Jesus is in Jerusalem, and the leaders of Israel are plotting to kill him. Knowing the tragedy that is before him, Jesus tells his friends and enemies a parable:
… “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” … (Luke 20:9-15)
Jesus then concludes his parable by asking a rhetorical question of his audience:
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (Luke 20:15)
The Great Teacher then answers his own question:
“He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others ….” (Luke 20:16)
His point is shocking. They cannot fathom the Heavenly Father removing the covenant promises from them and granting them to others:
When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” (Luke 20:16)
Jesus then, with great intensity, makes his final point:
But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written: “ ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:18-19)
Graciously, Jesus has reached out to his enemies. However, they arrogantly dismiss his teaching and heed not his warning. In their response, they tread on his patience and mercy:
The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them …. (Luke 20:9-19)
Friends, do you see the long-suffering patience of God in the meaning of this parable? God the Father is represented by owner, and the Israelite nation is his beloved vineyard. As the owner, God selects certain men to steward, govern, manage, and maintain his vineyard. Specifically, these men are called priests, elders, and scribes, and it is their duty to serve God well by taking great care of his beloved vineyard. However, In due time, the owner sends his servant to check on their progress. The servant is to examine their work, hold them accountable, and bring back fruit for the owner to enjoy. However, the managers do not appreciate the oversight of the owner. Ultimately, the servant is mistreated and the owner is disrespected. Yet, despite their cruelty and insubordination, the owner responds with patience. He appears to be long-suffering and very interested in repentance. So he gives his hirelings a second chance and sends them a second servant. But sadly, the managers mistreat the second servant as they did the first. Still, the owner is long-suffering. A third servant is sent their way. However, he too is wounded and sent home empty-handed. But even now, the patience of God is not yet exhausted. This time he determines to send forth his precious son. In this parable, Jesus presents the Heavenly Father as postponing judgment and offering undeserved mercy to hardened reprobates — over and over again. Jesus wishes for his listeners to recognize the long-suffering nature of God.
Additionally friends, do you see the long-suffering God in the telling of this parable? Here is Jesus Christ — God in human flesh — about to be murdered by individuals he created, and still he warns them. Despite their hard hearts, he teaches them. Despite their cruelty, he reaches out to them with the Gospel. Despite their blasphemy, he compels them to worship aright. Even in their current devilish condition, Jesus calls them to repentance. While they plot, he preaches.
Also, do you see the long-suffering God in the recording of this parable? The Holy Spirit leads Luke to include this as part of sacred scripture. Forever, God wishes to proclaim his patience. He desires that all men — Jews and Greeks alike — learn the lesson of this parable, recognize the long-suffering patience of God, and respond rightly.
Finally, do you see the long-suffering God in the preaching of this parable. Even now as this devotional is written and read, God desires for all men to repent and come to a knowledge of the truth. He is still seeking worshipers. He is still gathering his elect. He is still issuing forth invitations to his banquet. Whosoever will may come. Everyone who thirsts may drink. It is not too late. As of right now, God is still granting individuals an opportunity to confess their sin and kiss the Son.
However my friends, please be warned. God is long-suffering, but he is not eternally so. For a time, he allows rebellion to carry on unchecked. For a time he allows evil men to succeed, but they are on borrowed time. And when God’s divine patience is spent, he promises to respond with righteous indignation towards those who dishonor him and his son. Therefore, end this devotional with great care:
- Is today the day when the Son of God returns and the divine trial begins?
- Is today the day when the number of your days comes to an end and you meet the Judge face to face?
- Is today the day when your conscience dies and your mind is turned over by God to a permanently warped condition?
- Or believer living in sin, is today the day when the discipline of God is going to rain down with righteous indignation and call you back to holiness?
Oh friends, God is long-suffering, but he is not eternally so. Do not be like the individuals in the parable. Do not be like the individuals hearing the parable. Instead, realize that today is the day of salvation. Flee to Christ before it is too late. Believer, why will you suffer his righteous but severe discipline now? Unbeliever, why will you perish in your sin and suffer his judgment forever? May we all see God’s patience and respond to his long-suffering character properly. Let us all repent and give him the fruit which he sovereignly deserves.
Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for soon shall his wrath be kindled. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:12)