5th Sunday in Lent
March 13, 2016
Gospel: Luke 20:9-20
Epistle: Phil 3:(4b-7) 8-14
Lesson: Is 43:16-21
Psalm: Psalm 126
From the New International Commentary on the New Testament: by Norval Geldenhuys
By the entry into Jerusalem and purification of the Temple the Savior had already clearly and vigorously announced His Messiahship. And now He once more announces it by means of this parable, and at the same time He shows His enemies that He is fully aware of their murderous plans against Him and warns them that if they should carry out those plans an awful fate is awaiting them. Moreover, the parable is also the answer to their previous question–He is acting on the authority of the Father who sent Him.
9 While His questioners (the Jewish leaders) were still there, Jesus relates to the multitude the parable of the husbandmen. To a greater degree than most of the other parables, this one should in many respects (though not in all respects) be interpreted allegorically. The vineyard thus symbolizes, as it often does in the Old Testament (cf. Isa. v. 1-7; Jer. ii. 21, etc.), the chosen people, and the husbandmen the Jewish leaders to whom the care of the people has been entrusted.
10-12 The servants who were sent to fetch of the fruit of the vineyard represent the various prophets and other messengers of God in Old Testament days who from time to time were sent to the Jewish people and were but too often ill-treated and rejected by the Jewish leaders (cf. Jer. vii. 25, xxv. 4; Amos iii. 7; Zech. i. 6).
13 In this verse the Messianic consciousness of Jesus is expressed very clearly. In these words He declares plainly that, while He is a divine Messenger and One who acts on God’s authority, He is quite different from all the other divine messengers, as, e.g., the prophets. He is altogether unique–the beloved Son of the Father. In addition, He is the very last One to come to the people, and indeed to the whole world. After His coming no higher revelation and no mightier manifestation of God’s love is to be expected. Through His coming to the people they (and especially the leaders) have now their last chance.
14-16 During Jesus’ public activity among the Jews it has already become quite clear that they will not stand in awe even of Him; in fact, the Jewish leaders were already hard at work making preparations to bring about His death. Just as the wicked husbandmen had lost sight of the fact that, even if they slew the son, the owner was still there to call them to account, so Jesus warns the Jews who are engaged in these murderous plans against Him that they will shortly have to do with God, the Almighty Owner and Lord of all–to their fatal undoing. The Jewish rulers (and along with them the unbelieving part of the people) will be visited by the judgments of God and will no longer have the privilege of acting as the spiritual leaders of God’s people. Believers in Jesus (from whatever nation) will be the new, true Israel, God’s vineyard, and other leaders will be the workers in His vineyard–namely, the apostles, and after them all who have been called to minister spiritually to His church on earth (this ultimately extends, therefore, to every ordinary believer).
17 The divine purpose, however, reaches farther than this parable could reveal. For while that beloved son is killed and the owner is left to administer to the evil-doers their utmost and well-deserved punishment, Jesus, the beloved Son of the Father, will, notwithstanding His being done to death, triumph over death and the grave and all hostile forces, and will be exalted (reinstated in His former glory and invested with fresh glory) as Head and Lord (“the corner-stone”) of the real Israel, the eternal divine empire.
18 As a blind man who stumbles and falls over a stone and injures himself against it, so those who through their unbelief and falseness of heart are spiritually blind will find Jesus, as it were, a stumbling-block in their path and so in a spiritual sense they will fall and come to grief. Even in the ordinary course of life this will happen to those who do not believe in Jesus. But whosoever persists in the state of unbelief until the time of grace is expired will be completely crushed by the judgment of God, carried out by the Son–and be pulverized like one on whom a tremendous rock crashes down.
19, 20 However much the Jewish leaders desired to take Jesus without delay and to cause Him to be done to death, He still had too great a hold on the multitude. In impotent rage, especially after He had so clearly exposed their murderous intentions through the parable of the husbandmen, they tried to devise all manner of plans to bring him into disfavor with the multitude or into conflict with the Roman authorities. After their previous defeats they now evidently act with great caution and subtle cunning. This appears from the fact that, instead of again sending official members of the Sanhedrin to Him, they send a small group of their disciples (Matt. xxii. 16) to try to entangle Jesus in His speech. These younger men could more easily pretend to be seriously seeking for an answer to the question which they had to put. The deadly nature of this new attack launched against Jesus becomes clear from the fact that, in order to carry it out, the Pharisees act in unison with the Herodians in an unholy alliance (Mark xii. 13), so that the two parties, as a rule bitterly hostile to each other, are temporarily united in the conspiracy to destroy their common foe (cf. also Mark iii. 6).