parables, 222-3.
[2] Arnold, ZIBBC, 132-3.