Though this is a parable it is based on the religious history of Israel up to the coming of Christ. In this parable the Lord tells the story of God’s dealings with His people from their exodus from Egypt to the destruction of Jerusalem.
“And he began to speak to them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country” (Mark 12:1).
God blessed Israel with wonderful privileges. He gave them a homeland – the Promised Land. He gave them good laws and ordinances. He gave them the victory over seven other nations that were stronger than they were. He chose them as His people even though He could have shown His favour towards Egypt, Assyria, Greece or Rome. No people on earth have received such blessings as the family of Abraham.
Our own nation has been mightily blessed of God. He chose Great Britain for the sending out of missionaries to the lost. He gave us men like Wycliffe who translated the Bible into English, for which the whole world is indebted. Why choose us and not China or France? It was not because of our goodness or worthiness that God chose us, but because of His free grace. Today we stand condemned because we have cast away the very thing that made Britain great, and in rejecting the Scriptures we have turned our back on God. “Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry” (Isaiah 5:1-7).
“And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard. And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent to them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some” (Mark 12:2-5).
The whole history of Israel, as recorded in the Old Testament, is one of continuous backsliding from God. It is a long account of the nation corrupting itself. Throughout the Old Testament we read of prophets being sent to them and warnings being delivered, but usually they were rejected, persecuted and even killed. For instance Micaiah was thrown into a dungeon (1 Kings 22:26-27), Jeremiah was cast into prison (Jeremiah 37:15-16), Zechariah was stoned (2 Chronicles 24:20-21), and John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6:27). They came to God’s vineyard and asked for the fruit of righteousness and holiness, but found none. “But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets” (2 Chronicles 36:16). Though He was longsuffering and waited patiently for them to repent, we read of the sad fact that the Lord had no choice but to pour out His wrath and judgement upon them “until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
How much more do we in this land deserve the judgement of God? It seems that He does not deal with us according to the seriousness of the corruption in the nation (godlessness, homosexuality, abortion and injustice). We continuously provoke Him to anger, yet God is longsuffering with us, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). One day His patience will run out and judgement will fall. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). This is why we need a mighty revival in our land. Our nation must be called back from the brink of the pit. “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Psalm 9:17).
“Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last to them, saying, they will reverence my son. But those husbandmen said among themselves, this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours. And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard” (Mark 12:6-8).
Jesus relates the hardhearted attitude the Jews had towards their prophets. The prophets brought the word of God and even performed miracles amongst the people, but their hearts were so calloused that it did not sink in. Finally, the very Son of God, their Messiah was sent to them, but they rejected Him and put Him to death “He came to his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11) … “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23).
We must never forget how “desperately wicked” the human heart and will can be (Jeremiah 17:9). One morning we will awake to find that wicked hands controlling the government and the church have removed our religious freedom from us. Our land, built upon the teachings of Christ, will throw off everything to do with Him. It is our responsibility to warn them, whether they are willing to hear or not. Only the Holy Spirit can change their hearts. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7) … “Marvel not that I said to thee, Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
“What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard to others. And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way” (Mark 12:9-12).
The religious leaders knew that this parable highlighted their true position before God. They stood condemned under overwhelming evidence of history. They condemned themselves by the words of their own mouth, “They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons” (Matthew 21:41). They also knew that Jesus was well aware that they were planning the greatest crime in the history of the world. As the parable made clear, they were about to crucify their Messiah. Though they knew all this, they would not repent and were convinced that God’s Kingdom still belonged to them, “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid” (Luke 20:16). Heaven does not belong to those who reject Christ, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:43-44). They got the point of Jesus’ parable, and since He quoted from a Messianic Psalm (Psalm 118:22-23), they understood that He was claiming to be the long awaited Messiah. They had rejected the only Messiah that they would ever have, and by doing so threw away the chief cornerstone. Instead of being builders of God’s Kingdom, they had become a demolition team.
They were following the age-old sin of killing off God’s true messengers, but they could not kill Jesus then because the people respected Him as a prophet of God, “But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet” (Matthew 21:46).
The knowledge of sin and conviction cannot save the soul. There are many who know they are sinners yet continue to cleave to their sin. It needs a change of heart and will. Without this they can never be saved and reach Heaven. Those who persevere in sin will die in their sin.
The way of religion has always been to reject the teachings of Scripture. Religion continues to reject Christ and all who follow Him. Those who oppose the Lord will one day have to stand before Him and be judged.