How’s Your Vineyard?

Much of Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry was presented in parables. You might think He chose this method to make things clearer, but the scriptures give a different reason. When His disciples asked, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Jesus said it was not to make His words more understandable but to hide the meaning of His words from those who would reject them (Matthew 13:10-16).

God’s Word is spiritually discerned. In our natural, fleshly, humanity we are not able to understand what it means unless the Holy Spirit enlightens us and opens our minds and hearts to receive it (1 Corinthians 2:12-16). The meaning of Jesus’ parables was hidden from the Pharisees, and so it is with the rest of God’s Word. We need the Holy Spirit to teach us.

In Mark 12, Jesus teaches a parable that was specifically about religious Israel, and by the end of it, God enlightened His word to convict their hearts, although that conviction did not lead to repentance. The story presents a landowner who planted a vineyard and prepared it for use. He then rented out his vineyard to vine growers and left on a journey. Their job was to make the vineyard fruitful by planting, caring for, and harvesting the grapes, some of which would then be given to the landowner. However, the tenant farmers decided they didn’t like the arrangement. They saw the vineyard as belonging to them, not the Master, and refused to give up the produce that was rightfully his. Instead, they beat and killed his servants who were sent to receive it, and eventually, they killed his own son thinking to seize the inheritance for themselves.

In the end, the Master comes to destroy the tenant farmers, the vine growers, and gives his vineyard to others.

All three gospel writers who relate this story (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) tell us that the Pharisees got the message. They knew Jesus was talking about them. The vineyard represents the gift of the gospel message and all of the Old Testament words of God that were given to reproduce fruit for the master. But instead of honoring God and receiving the Messiah, they would soon kill Him. God would turn away from the Jewish nation for their unbelief, and offer the gospel to the Gentiles.

This parable has an immediate and clear application to the Jewish religious leaders Jesus was speaking to directly. But it also has a lesson for us.

What vineyard has God given us? As followers of Jesus, we are simply “tenant farmers” in this world – temporary, itinerant ambassadors and messengers laboring in a particular place for a limited time, with the obligation and assignment to share the good news of the gospel. We are laborers in His harvest, sent out just as He sent His original twelve disciples to make disciples and teach the followers of Jesus to obey His commands (Matthew 28:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

How are we doing with our “vine-growing?” Are we producing fruit that honors God and reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit in us (John 15)? When the Master calls us to account for the work He has given us, what will we have to show for our lives?

1 Corinthians 3:7-15 – So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Today is a good day to be in God’s vineyard. We have a loving Master, a heavenly Father, who has equipped us and prepared us for every good work that we are called upon to do. Our role is simply to be obedient servants, giving the glory and attention and honor due to God who has called us and considered us worthy to belong to Him.

What will you do when the Master comes to receive the fruit of His vineyard?

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