9 Now he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the farmers so that they might give him some fruit from the vineyard. But the farmers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent yet another servant, but they beat that one too, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third, but they wounded this one too and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What should I do? I will send my beloved son. Perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenant farmers saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir. Let’s kill him, so that 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 farmers and give the vineyard to others.” But when they heard this they said, “That must never happen! ” 17 But he looked at them and said, “Then what is the meaning of this Scripture: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it falls, it will shatter him.” 19 Then the scribes and the chief priests looked for a way to get their hands on him that very hour, because they knew he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.
This parable brings to mind an old story about a man who was caught in a flood. As the waters rose, he prayed that God would save him. A man in a boat came by and offered him a ride, but he refused. “I’m a God-fearing man. God will save me.” As the waters rose higher, another boat came by with the same offer. Again, the man refused. Finally, as the man was standing on his roof, a helicopter dropped a ladder down. But the man’s response was the same…and eventually he drowned. When he arrived in heaven, he asked Peter why God hadn’t rescued him. Peter replied, “God sent two boats and a helicopter. It wasn’t God’s fault that you refused them.”
Here is the cast of characters in this parable:
The owner of the vineyard: God
The vineyard: Israel – you and me
The tenant farmers: Israel’s religious leaders – also you and me
The servants: the Old Testament prophets
The owner’s one and only heir: Jesus
Jesus entered the temple and began to throw out those who were selling, saying, “It is written, my house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” In the days that followed, before Jesus was arrested, He shared this parable with the chief priests, scribes, and the leaders of the people in the temple.
The vineyard owner had invested time and money into carefully cultivating the ground and planting the best grapevines he could purchase, so the vineyard would yield a plentiful harvest. The tenant farmers had been set up for great success. The owner reached an agreement with them: they would give him the first fruits of the harvest as their lease payment.
After that the owner decided to take a long trip. When it was time to harvest the grapes, the owner sent one of his servants to the vineyard. Instead of giving the servant the first fruits, the farmers beat him and threw him out of the vineyard. This happened three times to different servants.
Finally, the owner sent his only heir, thinking, “Surely, they will respect my son and give him the first fruits.” The farmers decided to kill the only son of the owner, thinking now the owner would leave them the vineyard. How could anyone think this?
What Jesus asked next drew everyone in closer. They didn’t want to miss a word. “What will the vineyard owner do to the farmers?” It’s obvious. The owner will kill the farmers and give the vineyard to other farmers.
His message was clear. We are the farmers, and the life God has blessed us with is the vineyard. God is the one who cultivates us, prunes us when needed, and provides us with everything we have. All He asks in return is a life lived for Him, making disciples through Him, and that we give Him the first fruits from this life He has so richly blessed.
God has sent us many servants. Prophets, ministers, teachers, mentors and friends all have been sent to help us and to warn us. He even sent His Son. Some we have embraced, but many we have rejected. This story brings home the message that we should never reject Jesus.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Are you a good tenant farmer?
- Do you give God your first fruit?
- Are you rejecting Jesus?
- What does God want the end of your story to be?
Family Game Time: Obstacle Course
You can either play this outside or inside. Find a place where you can create a starting line and a finish line. You can make it any distance. Find objects that can be used as obstacles you have to go around, over or under. They can be chairs, pillows, trees, balls, etc…. Place them in the path between the start and finish lines. The goal is to make it to the other side as fast as possible. The catch is that you have to do it blind folded. The only way to get to the other side is to have someone help you by giving you instructions and directions to miss the obstacles.
As a family take some time to talk about this game and how you can apply it to your family and life. We are going to have obstacles in our lives but God places people in our lives to guide us and help us through those situations. Stop and pray for how God can use your family to reach others.
Pray for our Hope for the World missions partner Mission Increase Foundation as they equip leaders and strengthen Christian non-profits. Pray for them and the ministries as they strive to train and encourage non-profit leaders in disciple-making.