I recently heard one of the best sermons ever by Pastor Mark Driscoll. It was called “The Father of a Murdered Son“. It brought to mind several thoughts I wanted to share, and in doing so I’ll also recap some of the main points of Mark’s sermon.
Imagine something with me for a moment. You own a house in another state. You’ve had renters for some time and you get word that they’ve been neglecting the property and they’re destroying the house. You’ve bent over backwards to try and make sure that all of their needs are met. You’ve been quick to respond to any issues that have come up with the property; you replaced the water heater just a couple of months ago and you always call them right back whenever they contact you, despite their obvious lack of respect for you and your property.
Eventually the reports become overwhelming and you become truly concerned that your house might be totally worthless by the time they move out. So, you send someone to check in on things and hopefully convince the tenants to take better care of things and show a little consideration. However, when he arrives at the property they invite him in only to beat him up and kick him out the front door. He returns with a report, things are even worse than you expected. Later you send another person to check in and try and appeal to the decency of the tenants, but the result is the same. He comes back and nothing has changed.
Eventually you decide that things have gone on long enough and you decide to give your son the authority to go to the house and do whatever is necessary to resolve the matter. After all, he’ll inherit the house soon and perhaps the tenants will understand the severity of the matter if your son shows up on the property. The results, however, are disastrous; things quickly get out of hand and they end up murdering your son, somehow thinking the property will become theirs if the heir is no longer able to take ownership of the property.
Your only son is dead, and all because the tenants were defiant and greedy. What would you do?
In Luke 20:9-16 Jesus tells a parable similar to this story. The parable was used to communicate an incredible truth from God’s perspective to the Chief Priests, who were quickly growing weary of Jesus’ presence. Let’s have a look:
9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and 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 tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
What may or may not be obvious in this parable is that the “man who planted a vineyard” is God. The vineyard is the world, it’s us, it’s everything. He created it all. In this case he was likening the unfaithful religious of Israel (and in this case the Chief Priests specifically) to the tenants. They were God’s chosen people who would be the stewards of that which He had graciously given them. In the larger context we, all people, are also the stewards of that which He created while he is “away for a long time”. The servants God sent are His prophets. If you’ve read much of the old testament you’ll see many examples of Israel rejecting the prophets of God and essentially choosing to be their own gods instead of accepting the correction of the One True God through His chosen prophets.
The most fascinating part of this parable for me, however is the part about the man sending his son. If the meaning of this parable isn’t hitting you in the face by know I’m going to spoil it for you, Jesus is speaking of Himself when he speaks of the son. To me this portion of scripture is extremely special. It wraps up some significant truths about the history of the world, what God was trying to accomplish through His prophets and how He would eventually atone for the sin of man into one dense, but small package. It’s all there!
The father’s response is nothing shocking or surprising at first reading; it says “He would come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” I don’t have children, but I can almost guarantee you if someone killed my son to try and steal his inheritance I would almost certainly want to kill them. For this reason alone it should come as no surprise to us that hell exists, nor should it be of any surprise that we, as co-conspirators in the murder of the Son of God, should be destined to spend eternity there. In fact, if there wasn’t a hell one could rightly assume that the father didn’t love his son very much if he sought no justice for the murder of his son.
But here’s where it gets interesting. Here’s the “good news” or gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, we, as a people had a hand in murdering God’s son Jesus. Yes, by default all mankind is destined for eternal punishment (hell). But here’s the amazing thing about Jesus that brings tears to the eyes of all those who profess Him as their Lord: Jesus decided to offer forgiveness to those who admit their guilt. At the end of the day there are really only two kinds of people, those who admit that Jesus died because of their sin and those who don’t.
His blood is on your hands. His blood is on my hands. But Jesus, after rising from the dead on the 3rd day created a way for us to be forgiven of that horrible act. In effect saying “the penalty of sin is death. Why don’t you tell me you’re sorry and I’ll have my death count for you so the Father will no longer be angry at you.”
But there’s one more thing that I don’t want you to miss from this parable. If you notice the very last part says “He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” This part speaks of the good news that would soon be taken outside of Israel and indeed to all other peoples of the earth! Salvation would no longer be confined to the ranks of the Jewish people, it would be offered to the gentiles, and unless you’re jewish that’s you! Indeed God would also give the inheritance of the son to those who also received the vineyard from the Lord.
May all praise be given to our Lord and King Jesus, who willingly offered Himself as an atoning sacrifice for the very people who killed Him!