Luke 20:9-19 Rebellion’s Deadly Consequence


It is garden season.  Many gardeners are more adept and diligent than I am. As regarding my own garden, it is often a fruitless effort. But for a good gardener, planting a garden comes with a quite reasonable expectation of sharing in its produce.  How much more for any of our farmers around here who plant their fields in hope. Of course we all know that it is in no way unusual to lease land from another and to plant it, with a further understanding that a portion of the produce will go to the landowner as well.

What would happen to you if you agreed to terms on such a field, planted it, ultimately harvested it, but in the day that payment was due, you kept the proceeds for yourself? It is not too hard to imagine the results ranging from confrontation to legal action to forcible recompense.

In the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, the upper Jordan Valley, the shores of Galilee and more consisted of estates owned by foreigners who lived far away but who rented out their land for production.  Those who were left to run the business had free reign to do as they will as long as the payments came in – no matter the quality of the crop payment was expected.[1] Woe to those vinedressers who decided to deal dishonestly with the distant landowner.

This is the context of Today’s parable taken from Luke’s gospel.  Please stand as you are able and read with me from Luke 20:9-19.

The Parable

The main thrust of the parable is this: Sin and rebellion has deadly consequences.

In response to the questioning of his authority and the consequent rejection of Jesus’ offer of grace to the Jewish leaders, he turns to the people – not the leaders and tells them a parable filled with now familiar imagery. This is not a story to entertain, it is a lesson in consequences. The parable serves as a warning for the people to consider. Do they want to reap the consequences of rejecting Jesus?

In the story, the man plants a vineyard, rents it out and goes away to a distant land with every expectation of a return on his investment.

He sends his first slave (doulos) expecting his share in the crop.  But he was beaten and sent away empty.

The second slave is beaten and treated shamefully. He is likewise sent away empty handed.

The third slave is sent, and this one they wound and cast out.

Notice that each time a slave is sent, the cruelty increases. This is the natural order of things in this life. Sinful men grow more sinful, not less so.  You can see it exemplified in the scriptures as well. Cain starts with a bad offering and ends by murdering his brother. Herod starts in many ways but for example he takes his brother’s wife due to passion and then due to passion and cowardice murders John the Baptist.  So too is your life.  The first step of sin burns the heart and threatens pains of guilt which are quickly renounced and repented of.  But if the first pains are ignored and brushed to the side, very soon a greater opportunity to step away from God is given – and taken. Faltering steps become bold. Bold steps become leaps, and prideful rebellion breaks into running full strength away from God until destruction is the inevitable consequence. “…“Resist the beginnings!” Watch out for the first misstep. Every further advance into sin will be easier than the previous step.”[2]

The first slave is beaten, the second also receives shame, the third is then wounded.

Perhaps, thinks the landowner, they will respect my son.  But it is not to be.

Please see that the son is not sent because he is despised. The son comes with a declaration of Love.

It was an unnecessary detail for the story, for Jesus to include that the son was “beloved.” But it was a vital detail to our understanding.  One could argue (falsely I think) that the landowner did not love his slaves, but no argument can be made against the son. Because the son is greatly loved, dearly loved, we are privy to see the great loss which the landowner will bear himself. We also see the final step of depravity in the sharecroppers actions.

We must see here the greatness of the price paid. [3]
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB95)

The sharecroppers reason with one another. (20:14) This was not a thoughtless move – it is done with malice aforethought and greed.  They believed that if they removed the heir, they would become the heirs.  Such arrogance, such foolishness but no different really than when people reject God’s way and think that there will be no consequence.  Blinded by greed (no indication of a dead landowner) they murder the son.

In verse 15 we see it: their actions are twofold.  They could have killed him inside the vineyard, but they did not.  Symbolically it represents Jesus being cut off from Israel by the leadership.

“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (Hebrews 13:12, NASB95)

He was separated, and subsequently murdered.

Sin and rebellion has deadly consequences.

What then will happen? Rebellion has deadly consequences. The landowner will come and destroy the vineyard workers and give the vineyard to others.  When they express their dismay that this could be the case, Jesus reminds them from Psalm 118:22, “The stone which the builders rejected, has become the chief cornerstone.”

“If shepherds or sailors had rejected the Stone we would not have wondered, for building is not their job, but when those whose craft it is, when the experts refuse the best stone, we may well wonder.”[4]

The Explanation

God is the landowner. He entrusted his earth, his plan, into the hands of the people of Israel and expected – indeed had every right to expect a return on his investment.  The return, of course, that God expected was love; love of God and love of neighbor. This would have expressed itself in all of the ways that even the Law of Moses couldn’t fully list.

The sharecroppers are the people of Israel – indeed we can freely extrapolate that they represent not just the leadership of Israel, but the full nation of Israel from its inception until that day Jesus stood in front of them.

The slaves are the prophets. One by one from generation to generation the israelites had cast out, mistreated, and murdered the prophets.

The son in the story is the son of God himself.  By the way, do not miss the clarity with which Jesus claims to be God’s son (nor the capacity that those listening had to understand the claim!) Jesus is the son of the Living God.  This is not a debatable doctrine that you can take or leave. IF you reject the son you reject God himself.  Jesus is fully God and fully man. Two natures united in one person, neither mixed into a single nature, nor isolated in some form of divine multiple personality: Two natures, one person.  But the leaders of Israel will consult together and execute Jesus in just a few days.

And what then will the Lord of the vineyard do?  He will destroy.  Jesus’ final words are ““Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”” (Luke 20:18, NASB95)

It is helpful to think as the old rabbis did, of a clay pot. [5]  Should a clay pot be cast upon a stone, it will shatter, but should the stone be cast upon the clay pot… it will shatter. Whether you attack Jesus, or Jesus attacks you the result is the same: destruction.

The destruction of the sharecroppers by the landowner represents both the destruction of Israel in 70AD at the hands of the Roman Empire; but more than this represents the final destruction of all who reject Jesus.

Rejecting Christ does no damage to Him (but it breaks the father’s heart!).  But those who would rail against Jesus, resist Jesus, reject Jesus … these are the ones who will suffer.  Oh shall we not make sure that we are not rejecting Him?

Shall we not also make sure that others do not?

Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Shall we not plead with them to be saved and with heaven to save them? What of you? Are you his? Are you?

Sin and rebellion has deadly consequences. Turn to Him now with all your heart and follow. Turn away from rebellion and turn towards Jesus. Place your trust in Him, find there that you have complete forgiveness.

Like the people, we too have a choice. We live in an age and a place where the veneer of cultural Christianity is being shed or is already gone. Even now we have to determine if we will participate.  We will either be on the winning or losing end of these coming days.  But be assured, that for a season the winning side will look like it’s losing, and the losing side will think it is winning. Even as the sharecroppers thought they would win – but they lost.

[1] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, vol. 11, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 891.

[2] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, vol. 11, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 896.

[3] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to Luke, vol. 11, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 892.

[4] W. Graham Scroggie “A guide to the Psalms” p151

[5] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), Lk 20:9.