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God’s Word for You

Luke 20:9-12 they wounded him and threw him out

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 4, 2019

In the eighth century BC a crisis was coming. The Assyrian empire was advancing on Israel, but Israel’s enemies had been defeated by the Lord through champions and judges before. This time the nation was collapsing in a plague of unbelief. God was sending his prophets in an almost unbroken chain of names to call his people back to repentance. Elijah, Elisha, Joel, Jonah, Hosea, Amos and Micah, to name just the more famous men, had come and gone. Now Isaiah joined his voice to Micah’s. Micah preached outside Jerusalem; Isaiah preached within the city walls. Through Isaiah the Lord painted a picture of Jerusalem’s fall with a parable:

“Let me sing for my loved one a song about my loved one’s vineyard. My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile ridge.  2 He dug it up and gathered the stones out of it. He planted it with the choicest vines. He built a tower in the middle of it. He even cut a wine press into it. He expected it to produce clusters of [sweet] grapes, but it produced only sour grapes. 3 So now, inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. 4 What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not already done for it? When I expected it to produce clusters of grapes, why did it produce sour grapes? 5 Now let me tell you what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away its hedge, and it will become a pasture. I will break down its wall, and it will be trampled down. 6 I will make it a wasteland. It will not be pruned or hoed, so briers and thorns will shoot up. I will also command the clouds not to pour rain on it. 7 Yes, the vineyard of the LORD of Armies is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the planting that pleased him. He expected justice, but instead there was oppression. He expected righteousness, but there was an outcry.” (Isaiah 5:1-7, EHV)

That was long ago. The people of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day thought that God was no longer displeased with their worship filled with doubt and unbelief. Some of them may have even thought, “If God is displeased with this, why doesn’t he come and say something?”

Here was God standing among them. Jesus Christ was standing in the temple courts when he spoke…

9 Then he told the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to tenant farmers, and went away for a long time.  10 When the time came to harvest the grapes, he sent a servant to the farmers so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the farmers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

Jesus picks up Isaiah’s ancient parable and adapts it to the moment. The tenant farmers in Jesus’ version are no longer the nation of Israel as Isaiah said, but now they are clearly the religious leaders of Israel, the very same chief priests, scribes, and elders who were confronting the Savior (Luke 20:1). Jesus himself is not yet in the parable. The “servant,” the first of many, is one of the prophets sent to Israel to call them to repentance and faith.

Should we identify this servant with any one of God’s prophets? Probably not. God-fearing men like Enoch, Lamech, Noah, Shem and Eber called out God’s name for the people to hear for many centuries. After Shem’s time, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob also shared the promise of the coming Christ with their families and households. Then, more than three hundred years after Joseph died in Egypt, God called Moses to serve as his prophet. How many times was Moses opposed and mistreated by the people? They grumbled against him (Exodus 15:24, 17:3; Numbers 16:41). Korah, Dathan, and others rose up against him (Numbers 16:1-50). Even Aaron and Miriam opposed him (Numbers 12:1-15). But let’s return to the parable.

11 He sent another servant, but they beat him, too. They disgraced him, and sent him away empty-handed.

What property owner would ever behave like this? If this were an historical account, this is where the police or the owner himself would show up to arrest the tenant farmers and treat them much worse than they treated the owner’s servant. But this is a parable, an earthly story explaining God’s work in our lives. God did not annihilate Israel, although at one point he came very close, except that Moses intervened (Exodus 32:9-14).

Again, we can’t pin down any one prophet that this happened to. No, not one—but perhaps hundreds!

Jezebel plotted to murder one hundred prophets all at once (1 Kings 18:4). Elijah complained that the leaders of Israel “put your prophets to death with the sword” (1 Kings 19:10). There was a certain old prophet who tempted a younger prophet to turn aside from his mission from God, a temptation which left the younger man dead, savagely killed by a lion (1 Kings 13:24). In the days of King Jehoshaphat, a prophet named Micaiah was slapped in the face for delivering the Lord’s message and even imprisoned (1 Kings 22:24,27). And Zechariah was stoned to death in the very courtyard where Jesus was teaching this parable (2 Chronicles 24:21). But God was still patient with his people.

12 Then he sent a third, but they wounded him and threw him out.

Would anyone have sent a third emissary? God sent so many more than three. Later in Israel’s history, Jeremiah was subjected to beatings and was put in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:1-2, 37:15), and he was imprisoned at least three different times (Jeremiah 37:4, 37:15 and 38:6). After the exile, Nehemiah confessed, “They put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets…” (Nehemiah 9:26). Jesus also recalled his Father’s words: “I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town” (Matthew 23:34). Stephen asked, “Was there ever a prophet your forefathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One” (Acts 7:52). He meant, among others, the murder of John the Baptist (Mark 6:27).

And more than this: “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:37-38). In Solomon’s song, the bride complains: “The watchmen found me as they made their rounds in the city. They beat me, they bruised me; they took away my cloak, those watchmen on the walls!” (Song of Solomon 5:7). What application does this strange passage have if not to this very judgment from Jesus. His love, his bride—the faithful believers of his church—had been mistreated by the watchmen of Israel. What did they think would happen when the Lord God learned of it? Would he keep being patient?

Miracle of miracles! God is indeed patient. His very patience should have driven Israel’s leadership to fall to their knees in repentance.

No one, no one at all, would ever behave this way toward renters who refused to pay and who abused, beat or killed everyone who came asking. And yet God did this. God was patient; God kept sending his prophets and wise men and ministers. Jesus was looking into the eyes of the very leaders of Israel who had done things like this and, moreover, were plotting there and then to do it once again, this time to him.

Yet here he was, ready to be taken, ready to be beaten and to be abused by them, and to die. He did this because he loves you, and he has loved you since before the world was made. “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” he said (Jeremiah 31:3). “He chose us…before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). His patience and his longsuffering compassion are put on display in everything he did in his ministry, but culminating with the hours of infinite suffering and hell which he spent on the cross to atone for all our sins: yours, mine, and all the world. His mercy endures forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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