3-7 Parables Of Israel

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is perhaps most clearly seen in His attitude to Israel. So many of the parables refer in some way to the love of God and Christ for Israel; and their love for rebellious, indifferent Israel is the supreme example of pure grace. He felt towards them as a hen for her chicks (Lk. 13:34). Here again is an element of unreality; a hen whose very own chicks won't be gathered under her wings. This seems to go right against nature; the pain of the rejected parent was there in the experience of the Lord. He wasn't just passively enduring the polemics of the Pharisees; they were His chicks, He really wanted them under His wings (cp. Israel dwelling under the wings of the cherubim). We must ever remember this when we read the records of Him arguing with them and exposing their hypocrisy. He wasn't just throwing back their questions, playing the game and winning, just surviving from day to day with them. He was trying to gather them, and their rejection of His words really hurt Him. The elder brother in the prodigal story shows an unbelievably self righteous attitude. Yet, this truly is the position of the legalists of Christ's day and this. The love of the Father [God] for the son [repentant Israel] is quite something. Would a father really rush out and kiss him, i.e. forgive him (Lk. 15:20 cp. 2 Sam. 14:33) without first requiring an explanation and specific repentance? For this unusual Father, the mere fact the son wanted to return was enough. And when the vineyard workers refused to work and beat and killed the Owner’s servants that were sent, the response we expect is that the Owner sends in some armed men and re-establishes control. But He doesn’t. Why ever keep sending servants after some are killed? But this is the loving, almost desperate persistence of the Father for our response. This is what the parables of Israel teach. In the end, He does something humanly crazy. He sends a single Man walking towards them- His only Son. Or think of the parable of the older son. The loving Father divides all that He has between the two sons- and the son who remained at home therefore ended up with all that the Father had, seeing the younger son had blown the other half of it (Lk. 15:31). This was the extent of God’s love for Pharisaic, hypocritical Israel. He gave them His all- the blood of His only Son. Elderly oriental gentlemen never run in public. But the Father will do so when the younger son returns. Such will be His joy, and such is His joy over every sinner who repents!

The Lord’s initial Palestinian hearers were well used to the scenario of absentee landlords. The   parables of Israel would have been easily understood by them. The landlords lived far away, were never seen, and sometimes their workers took over the whole show for themselves. The Lord’s parable of the absentee landlord in Lk. 20:9-16 alludes to this situation. He sends messengers seeking fruit from the vineyard, but the tenants abuse or kill them, and he does nothing. When his son shows up, they assume that he’s going to do just as before- ignore whatever they do to him. After all, they’d got away with not giving him any fruit and ignoring his messengers for so long, why would he change his attitude? He was so far away, he’d been in a “far country” for a very long time (Lk. 20:9), they didn’t really know him. The Lord asked the question: “What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” (Lk. 20:15). The obvious answer, from the context provided within the story, would be: “Judging on past experience, not much at all”. But then the Lord presented the element of unreality in the story, as a sudden, biting trick of the tail: No, the lord of the vineyard would actually personally come and destroy them, and give the vineyard to other tenants. Even though his experience of having tenants farm his land had been a fruitless and painful experience that had cost him the life of his son. And it was that element of unreality that brings home to us the whole point of the story. The Father does appear distant and unresponsive to our selfishness, our rebellion, and our refusal to hear his servants the prophets. But there is a real judgment to come, in which He will personally be involved. And yet even His destruction of the Jewish tenants hasn’t taken away His almost manic desire to have workers, in His desperate desire for true spiritual fruit. The parables of Israel surely speak encouragement to each of us.

The parable of the absentee landlord has a telling twist to it. Absentee landlords who had never visited their land for ages, and found the people they sent to the property beaten up, would usually just forget it. They wouldn’t bother. In the parable which draws on this, the Lord asks what the landlord will do (Lk. 20:15). The expected answer was: ‘Not much. He got what he could, he was never bothered to go there for years anyway’. But this landlord is odd. He keeps on sending messengers when any other landlord would have given up or got mad earlier on. But God’s patience through the prophets was likewise unusual. And then, when the tenants thought they must surely be able to get away with it because the Lord seemed so distant and out of touch… He suddenly comes Himself in person and destroys them. He doesn’t hire a bunch of people to do it. He comes in person, as the Lord will in judgment. And instead of deciding he’d had his fingers burnt and giving up vineyards as a bad job, this Lord gives the vineyard to others- He tries again. And so the Lord is doing with the Gentiles.




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