The Parable of the Vineyard – an Excerpt from Luke

The following is an excerpt from the Paideia commentary on Luke, by Mikeal Parsons.

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Cover ArtThis debate with the religious leaders over Jesus’s authority is in the background of the parable of the vineyard, which he tells to the “people” (20:9–16; cf. Mark 12:1–12; Matt. 21:33–46; Gos. Thom. 65). The parable, in its Lukan form, is an allegory of salvation history “as Luke sees it” and “implies that the bureaucracy recognized him but rejected him because they were unwilling to relinquish control over the vineyard to its rightful owner” (Talbert 1982, 189). The owner, even though the tenants have injured his three servants, is hopeful that they will respect his son (so also Gos. Thom. 65; but cf. Mark 12:6, where the assertion is unqualified).

The rejection of the “beloved son” in the parable does not result in the destruction of the vineyard but results in the removal of the corrupt tenants/leaders who have refused to recognize the authority the vineyard’s owner invested in his servants and his son. In the larger story recorded in Luke’s two volumes, control of the vineyard will be given to others, namely, the apostles (the description of the vineyard in Luke lacks the allusion to Isa. 5 found in Mark 12:2//Matt. 21:33).

The response of the people is visceral; what Jesus has described is unimaginable: When they heard this, they said, “May it never be!” (20:16b). But Jesus offers no words of comfort: Then he looked at them and said, “What, then, does this mean where it says, ‘The stone that the builders rejected, this one has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken in pieces; and on whomever it falls, it will crush them” (20:17–18). He changes the metaphor from agriculture to construction (citing Ps. 118:22–23; cf. 1 Pet. 2:7), but the message remains the same: woe to those who reject the beloved Son/cornerstone. One hears in the consequence of falling on the cornerstone (or vice versa) an echo of Esther Rab. 3.6: “Should the stone fall on the crock, woe to the crock. Should the crock fall on the stone, woe to the crock. In either case, woe to the crock” (cited by Talbert 1982, 189).

Having elicited a response from the people to his parable (20:16), Jesus provokes a response from the religious leaders with his last words: So the scribes and chief priests were trying to lay their hands on him at that time—yet they were afraid of the people—for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them (20:19). Even though they know that the parable is directed against them and their leadership, the religious authorities are again reluctant to act against Jesus, fearing the people (cf. 19:47–48).

©2015 by Mikeal C. Parsons. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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