Daily Archives: February 22, 2014

Questions about Parables: What Is the Meaning of the Parable of the Vineyard?

 

The Parable of the Vineyard appears in three of the gospels (Matthew 21:33–46; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19), with Matthew’s account being the most complete. However, there are additions in the others; hence, it is wise to study all three accounts so as to achieve the greatest understanding. To get the context of what is happening, we need to look at Matthew 21:18. Early in the morning, Jesus goes to the temple courts to teach (21:23). While He is teaching, the chief priest and elders confront Him, wanting to know by what authority He is teaching. Not allowing them to control the conversation, Jesus answers the question by first asking a question (21:24–26). They do not like His question nor His response to their answer; essentially, He has told them that they can’t save face from their obvious attempt to cajole Him and, therefore, He is not obligated to answer their question (21:27). What Jesus told them is that John the Baptist and He received their authority from the same source. This exchange causes the leaders to become angry and puts them in opposition to Jesus. Jesus then further frustrates the priests by telling two parables: the first one is the Parable of the Two Sons, and the second is the Parable of the Vineyard, sometimes called the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

The first parable Jesus teaches tells the priests that they have claimed to accept the message from God but they have failed to live up to it by being obedient. Outwardly, they are pious and appear to be people of God, but God knows the heart, and there they have failed miserably. The next parable (the Parable of the Vineyard) is like pouring salt on a wound. Just in case they didn’t fully understand (which they did), Jesus gives a much clearer picture of what He means. Obviously, this further infuriates the priests, but it also gives the others who were present an opportunity to hear Jesus fully explain the implications of the disobedience of the Jewish people throughout the ages.

Background: There are 6 main characters in this parable: 1) the landowner—God, 2) the vineyard—Israel, 3) the tenants/farmers—the Jewish religious leadership, 4) the landowner’s servants—the prophets who remained obedient and preached God’s word to the people of Israel, 5) the son—Jesus, and 6) the other tenants—the Gentiles. The imagery used is similar to Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard (it would be prudent to study this also) found in Isaiah chapter 5. The watchtower and the wall mentioned in verse 33 are means of protecting the vineyard and the ripened grapes. The winepress is obviously for stamping out the juice of the grapes to make the wine. The farmer was apparently away at the time of harvest and had rented the vineyard to the tenants. This was customary of the times, and he could expect as much as half of the grapes as payment by the tenants for use of his land.

Explanation: Verses 34–36 tell us the landowner sent his servants to collect his portion of the harvest and how they were cruelly rejected by the tenants; some were beaten, stoned, and even killed. Then he sent even more the second time and they received the same treatment. The servants sent represent the prophets that God had sent to His people/Israel and then were rejected and killed by the very people who were claiming to be of God and obedient to Him. Jeremiah was beaten (Jeremiah 26:7–11; 38:1–28), John the Baptist was killed (Matthew 14:1–12), and others were stoned (2 Chronicles 24:21). In this parable Jesus is not only reminding the religious establishment what they were like, but He was putting in their minds a question: how could they claim obedience as God’s people and still reject His messengers? We don’t know how many servants the owner sent, but that is not what is important; the theme is God’s repeated appeal through His prophets to an unrepentant people. In next verses (37–39), the situation becomes even more critical. The landowner sends his own son, believing that they will surely respect him. But the tenants see an opportunity here; they believe that if they kill the son they will then receive his inheritance. The law at the time provided that if there were no heirs then the property would pass to those in possession (possession is nine tenths of the law). This amounts to conspiracy to commit murder by the Jewish leadership, and it is prophetic in the sense that Jesus is now telling them what they are going to do to Him (see Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 28:16). After Jesus’ death, Peter would make the same charges against the religious establishment (Acts 4:8–12). The tenants probably thought that the fight for the property was over, but it wasn’t; the owner would now appear on the scene.

Jesus now (vs.40–41) asks the question, what will the owner do to the evil tenants? What He is doing is forcing the religious leaders/priests to declare their own miserable fate: condemnation for their blatant disobedience. This is similar to the question that Nathan put to David (2 Samuel 12:1–7). Up to this point, Jesus has been dealing with the immediate situation of Israel and its past disobedience; now Jesus leaves open the question of what Israel’s leadership is going to do with the Messiah, the Son of God, whom He refers to as the “chief cornerstone” (vs 42). Cornerstones and capstones are used symbolically in Scripture and picture Christ as the main piece of the foundation of the church and the head of the church, respectively. Jesus is the beginning of and is foundational to the church, and He now stands over the church in His rightful position of honor, guiding the church to fulfill its divine destiny. This verse makes clear prophetically how Jesus will be rejected by the religious establishment and ultimately be crucified (see Psalm 118:22–23).

The key to understanding this parable and what it says about the religious leaders is found in verse 43, where Jesus makes their lack of obedience personal. Jesus tells the leaders that because of their disobedience they will be left out of the kingdom of heaven (individually and as a people); that they have let their opportunity for the time being slip away to be given to the Gentiles (see verse 41, “other tenants”). This will be more than they can tolerate, as we will see in verses 45 and 46. He is saying that there will be a new people of God made up of all peoples who will temporarily replace the Jews so that Jesus can establish His church. This will change the way God deals with man, from the old dispensation of the law to a new dispensation of God’s grace. It will usher in a period of time where man will no longer understand forgiveness of sins as man’s work through what he does or doesn’t do or by the sacrifices of animals on the altar, but by the work of Christ on the cross. It will be a time where each individual can have a personal and saving relationship with the One and only God of the universe. The exciting part of the verse is the phrase “who will produce fruit”; this gives authority to the church to share the gospel of Christ to the lost of the world. Up to this time, the Jews felt that they had automatic membership in God’s kingdom because of their relationship to Abraham; this is why they put so much emphasis on genealogies. But the new people of God would truly have what God wanted for Israel all along: a personal and holy relationship that would be honored through the spreading of God’s word to all peoples (see Exodus 19:5–6).

Jesus continues the stone metaphor in verse 44 to show how a stone can be used to build something beautiful, such as His church, or it can be used to crush and destroy, depending on the situation. This could be likened to God’s word: to some it is salvation, peace and comfort. To others it is foolish and disconcerting because of its ability to convict man of his sins (2 Timothy 3:16).

Verses 45 and 46 give us three insights into the psyche of the chief priest of the religious establishment. 1) They are jealous and envious of Jesus’ popularity with the common people. This encroaches on their authority and power to govern. 2) They have come to the realization that Jesus is talking about them. This hurts their pride and embarrasses them in front of the people. 3) They understood the analogy of the son and that Jesus was referring to Himself. This would be blasphemous to them, and they would now seek to kill Jesus. From here the leaders would meet in secrecy to plot how they would get rid of Jesus. Why all the secrecy? The people thought of Jesus as a prophet from God; arresting Him could cause an uprising. An uprising would jeopardize the leaders’ relationship with the Roman authorities, something that the Jews did not want at any cost.

Application: We apply this parable to our lives by asking two questions; first, have you come to know Christ as you Lord and Savior, or have you rejected Him like the Jewish leadership did? The process is simple, as long as you are sincere in seeking a relationship with Christ. You need to recognize your sins, and then accept Christ as the only One who can save you from the penalty of your sins. Second, if you are a believer, what have you done with Jesus? Are you like the bad tenants, rejecting His Word and living a life of disobedience? If you are, you need to study God’s Word and pray for guidance, seeking His will for your life and living out that will as best as you can, moment by moment, day by day.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Bible: What Are the Books of 1 and 2 Maccabees?

 

The books of 1 and 2 Maccabees are early Jewish writings detailing the history of the Jews in the first century B.C. Both books are part of the canon of Scripture in the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Coptic, and Russian Orthodox churches, but they are not recognized as canon by Protestants and Jews. The books outline the history of the Maccabees, Jewish leaders who led a rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucid Dynasty from 175 BC to 134 BC. The first book portrays the effort by the Jews to regain their cultural and religious independence from Antiochus IV Epiphanes after his desecration of the Jewish temple.

The book of 2 Maccabees consists of a Greek synopsis of a five-volume history of the Maccabean revolt written by Jason of Cyrene. The authors of both books are unknown. The first book, although written from a biased perspective, does not directly mention God or divine intervention. The second book has a more theological slant, advancing several doctrines followed by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. The book of 1 Maccabees was written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Scholars believe that the author was a Palestinian Jew who was intimately familiar with the events described. The author opposed the Hellenization of the Jews and clearly supported and admired the Jewish revolutionaries led by Judas Maccabeus and his brothers.

In the second century BC, Judea existed between the Egyptian Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Syrian Seleucid Empire, kingdoms formed after the death of Alexander the Great. Judea fell under the control of the Seleucids in approximately 200 BC. During this time, many Jews began to adopt a Greek lifestyle and culture in order to gain economic and political influence. They avoided circumcision and advocated abolishing Jewish religious laws.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes became the ruler of the Seleucid Empire in 175 B.C. He was inconsiderate of the views of the religious, traditional Jews in Palestine. To Antiochus, the office of High Priest was merely a local appointee within his realm, while to orthodox Jews the High Priest was divinely appointed. Antiochus appointed a High Priest named Jason, a Hellenized Jew, who promptly abolished the Jewish theocracy, followed by Menelaus, who had the rightful High Priest, Onias, murdered. After Menelaus’ brother stole sacred articles from the temple, a civil war ensued between the Hellenized Jews and the religious Jews. Antiochus subsequently attacked Jerusalem, pillaged the Temple, and killed or captured many of the women and children. He banned traditional Jewish religious practice, outlawing Jewish sacrifices, Sabbaths, feasts, and circumcision. He established altars to Greek gods upon which “unclean” animals were sacrificed. He desecrated the Jewish temple. Possession of Jewish Scriptures became a capital offence.

In a small, rural village called Modein, an elderly priest named Mattathias lived with his five sons—John, Simon, Judas, Eleazer, and Jonathan. Sometimes referred to as the Hasmoneans (a designation derived from Asmoneus, the name of one of their ancestors), this family more frequently has been called the Maccabeans (a nickname meaning “hammerer”). In 167 BC Antiochus sent some of his soldiers to Modein to compel the Jewish inhabitants to make sacrifices to the pagan gods. Mattathias, as a leader in the city, was commanded by the officers to be the first person to offer a sacrifice as an example to the rest of the people. He refused with a powerful speech (see: 1 Maccabees 2:15–22).

Fearing violence against the people for Mattathias’ refusal, another Jew volunteered to offer the sacrifices to the pagan gods in the place of Mattathias, but Mattathias killed this Jewish man, as well as the soldiers of the king. He then destroyed the altar to the pagan gods, after which he, his sons, and a number of followers fled to the mountainous wilderness. These men formed a large, guerrilla warfare army and soon began to launch raids against the towns of the land, tearing down the pagan altars, killing the officials of Antiochus, and also executing those Jews who were worshipping the pagan gods.

Mattathias died in 166 BC, just as the revolt was gaining momentum, leaving his son Judas in charge of the rebel forces. Even though greatly outnumbered, Judas and his rebels defeated general after general in battle, winning decisive victories against overwhelming odds. The rebels even won a tremendous victory south of Mizpah against a combined army of 50,000 troops. The people of Israel gave Judas the nickname “Maccabeus” because of his success in “hammering” the enemy forces into the ground.

Antiochus, who had underestimated the scope of the revolt, now realized the serious nature of the rebellion in Palestine. He dispatched Lysias, the commander-in-chief of the Seleucid army, along with 60,000 infantrymen and 5,000 cavalry, to utterly destroy the Jews. This vast army was additionally commanded by two generals serving under Lysias—Nicanor and Gorgias. This powerful army came against Judas, who fought with a force of only 10,000 poorly equipped rebels, in the town of Emmaus. He prayed to God for strength and deliverance (1 Maccabees 4:30–33), and God answered and they won a huge victory over the Seleucid army.

Subsequently, the Maccabees marched into Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple, and resumed traditional Jewish religious practices. The festival of Hanukkah commemorates the cleansing and rededication of the Jewish temple. Judah’s brother, Jonathan, became the new High Priest after the rededication of the Temple and ultimately succeeded Judah as commander of the army. His brother, Simon, assumed control from 142 to 135 BC, followed by Simon’s son, John Hyrcanus. With the death of Simon, the last son of Mattathias, the Maccabean Revolt came to an end. The author concludes his narrative in 1 Maccabees with these events.

The Second Book of Maccabees was written in Koine Greek, most likely around 100 BC. This work coheres with 1 Maccabees, but it is written as a theological interpretation of the Maccabean revolt. In addition to outlining the historical events, 2 Maccabees discusses several doctrinal issues, including prayers and sacrifices for the dead, intercession of the saints, and resurrection on Judgment Day. The Catholic Church has based the doctrines of purgatory and masses for the dead on this work. On the other hand, an important tenet of the Protestant Reformation (1517) was that scriptural translations should be derived from the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts for the Old Testament and Greek for the New Testament, rather than upon the Septuagint and Jerome’s Vulgate. Statements were included in the Protestant Bibles indicating that the Apocrypha was not to be placed on the same level as the other documents.[1]


[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Pope to Copeland: Catholics and Charismatics must spiritually unite

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We are galloping toward a one-world melding of religions, and the ramifications are staggering. Pope Francis has now sent a video message to Word of Faith father Kenneth Copeland, urging a reconciliation between Catholics and Charismatics.

“The Catholic and Charismatic Renewal is the hope of the Church,” exclaims Anglican Episcopal Bishop Tony Palmer, before a group of cheering followers at the Kenneth Copeland Ministries.   Palmer said those words are from the Vatican. Before playing the video message from Pope Francis to Kenneth Copeland, Palmer told the crowd,  “When my wife saw that she could be Catholic, and Charismatic, and Evangelical, and Pentecostal, and it was absolutely accepted in the Catholic Church, she said that she would like to reconnect her roots with the Catholic culture. So she did.”

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Survey: Christians Have Lost the Culture War

The culture war may be lost and religious liberty might not be that far behind, according to a new survey from LifeWay Research.

Seventy percent of senior pastors at Protestant churches say religious liberty is on the decline in the United States and 59 percent of Christians believe they are losing the culture war. Eleven percent considers that war already lost.

The survey results are staggering– indicating grave concerns about the moral direction of the nation from both the pulpit and the pew.

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Why Parents Are “Paranoid” About Common Core

This week’s award for Biggest Common Core Jerk goes to Missouri GOP state legislator Mike Lair. Parents, teachers and administrators who object to the government education “standards” racket — which usurps local control, impedes academic achievement and undermines family privacy — have politicians on the defensive. The only thing these Fed Ed flacks and hacks can respond with is cowardly condescension.

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NYC: More Black Babies Killed Than Born

CNSNews reports:

In 2012, there were more black babies killed by abortion (31,328) in New York City than were born there (24,758), and the black children killed comprised 42.4% of the total number of abortions in the Big Apple, according to a report by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The report is entitled, Summary of Vital Statistics 2012 The City of New York, Pregnancy Outcomes, and was prepared by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Office of Vital Statistics.

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David Yonggi Cho, Founder of World’s Largest Church, Found Guilty of Breach of Trust, Corruption

According to The Gospel Herald:

David Yonggi Cho, founder of world’s largest Pentecostal congregation, was found guilty by South Korean court for committing breach of trust and corruption of 130 billion won (US $21 million), according to Yonhap News Agency.
Cho, senior pastor of Yoido Full Gospel Church, was sentenced to a three-year prison term with a five year reprieve and ordered to pay a penalty of 50 billion won (US $4.7 million) by Seoul Central Court on Feb. 20, 2014.

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Our Lord Jesus Christ is the founder of salvation

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:10 ESV)

Adherents to any man-focused religion that call themselves Christian place the onus of salvation on the person and make God a passive entity who will not or cannot interfere with Man’s free will. This is not Biblical. It is philosophical. When we debate those who elevate free will above God and His sovereignty using Sacred Scripture their response is never in kind. That is because we are actually contending against a philosophy that is based on Man’s conceptions and understandings not on Biblical exegesis. Let us look at the founder of our salvation from the source our God gave us. Through this, He will make His truth apparent to our hearts by the working…

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