Parables for the Pharisees

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:
‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.”

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.

Matthew 21:28-46

These two parables are relevant to the Pharisees more than they are to us, because obviously as Christians we have accepted Christ. But, as always, there is still something for us to learn here.

First, the two sons. The first son represents the sinners, those who didn’t follow God’s words until John the Baptist came along, and then they changed their ways. The second son represents the Pharisees and the Priests, those who promised to do God’s will, but ignored the prophet He sent. The lesson for the Pharisees: The sinners are now more righteous than you. The lesson for us: What you do matters far more than what you say. You may call yourself a Christian, but if you don’t live your life that way, there’s really no point.

Second, the wicked tenants. The landowner represents God, the vineyard is His earthly Kingdom, and the tenants are the Priests and Pharisees. God left them in charge of the earth, but when He send John the Baptist, they killed him for the sake of their own power. When He send Jesus, they did (or will do) the same. So when God comes to judge, you can bet the Pharisees will be kept out of Heaven, out of eternal life with God. What does this mean for us? It can be a hard message to hear, but any person who rejects Jesus cannot go to Heaven.

You can see how power-driven the Pharisees were. They were outraged by Jesus’s words, but afraid to arrest Him because of the crowds. They couldn’t risk angering the crowds because that’s where their power came from. They would have to be sly and cunning if they wanted Jesus gone.

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