The Gospel of Luke

This devotional is written by John Peters.  John is the leader of St Mary's and is married to Jenny.

Luke 20:9-19

The Parable of the Tenants

9 He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.

13 "Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'

14 "But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others."

When the people heard this, they said, "God forbid!"

17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, "Then what is the meaning of that which is written:

"'The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone'?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.


The uncomfortable interactions between Jesus and the religious establishment ("the teachers of the law and the chief priests" (19) reflect a fight for the hearts and minds of the people of God. Will they listen to their existing leaders or will they recognise "the time of God's coming" to them (19:44) in their Messiah?

At the first feeding miracle in the Gospels, 5000 people are fed and 12 baskets of food are left over. At the second, 4000 are fed and 7 baskets are left over. After the second, Jesus tells his disciples to "beware the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod" (Mark 8:15).

He means they should recognise the influence of the existing leadership over the people, which had led to fewer being present at the second feeding miracle.

This parable reflects the reality that God sent many servants, like the prophets, to speak to his people. But they refused to listen to them and often killed them. So finally, Jesus says, he is sending his Son (13). In the story, the tenants seize the opportunity to displace the owner altogether by killing the heir to the vineyard (14-15).

Jesus makes it clear that this will attract the judgement of God (16) in fulfilment of (Psalm 118:22) (17), which infuriates the religious leadership (19).

Jesus has just wept over Jerusalem (19:41), prophesying that the city would be utterly destroyed. This was ultimately what was at stake. The people could either listen to their leaders, rise up in revolt and be utterly crushed by the Romans or they could learn to turn the other cheek and love their enemies. But this they would not do.


Jesus, direct my life so that I can avoid damage and injury I would otherwise bring on myself.

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