2. The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46)
Please read this parable in your Bible, then read the following devotional:
Jesus is the greatest teacher in history, and He often used parables to help His audience truly understand what He was saying. Yesterday, we looked at the first parable that He spoke to the chief priests and the elders when they questioned His authority. Immediately after that, He gives them this parable. Jesus asks these religious people what should be done to the wicked tenants, and allows them to pronounce judgment. The religious people are able to accurately identify that the wicked tenants deserve to be punished because they are not faithful to their Master. Unfortunately, it is only after Jesus finishes teaching that these same religious people finally “perceived that He was speaking about them.” Instead of then responding with repentance, they responded with anger, and sought to arrest Him.
Because of the response of the religious leaders, we often picture Jesus as being harsh in His rebuke of them, but the words and grammar that He uses don’t necessarily imply that He is yelling at them or mocking them. Rather, He is telling them a hard truth, but He is doing so in love.
I wonder sometimes if Jesus would look these religious leaders directly in the eyes when telling them these parables. When talking to the rich young ruler, the Scripture says that Jesus “looking at him, loved him,” and then confronted him on his deepest sin, the love of money (Mark 10:21). I tend to think that Jesus had compassion even on these people who would soon be plotting to put Him to death. After all, He would soon weep over the city of Jerusalem for their unrepentance (Matthew 23:37-39), and this surely must have included the religious leaders who were in Jerusalem.
Jesus helps the religious leaders to see that they are the wicked tenants, not so that He can mock them in front of the crowds, but so that they can see their sin and repent. Like the wicked tenants, these religious leaders have been given everything by God, yet they have built up their own kingdom of moral codes instead of obeying God’s voice. If they would but repent, God would hear their cry and show them mercy. If they would but humble themselves, God would lift them up. But, alas, they are too proud of their own righteousness. After all, they are so “righteous” that they are about to kill the Son of God, who came to earth to demonstrate His love for them.
God disciplines His children, whom He loves. If you read the Word of God and feel a conviction in your soul, thank God for it! If you read these parables and see yourself as the wicked tenant, or the son who fails to obey his Father, then thank God that He has shown this to you! You don’t have to stay that way—you can repent right now. And if you are willing to confess your sins to God, He is faithful and just and will forgive you of your sins and cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
The Master will one day come to judge us tenants, and the wicked will be punished, but you can be saved if you will but repent of your sins and trust in Christ. Those religious leaders were too proud to do this. Thank God if He gives you the humility not to be like them.
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