Links Daily Devotional

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The Unwanted Son

“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come. let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’” (Matthew 21:38, NIV)

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is so beloved that it remains a cultural reference that nearly everyone, whether churched or unchurched, recognizes still today. The prodigal—that child who spites his parents, departs for “greener pastures” (aka, wild living), and returns contrite. Of course, it is not the child who makes this an endearing story, but the forgiving, generous father. Still, when it comes to Jesus’ parables, little clouds our understanding as to why this parable wins out over the one Jesus told in the final week of his life about a son who was put to death.

Jesus knew why he was on the earth. He had come to represent the Father, be rejected by men, and to die.You may have trouble even placing this story—no good Samaritan, no treasure hidden in a field, no talents multiplied in the absence of the king. This one is less familiar, though it should hold special meaning for us this time of year. Jesus addressed many of his Passion Week parables to the religious leaders who spent their days in the temple courts. These were not his friends, but rather those who had a mind to dispose of him, even if it meant taking his life.

Turning to Matthew 25, we find the Parable of the Tenants. A landowner plants a vineyard, puts a wall around it, and erects a winepress and a watchtower. Then he goes away, renting out the vineyard to some local farmers. To give you your bearings, the landowner in this story is God, the vineyard is the people of God (Israel), and the farmers are the Pharisees and other religious leaders.

After a time, the owner send some servants (prophets of God) back to collect his portion of the harvest. But the farmers beat one, kill one, stone one. Several times over, the owner sends his servants, and always they are ill-treated. Finally, he decides the way to get his due is to send his own son. But when the farmers view his son coming from a distance—and here is the great digression from the Parable of the Prodigal Son—they plot to kill him, then carry through on their plan.

Now, let’s stand back and look at the story. It is easy to see this parable as an affront to the Pharisees and miss that it was a self-deprecation from Christ, who was foreshadowing his own death. Jesus knew why he was on the earth. He had come to represent the Father, be rejected by men, and to die. It’s a forseshadowing that should leave us worshiping all the more as we see the infant in the manger. This was the only begotten Son of the Father, sent to save humanity from their sins and willing to go to greatest pain to accomplish it.

Jeff Hopper
December 18, 2015
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