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Daily Readings/ Editorial


Scriptures to be read before the sermon on Sunday, April 6:

Monday: Luke 19:28-48

Tuesday: Luke 20:1-19

Wednesday: Luke 20:20-39

Thursday: Luke 20:41-21:4

Friday: Luke 21:5-28

Saturday: Luke 21:29-38


Dr. Klyne Snodgrass writes that the Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Luke 20:9-19 is one of the most significant, most discussed, most complicated and, not surprisingly, the most debated parables of Jesus. Please re-read it again now if you haven’t already read it in our Daily Bible Readings this week.

As we have seen while looking at interpretations of other parables in the Gospel of Luke this spring, there is no end to the ways that this parable might be read. But, as Dr. Snodgrass also points out, the focus in reading a story should be on the plot, the movements of the main characters, and the way the analogy functions. Details in the accounts add interest and move the story along, but they are not the focus of the story; nor should they become the focus for speculation. Like Snodgrass has emphasized repeatedly, the stock features used in the story only help frame the intent (meaning) which in this parable is revealed through the quotation of Psalm 118:22 in Luke 20:17; it provides the explanation, that is, discloses the intent!

This is a story about God (owner) and his people (vineyard). The identity of the tenants (religious leaders) became known through Psalm 118:22 in Luke 20:17-18. The servants in the story would have, no doubt, been viewed as the prophets – messengers of God. The identity of the Son is not merely a part of the machinery of the story – for his coming and the tenants’ treatment of him creates a crisis. If the story were merely about the patience of God, continuing to send servants would suffice. With the son’s coming, something significant happens. All hearers would have understood him to be at least a godly person, and possibly the long-awaited Messiah. But why add him to the story?

Dr. Snodgrass believes the only conclusion that makes sense with this parable is that the son is an indirect self-reference to Jesus. Because of the rejection of God’s envoy, that is, His son, the kingdom is transferred away from the religious leaders. The stone quotation of Psalm 118:22 in Luke 20:17-18 makes this obvious. It says explicitly and dramatically what the parable intends – the religious leaders have rejected the son, the climactic envoy from God, but this rejection will be reversed by God and the leaders will lose their role in God’s purposes. This parable, however, does

not teach that God rejected Israel. Why would a positive comment like “the people considered Jesus to be a prophet so the leaders would not go after him because of the people” be used if the whole nation were being rejected?

As a prophet, Jesus took a prophetic tool – this parable – and its theme (vineyard of Isaiah 5) to recast the story to serve as a self-indicting mirror for the religious leaders. Not only the things he spoke but his actions as well showed that he had the authority to bring God’s kingdom, and also that the religious leaders no longer had that authority (and they also would be punished and lose their privileges). The implied question the parable addresses is: Who then will respond to God’s climactic messenger? Unlike the Parable of the fig tree, this parable does not hold out much hope. The message of the parable is the same as the lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-38 & Luke 11:49-51). It is no accident that Psalm 118 is used at the end of both. Dr. Snodgrass points out that the parable says in story form what the lament says in narrative form.

This is the most revealing parable about Jesus’ own sense of his role in God’s purposes. He is the One who not only invites involvement in God’s kingdom but will make it possible in a new way through His death and resurrection. How will we respond?

John Harp