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Many people think that parables were designed by Jesus to make things clear.  That's not the case.  Parables were designed by Jesus to make things obscure, to hide truth.  He says that in Matthew 13, "These things are hiding the truth."  Why would He hide the truth?  He hid the truth because the people had rejected Him.  The conclusion of the leaders of Israel and the people who followed them in chapter 12 of Matthew was that He did what He did by the power of Satan; He was demon-inspired; His message came from hell; He was a false teacher of the worst kind.

So they concluded the exact opposite of the truth.  Jesus pronounced judgment on them from that day on.  From that day in Matthew 13, that very day on, He spoke to them in parables so they would not understand.  So parables were a judgment, and then He had to explain the meaning of those parables to His disciples as we saw last time so they would understand the meaning.  So He was actually teaching the crowds and teaching His disciples in a fashion that hid the truth so that He could pronounce a judgment on those who had rejected, and then have the opportunity to explain the meaning to those who believed.

Now, for the most part then, they did not understand the parables.  That was the whole point of the parables.  There is, however, a parable that they did understand.  It is in that sense a rare and unique parable, and it's found in Mark chapter 12, so I want you to go to this parable.  This parable is a parable that the religious leaders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders of Israel did get.  It was designed for that purpose.  While all parables were in a sense judgments because the parables talk about salvation, they talk about the gospel, they talk about the kingdom of God, they're all parables.  All 40 parables in the New Testament essentially are in one way or another gospel stories, gospel parables. 

There are a few of them, and this is one, maybe the leading one, that are in themselves judgments, that the ones being judged do understand.  This is very rare, but that's the case here in Mark chapter 12.  He is speaking, according to 11:27 in the temple where He's walking.  It is Wednesday of the final week of His life, two days from His crucifixion and two days after His triumphal entry.  So He's occupied the temple.  The first day He threw all the money changers out, threw the buyers and sellers out, and sort of purified it for a brief time; and then took over the next day.  And He's holding court, as it were, in the temple which He purified the day before, and He's talking to the leaders and the people surrounding them.  They are the architects of Judaistic religion.  They are the ones who have determined to kill Him.  They are the ones who have decided He is satanic, and He gives them this parable, which on a rare occasion, they do understand.  There's no way they can miss the understanding of this because it is historical and they know their history. 

We even know the moment that the reality of the parable dawned on them.  It took a long time, but there was a moment in which what He was saying dawned clearly in their minds, and they knew they had indicted themselves.  Now, Jesus tells stories that in many cases have extreme components or even outrageous or unpredictable, surprising, almost shocking behavior, such as the father running, embracing, kissing the vile prodigal son.  That's a shocking thing to the Jewish people, the Jewish leaders to whom Jesus gives it. 

There's another shock element here, and it's also the behavior of the leading character in this parable.  By the time they discover the reality of this parable they, the listeners, have really heaped profound guilt on themselves.  It's a remarkable story and, again, it shows us the literal supernatural genius of Jesus to create a story that sucks the hearers in and becomes a trap, which condemns them. 

This is Wednesday of Passion Week.  Friday, Jesus will die.  He knows that.  He knows it, and in the story He says what they're going to do to Him.  He's been saying it for months.  For months, He's been saying to His disciples, "I'm going to be arrested.  I'm going to be brutalized.  I'm going to be killed, and I'm going to rise from the dead."  He's been saying that for months.  There are no surprises in the life of Jesus.  He wasn't a well-intentioned religious leader who somehow lost control of His movement and it all went bad.  No.  He came to give His life a ransom for many.  He came to die.  He knew that from the beginning.  He even knew the details.  He knew He would be mistreated.  He would be abused.  He would be hit.  He would be crucified.  He knew all of those details. 

Here, in this parable on Wednesday, He tells the very people who are going to kill Him that they're going to kill Him.  He knows this without question.  This is no surprise to Him at all.  It is a very moving parable, and Jesus as the ultimate story teller captures His audience with the outrageous behavior of the vine growers, the tenant farmers in this story.  The audience of chief priests and scribes and Pharisees and elders are outraged at the behavior of these vine growers, and we'll see that as we go through, and they should have been. 

They were the ones who upheld the temple, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the rituals, and more importantly the law of God.  They were the representatives of God in the world, and righteous behavior and holy behavior was their stock and trade and their expectation of everyone.  They're shocked at the behavior of this man.  They're shocked at the behavior of these vine growers, the man, meaning the man who owns the vineyard.  They're shocked at everything that goes on in this story.  Then in the end, the shock hits them right between the eyes. 

Let's look at the parable, first of all, and then we'll look at the interpretation.  "He began to speak to them in parables."  Again, this is Wednesday.  The day before, He had cleared out the temple.  This is the next day, and at least for that day, He occupies center stage.  If you compare Matthew and Luke, you know that He taught at least three parables and a lot of other teaching also.  But here He speaks to them in parables, several, but Mark only records this one.  Here is the parable.  "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the winepress and built a tower."  Now, notice He doesn't say what is the formula for many of the parables, "The kingdom of heaven is like," because this is not about the kingdom of heaven.  This breaks the mold.  This is about judgment, and this is not a parable to hide the realities of the kingdom, but to reveal the reality of judgment.

Now, when He speaks, He speaks in very familiar words, "A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the winepress and built a tower."  That is quoted from Isaiah 5.  That is essentially a direct quote from Isaiah 5.  Now, Isaiah 5 was well-known to the people of Israel.  Isaiah is a prophet in Judah, and Isaiah's prophecy essentially is this, "You're going to be judged."  He's warning them about the coming judgment.  In fact, specifically the Babylonian invasion.  Warning them that the Chaldeans or Babylonians are going to come and be the instrument of God to destroy Jerusalem, destroy the temple, kill the people, and haul them off to captivity.  That is his warning. 

Isaiah, in his prophecy of warning includes a parable, and this is the parable from Isaiah.  He says, "Someone planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a vat, built a tower," all the components necessary to produce grape juice.  This from Isaiah 5.  If you go back to Isaiah 5, we won't do it.  I'll just kind of let you know.  If you go back to Isiah 5, you ask who the builder is, it is the Lord.  It says it in Isaiah 5.  You ask who the vineyard is; it is Israel, Judah specifically.  Isaiah 5:7, it is Israel and Judah. 

Now, if you follow Isaiah 5 from the identification of God planting Israel in the land and blessing Israel and providing everything for them to bring forth fruit, you also know that in the parable, they're indicted because instead of bringing forth good grapes, Isaiah says they brought forth baashim, which are sour, inedible berries.  They produce nothing of value.

So it says in Isaiah 5, "What shall I do?"  God is speaking first person.  "What shall I do to My vineyard?  I will destroy My vineyard.  I will destroy My vineyard."  And then the rest of chapter 5 describes the massive sins that Israel have committed and the judgment that's coming in the hoards from Babylon.  So anybody who heard Jesus quote Isaiah 5 should know what was coming because it is a set up for the judgment of God that came in the Babylonian captivity, which was a massacre by the Babylonians and deportation, as you know, for 70 years into Babylon.

If they were listening with hearing ears, they should have known when He started quoting Isaiah 5, this is going to be about judgment.  But they didn't pick it up right away.  Verse 1 again, and here's the addition to the text from Isaiah, "This man who planted the vineyard rented it out to vine growers and went on a journey."  Very familiar, very common.  Vineyards all over the land of Israel, all over the land of Israel, terraced on the hillsides everywhere.  Very familiar.  And a man who was a land owner providing a vineyard, very common; and then going on a long journey, very common.  And then renting it out to tenant farmers, tenant farmers, people who make a contract with him to work the land, to bring about the crop, and then to split the proceeds in whatever the contractual agreement stipulates.

He goes on a long journey.  People went on long journeys in those days because all journeys were long journeys, as you know.  So, the man has done everything for production.  He's planted a vineyard.  He's put a wall.  That's the protection around it.  He's dug a vat for the pressing of the grapes.  He's built a tower, which is a watch tower to see that no one invades, and also a place to store all of the implements.  Everything has been done.  Everything has been done. 

Then he goes on a long journey and according to Leviticus 19, I think it is, it can take as long as five years for a vineyard that's newly planted to really begin to produce grapes.  So they, tenant farmers, it is a long journey, and the tenant farmers have been there a while.  That's the idea.  It's a long time.  But the time has come for him to have an expectation of a harvest.  So verse 2 then picks up the story that our Lord creates.  "At the harvest time, he sent a slave to the vine growers in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine growers," the shared crop that belonged to him as had been contracted.

This is all pretty normal stuff.  They haven't picked up on the Isaiah 5 part.  They're not sensing this is a judgment story like in Isaiah.  So far, so good.  This is a normal kind of procedure they would have been very familiar with.  But now the shock comes, verse 3.  "The slave arrives.  They took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed."  The verb here der essentially means really to punch, to physically beat, to hit.  This is criminal behavior.  This is illegal.  There certainly would be assumed a contract.  To say nothing of ingratitude, this is vicious.  This is wicked to do that.  You've been given tremendous opportunity.  Obviously, they'd been cared for during the time they were there working before there was any crops, so they had received some kind of wages in this.  Now when all they have to do is give the contracted percentage of the produce back to the man who owned the vineyard, and it allowed them this employment and this privilege, they take the servant and they beat him up, and they send him away in pain.

Verse 4, "Again, he sent them another slave."  And the implication is that the first slave didn't even come back.  Maybe he was afraid of how his master would treat him if he hasn't succeeded, but he doesn't appear to have come back, but it's just a story.  "So he sends another one, and they wounded him in the head."  That's kephalioKephal is the Greek word for head.  What it literally means is they bashed his head in.  They smashed his head and treated him in an insulting, dishonorable, and shameful way.  I mean this is just outrageous, and you can hear these self-righteous, legalistic, chief priests, scribes and elders buzzing with each other.  "Who would do this?  Who would do this?  What kind of person is this?  What kind of people are these?  Who are these people who'd do that?  So ungrateful for all the privileges, for all the investment, for all that they had been given.  Who would do that?"

He sent another in verse 5.  That one, they killed!  They beat the first, smashed in the head of the second, and killed the third.  Actually, Matthew 21 gives a parallel account of this story and Jesus added, "They stoned him to death."  There were a lot of stones around a vineyard because they used the rocks to terrace the hillsides.  They stoned him to death.  "And so with many others, beating some and killing other."  Now, of course the people are starting to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa.  First, we would conclude that the behavior of the tenant farmers is really outrageous and bizarre.  Now we're going to question the sanity of the guy who owns the land.  What?  He just keeps sending people to get their head bashed in and get killed?  What is going on?  This thing becomes outrageous.  This whole thing becomes extreme.  Just when they think it's reached its extremity, Jesus says in verse 6, "He had one more left." 

All he's got left is a beloved son, and at this point they must have said, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  Please, no.  He's the heir.  He's the future.  He's the family.  He's continuity.  Don't send him.  You already know their behavior."  The gasps now are louder, and not just a son, but a beloved son.  Not a son you want to get rid of.  There are such sons.  This is not one.  He sent him last of all to them saying, "They will reverence my son," is the word.  They will respect my son.  Surely, they will.

This is the ultimate shock in the whole story.  Just completely beyond comprehension.  First, as I said, they can't understand the behavior of the tenant farmers, and then it begins to shift to the man that owns this place.  The question is why does he keep sending his slaves to be treated that way, and oh, whoa, why would he ever send his son?

What did they do to the son?  Well, they planned, verse 7.  "Those vine growers said to one another, 'This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours.'"  Whoo!  They took him, killed him, threw him out of the vineyard.  Really, just shocking.  If they were shocked on another occasion earlier when he described the father who ran and kissed his vile son all over his head and put a robe and sandals and had a party to celebrate his homecoming; if they were shocked at that kind of grace because they were legalists, they were equally shocked at this kind of behavior on the part of the killers and even on the part of the land owner.

They'd be shocked because they didn't even give the son a burial.  They just threw him out, road kill, scavenger, flesh for birds and beasts.  Then Jesus asked the question, verse 9, "What will the owner of the vineyard do?"  What would you do?  Well, by Old Testament law, Genesis 9:6, capital punishment, right?  "Whoever sheds man's blood by man shall his blood be shed."  This is a multiple murderer at this point.  They volunteer a collective answer that's recorded in Matthew 21 in the parallel passage.  They said, "The owner will bring those wretches to a wretched end," using very graphic language.  I mean they're completely sucked in.  "Bring those wretches to a wretched end."  Hmm.  I think it was when they said that that they begin to process what they had just said because Luke in his parallel account says, "When they heard it they said, 'May it never be!  May it never be!"  No, no, no, no, no.  It dawned on them, verse 12, middle of the verse.  "They understood what He spoke and they understood that He spoke the parable against them." 

How did they know it was them?  They knew their history.  They knew their history.  This is unmistakable, totally unmistakable.  M genoito in the Greek.  No, no, no, no.  Strongest possible negative.  No!  First of all, they're going to applaud the owner for sending an army with legal papers to bring about the execution of these murderers.  And then when they begin to realize that this is about them and they are trapped by their own condemnation, they have condemned themselves. 

They begin to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  We want to change our mind about the end of the story.  Can we write our own, and can you leave it blank?"  So what is the interpretation of this?  That is the parable.  The interpretation should be obvious.  The man that planted the vineyard is who?  God, as it was God in Isaiah 5.  The originator and possessor, the owner of the vineyard is God.  What is the vineyard?  The people of God.  In this case, Israel, the people of God.  "Israel is His pleasant plant," Isaiah says, the men of Judah.  So it's Israel, the vineyard people.  Very familiar picture to the Jews of Israel as a vineyard, Psalm 80, Jeremiah 2, other places.  Who are the tenant farmers?  Who are the vine growers, the gergoi?  They are the religious leaders that He's talking to, and not only those that He's talking to, but all of the ones who came before them, the leaders of the nation, the stewards of Israel's privileges, the stewards of Israel's opportunity, the stewards of, as Romans 9 says, "They were given the adoption and the covenants and the law."  And everything God had deposited in this world to bring men to the knowledge of Himself, He had deposited in the hands of the nation Israel, and there were stewards in the nation of Israel who were to care for that.

Stewards of God's possessions, the people.  Stewards of God's revelation, the truth.  What is the long journey?  The long journey is the Old Testament history.  God puts Israel in the land, establishes them in the land, gives them His law at the time of Moses and Joshua.  They are placed in the land.  God gives them Scripture, covenants, all that they need, the whole sacrificial system.  Everything is laid out for them, He puts the stewardship of that in the leaders of the nation, in the priests, in the rulers.

What is harvest time?  What is the harvest referred to in verse 2?  It's the appropriate season when God should expect a spiritual harvest.  God should come back periodically and expect a spiritual harvest, but as Isaiah said when God came back, there was nothing but sour berries.  Who are the slaves that He sent?  Who are the slaves that He sent?  Old Testament prophets, preachers.  Sometimes they were priests as well, but they were the faithful preachers who preached the message of God.  That would be from Moses to John the Baptist, all of them; those slaves that are sent from God to call the people back to Him, to call the people to produce righteous fruit.

What was the mistreatment of these preachers?  The nation Israel, what did they do with the prophets?  Beat them, treated them shamefully, wounded them, killed them, threw them out.  The history of Israel is told to them in this story. 

Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho accuses the Jews of having sawn Isaiah in half.  There is a reference in Hebrews 11:37 to righteous preachers being sawn in half.  Jeremiah, that faithful preacher who also warned about the judgment of God and the Babylonian captivity was constantly mistreated, abused endlessly, thrown into a pit, and tradition says he was stoned to death.  Ezekiel, murdered by an Israelite that he rebuked with a righteous rebuke.  Amos had to run for his life.  Zachariah the priest in 2 Chronicles 24 was rejected and chased into the temple where he thought he could be safe, and they stoned him to death in the temple.  Micaiah the prophet was constantly hit in the face by the leading false prophet as 1 Kings 22 records it.  This is the history of the Jewish treatment of the messengers of God. 

Go back for a minute to Jeremiah, the prophets recognized this for what it was.  Jeremiah, chapter 7.  Jeremiah, being one of the mistreated prophets.  Well, I guess we could read verse 23.  The Lord is speaking.  "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel," verse 21.  Pick it up in verse 23, "But this is what I commanded them saying, 'Obey my voice, and I will be your God, you will be My people; you will walk in all the way which I command you that it may be well with you.'"  This, on the brink of judgment, and He's telling them, "Be obedient." 

"Yet they did not obey - " verse 24 " - or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward and not forward.  Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have sent you all my servants the prophets, daily rising early and sending them.  Yet they did not listen to Me or incline their ear, but stiffed their beck; they did more evil than their fathers.'" 

They got worse and worse and worse and worse in rejecting and abusing the messengers of God.  Go to the 25th chapter of Jeremiah.  Again, the word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah in verse 4 of chapter 25, "The Lord has sent to you all His servants, the prophets again and again."  That's what rising early and sending means.  Again and again, day after day, time after time.  "You have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying – " here is what the prophet said, " - turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds and dwell on the land which the Lord has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; and do not go after other gods to serve them and to worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands, and I will do you no harm.  'Yet you have not listened to me,' declares the Lord, 'in order that you might provoke Me to anger with the work of your hands to your own harm.  Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts, 'Because you have not obeyed My words, behold I will send and take all the families of the north,' declares the Lord, 'And I will send to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, My servant, and bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations roundabout, and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.  And I will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones - " and normal course of grain work, " - and the light of the lamp, this whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon 70 years."  Because they rejected the prophets.

Turn to Matthew 23.  The same week that our Lord gave this parable, not too many hours after He gave that parable, He addressed the leaders of Israel in Matthew 23.  He pronounced curses on them.  Woe, woe, woe, woe.  Just as Isaiah does in Isaiah 5.  First the judgment parable comes about the vineyard, and then a series of woe, woe, woe, woe, woe all through Isaiah 5, and then the fierce judgment at the end.  Well, the Lord does that as well here.  Having already given the parable of the vineyard, He now pronounces the woes starting in verse 13 of 23, but I want you just to go down to verse 29.  Here is the ultimate woe.  "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  You build the tombs of the prophets, adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, 'If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.  We wouldn't have done what they did.'  So you testify against yourselves that you are the sons of those who murdered the prophets.  Fill up then the measure of the guilt of your fathers.  You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?"

You're doing the same thing.  Verse 37, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her."  That's how He identifies them.  He even says that, "Upon you – " verse 35 " – will fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth from the blood of the righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar."

They knew their history.  They knew it very well.  When Stephen preaches that great sermon in Acts chapter 7, it's worth noting again he brings that indictment out.  Verse 51, "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in your heart and ears and are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?"  Which one did they not persecute?  "They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the righteous one whose betrayers and murderers you have now become.  They killed the ones who announced the Righteous One, and you are the murderer of the Righteous One."

They killed the prophets who announced His coming.  You killed Him when He came.  That is a stunning and unmistakable indictment.  Now go back to Mark 12.  That was just to give you context for the fact that they would know their history.  So it dawns on them what this is about, but who is the son?  Well, the son is obviously Jesus Christ who claimed to be the Son of God.  He's not just a Son.  God says, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.  This is My beloved Son.  Listen to Him," and this is the only Son God has.  That's why it says there was only one more to send, in verse 6, a beloved son. 

Maybe they will reverence Him entrep.  Maybe they will respect Him.  Maybe there's a reasonable expectation that when God sends His own Son, this behavior will change, but no.  They say, "This is the heir.  He's trying to take over the vineyard.  He's going to take over our power and our place."  By the way, that is exactly what the high priests said.  "If we don't kill Him, He going to take over our place and our power and our nation."  Through this story, Jesus tells His own murderers they're going to kill Him.  They had been plotting it.  Look at verse 7.  Before He ever came, when they knew that He was coming, "Let us kill Him," or they knew He was near or arriving, "Let us kill Him."  They'd been plotting that for a long time.  They knew that.  How could they not know that was them since they knew Jesus claimed to be the Son of God.  They condemned Him for saying He was the Son of God.  They knew He was the son in the story.  They knew that had been planning to kill Him all along.

On Friday, verse 8, they took Him and killed Him, threw Him out of the vineyard.  They crucified Him outside the city.  So what will the owner of the vineyard do?  Well, all they had to remember was what the owner of the vineyard did in Isaiah 5.  He brought about a condemnation of woe, woe, woe, woe, woe, woe.  Read it in chapter 5.  Exactly what Jesus did in Matthew 23, woe, woe, woe, woe, damn you, damn you, damn you, condemn you, condemn you.  And then the judgment came in the Babylonian hoards.  The judgment will come here in 70 A.D. at the hands of the Romans who massacre hundreds of thousands of Jews, throw their dead bodies over the wall, go on in the next few years to destroy 985 villages in the land of Israel and bring an end to the stewardship of the leaders of Israel over that nation.

Such action will not go unpunished.  I mean they say that.  They say in verse 9, "He will come and destroy the vine growers and give the vineyard to others."  Somebody else is going to be in charge of the vineyard.  It's unmistakable.  They just declared that the right thing to do to people who do that is to judge them.  If it's wrong to do that when you're dealing with grapes, how wrong is it to do that when you're dealing with eternal and spiritual verities?  From the lesser to the far greater.

Titus Vespasian led the Roman hoards in 70 A.D., and they swept in after four years of siege, quelling the Jewish rebellion.  They brought such devastation that the temple has never been rebuilt.  That's 2,000 years ago.  It's never been rebuilt.  There are no priests in Judaism today.  There is no priesthood.  There are no records left, so no one can trace his lineage to any tribe.  So no one knows who is a Levite, who is not, who is in the line of Aaron or anybody else.  There are no Sadducees.  There are no Pharisees.  There are no priests.  There are no chief priests.  The system was devastated and totally destroyed.  That's exactly what they said should happen to somebody who did that to a vineyard.  How about the people of God's own possession, the apple of His eye? 

What about the others?  They said, "You'll give it to others."  Who are the others?  Now this is the final insult.  Who are the others?  In the Matthew 21 account of this parable, Jesus says, "The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, shall be taken from you and given to a people bringing forth the fruit of it who will make it flourish and give back to the owner what he is due."  Who are the new stewards?  The vineyard is the people of God.  The vineyard is the people of God, but who are the stewards?  Shocking.  Who are the custodians of the kingdom?  Who are the new rulers in the kingdom?  Who are the new lords, if you will with a small "l" over God's people?  Answer: shocking, the apostles, those ragtag Galileans.  None of them from the religious establishment.

The people of God are the vineyard, but the stewards of the vineyard, the stewardship comes out of the hands of these apostate Jewish leaders and into the hands of the most unlikely group of ordinary men.  The next night, Thursday night, our Lord tells them that they will be able to discharge this stewardship because the Holy Spirit will come and lead them into all truth.  He tells them they'll be inspired to write, and they were inspired to write, and they and their associates wrote the New Testament.  So now we, as a church, come together like the early church in Acts 2 to study the apostles' doctrine.  That's what's in the New Testament. 

They are the new stewards of the kingdom, the stewards of the kingdom.  The divine stewardship, preservation of the people of God, expansion of the people of God, growth of the people of God, the expression of God's will through divine revelation will pass to the first followers of Jesus.  By the way, who also suffered the same fate as the prophets: murdered, martyred, and exiled, but not until they had completed the New Testament.  The stewardship of the truth is taken away from the leaders of Israel.  The whole system is crushed into oblivion and doesn't exist today. 

Jesus, the next night in the Upper Room – we're going to get to that in John, tremendous passage, 13 through 16and 17 – promises to His apostles, 11 of them, minus Judas, everything they need to become the stewards of the people of God, the stewards of the kingdom, the stewards of what becomes the church made up of Jew and Gentile.  But even the people of God in the Old Testament was Jew and Gentile.  It was the people of Israel, but it was only the believing remnant who were the real people of God and there was plenty of call for Gentile proselytes to Judaism. 

In fact, do you remember that Israel was to be a witness nation, a testimony nation, an evangelistic nation, a missionary nation to reach the nations?  God always intended to have a people made up of Jew and Gentile, and now He does in the church.  The stewards of that church are the early apostles.  That stewardship passes from the early apostles through their word to every faithful preacher of the Word of God.  Those faithful preachers are used by God to bring forth the fruit.

Well, this is too clear for them to miss, too clear.  They understood He was talking about them.  At first, they said, "Yeah, yeah, that's what he deserves," and then whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.  Jesus closes this little dialogue in verse 10 and 11.  He's done with this agrarian illustration.  Now He's going to turn to Scripture.  Since they understand the parable, let's turn to prophecy.  Have you not even read this scripture?  Have you not even read this scripture?  Can't you see yourself in Psalm 118?  He quotes the Hallel, Psalm 118, the last Psalm in the Hallel.  The last Psalm in the Hallel was the – the Hallel was sung at Passover, and this is Passover week, so these Psalms are in their minds. 

In fact, on Monday when Jesus came into the city, they all shouted, "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!"  That's from Psalm 118, so while you're thinking about Psalm 118, have you never read that 118, verse 22 and 23 says, "The stone which the builders rejected becomes the chief cornerstone"?  Don't you see yourself?  You're singing the Hallel at this time of year, particularly.  It is Messianic because it says, "Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord," and they all know the stone is the Messiah.  "Don't you understand?  Haven't you even read that you are doing what the prophecy said would be done?  You are rejecting the stone, and you read there that the stone that the builders rejected becomes the chief cornerstone."

What does that indicate?  Resurrection.  Not only resurrection, but ascension and coronation.  Psalm 118 also says, "This is not human.  This came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes."  Have you somehow failed to grasp the very Psalm you are now expressing that says, "God is going to do a marvelous thing"?  The architects and builders of His nation are going to reject the Messiah who will then rise from the dead to become the cornerstone of His new edifice, the church.  Incredible. 

They know exactly who He's talking about.  What's their response?  Verse 12, "They were seeking to seize Him."  What a darkness they're in, huh?  Can't possible get out of it, which vindicates the judgment that had already been pronounced on them, but they feared the people.  They feared the people.  They didn't fear the right person.  Who should they fear?  God.  "Don't fear those who destroy the body, but fear the one who destroys both body and soul in hell."  So they left Him and went away.  Oh, you say, to cool their heels?  No.  Verse 13, "They went and found the Pharisees and Herodians to devise a trap to catch Him."  Nothing changed.  Nothing changed.

Jesus said this, "You are either for Me or against Me."  No middle ground.  No middle ground.  The truth revealed in Scripture concerning Jesus Christ is unmistakable, undeniable.  What are you going to do with Jesus Christ?  That's the question.  We've been asking that question all through John, haven't we?  Since He is the Son of God, since He is the cornerstone, since the apostles and associates of apostles are the stewards of the kingdom, and they have given us God's revelation in the New Testament, this is the truth from the stewards that God appointed to steward His kingdom and His people.  We have this truth.  You must respond to Christ.  You have responded to Christ already one way or another. 

Don't walk away in this terrifying darkness of judgment such as these leaders who, as soon as they understand the story, instead of falling down in conviction and fear, fear only the loss of their control of the kingdom, only the loss of their power.  They're afraid the people are going to follow Jesus, come after them, and He is going to take over.  It is the nature of sinners to protect their domain.  That's foolish.  It will be destroyed in judgment.  Run into the kingdom through faith in Christ.

Father, we thank you for again your clear Word.  Such a privilege is ours.  We're familiar with your Word, sometimes too familiar.  We need to be stunned again by its power, clarity, glory.  We thank you that you have opened our eyes to understand the truth.  What a gift, an unspeakable gift, incalculable.  Thank you that you have allowed us to love Christ with an incorruptible love.  I pray that you will work in hearts today, that you will shine light into the darkness as you, O God who said, "Let there be light," step into the hearts of people and shine the glorious light of your own person shining in the face of Jesus Christ so that sinners can see and believe and be delivered from judgment.  This is our prayer.  In Christ's name, Amen. 

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