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The Vineyard

Feb 26, 2010

Jesus said in Matthew 21:33 and 34,

(33) There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. (34) And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce.

The main features of this parable are taken from Isaiah 5, where we are told nearly the same details. God has planted a vineyard, and Isaiah 5:7 says,

"For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah His delightful plant. Thus, He looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, a cry of distress."

The vineyard was "planted" in Canaan in the days of Joshua. When it came time to bear fruit, God sent His servants, the prophets, to gather the fruit of "justice" and "righteousness." But all he found was "bloodshed" and "a cry of distress."

And so Jesus tells us in Matt. 21:35,

"And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third."

Later, in Matthew 23:37, Jesus said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!"

The meaning of Jesus' parable in Matthew 21 is quite plain. Those whom God had entrusted with the vineyard did not render the required fruits to the Owner of the vineyard. In Isaiah 5 the problem is that the fruit is unfit to eat, producing only "wild grapes" (Isaiah 5:4). Jesus' parable says that the vineyard keepers simply refused to render Him the fruits, preferring to steal the vineyard for themselves. The Owner finally sent His Son, but the men said in verse 38, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance."

This was NOT a case of mistaken identity. They killed the Son because they knew who He was, and they wanted the vineyard for their own use.

In other words, they wanted to be the heirs without bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom. They thought they could be "chosen" by fleshly means or by virtue of their genealogy. This perverted religious dogma is the "wild grape" mentality of Isaiah 5:4.

When Jesus told this parable, He allowed the culprits to judge themselves.

(41) They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to OTHER vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons."

Jesus then affirmed their judicial decision:

(43) Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruits of it.

The vineyard is "the house of Israel" and "the kingdom of God." The house of Israel was supposed to be the kingdom of God, but it failed. We could break this up into two parts, showing how Israel failed at the town of Shiloh, and Judah failed later in Jerusalem. However, Jesus passes over these fine distinctions. The point is that they failed to fulfill the purpose of the vineyard.

Earlier in Matthew 21 Jesus had cursed the fig tree for having only leaves and no fruit. This was part of the context for the parable of the vineyard, because both show the requirement to bring forth fruit. The purpose of a fig tree is not foliage but fruit. And so Jesus' curse in Matt. 21:19 reads, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you" (NASB). That is comparable to Jesus' later verdict in verse 43, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you."

In other words, the fleshly nation of Judah (as well as Israel) would remain fruitless. God would give the vineyard to "others" who would bring forth the required fruits. God would no longer look to fleshly Judah or Israel for the fruits of the kingdom.

Thus, both Israel and Judah "died" in the sight of God and men. The nations ceased to exist, each in its own time. Even so, Jesus prophesied in Matt. 24:32,

"Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near."

In other words, the cursed fig tree would be raised to life once again. This happened in 1948 at the same time that God gave the Birthright back to Esau-Edom. Since Edom had been conquered and absorbed by Judah in 126 B.C., the nation had two sets of prophecies to fulfill. In 1948, BOTH were fulfilled. As Edom, they were given the Birthright to rectify the wrong that Jacob had done to Esau; but this also fulfilled Matt. 24:32 for the Judah side of the prophecy.

In putting these two prophecies together in the context of the second work of Christ, we see that Esau had to be given opportunity to show himself unworthy in order to fulfill the law of the hated son (Deut. 21:15-17). This benefited the cursed fig tree of Judah, because it ensured that this tree would come back to life and produce more leaves.

Yet neither Esau nor the cursed fig tree of Judah could bring forth the fruits of the kingdom that God required--each for the same reason. Both were trying to do so by the power of the flesh, that is, by force and violence. This is the mindset that says, "Get out of my way or I'll kill you or drive you away by force; I'm the chosen one of God. This is my land."

This is Zionism today. And their competitors, who are of a different brand of Ishmael, fight back with suicide bombers, shouting, "We will push you into the sea."

Thus, not only did Jerusalem kill the prophets in Jesus' day, but also Edom was bloodthirsty (Ezekiel 35:6). This tendency toward fleshly violence to "take what is ours" is the character common to both Edom and Judah and all forms of Ishmael.

None of them will bring forth the fruits of the kingdom. They are all disqualified and have been given time to prove themselves. The bottom line is that all are stubborn and rebellious sons (Deut. 21:18-21), who do not really understand the heart of the Father. Carnally-minded religious men think that God wants them to kill all of His enemies. Such people express their "love" for God with cluster bombs and suicide packs.

They simply do not know the love of God as expressed by Jesus Christ. Paul says in Rom. 5:7 and 8,

(7) For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. (8) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners [infidels?], Christ died for us.

The carnal mind cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:14), nor does it know and practice the love of God. We are not here to kill infidels but to show them how they may be transformed into the image of Christ.

The carnal mind wants to classify its opponents as "enemies" in order to justify its declaration of war. This assuages men's conscience as they kill them. But such war only serves to kill many on both sides, and the winner must then rule by fear, rather than by love. This only produces oppression, and oppression breeds hatred, and hatred breeds rebellion.

This is the "slavery" perpetuated by Hagar and Ishmael who are of Old Covenant thinking. Not only do they seek to put others into slavery to themselves, but they themselves are enslaved to their own carnal minds. In fact, the slavery they impose upon others is an outworking of the inner slavery to sin in which they live.

Jesus offers something different. There is a New Covenant which succeeds where the Old Covenant has failed. Its success is based not upon the body count of "enemies" killed, but by the demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Teachings

Dr. Stephen Jones

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