Parable of the Wicked Tenants: Matthew 21:33-44; Mark 12:1-11; Luke 20:9-18
The parable of the wicked tenants, also called simply the parable of the tenants, is an allegory Jesus tells the religious leaders to reveal to them the situation in Israel.
Jesus tells of a man who plants a vineyard, puts a fence around it, digs a wine-press, and builds a watchtower. This man then leases the vineyard to some tenants; meaning they get to use the vineyard, but they are required to give the owner a portion of their goods since they do not own it (essentially rent).
Normally this would be a win-win situation, since the tenants would not otherwise have a vineyard to produce crops and make money from. However, these tenants turn out to be evil.
After the owner has left for some time, he sends one of his servants to collect what belongs to him. However, the wicked tenants abuse this slave and send him back empty-handed. The owner then sends more servants, but the tenants mistreat them all, even killing some.
Finally, the owner sends his son, who he believes they will respect. But the tenants say to themselves, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance." (Matt. 21:38) So they murder the son.
Then Jesus asks, "Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" (Matthew 21:40) The answer is that he will destroy those wicked tenants and give the vineyard to others. (Matthew 21:41; Mark 12:9; Luke 20:16)
As stated in this passage, the religious leaders realize that Jesus is talking about them. They are the wicked tenants. Therefore, these leaders become very angry and want to arrest Jesus, but they cannot because they are afraid of the large crowd who would get upset if they did.
As for the rest of the parable, the vineyard represents Israel. The owner represents God the Father. The servants sent by the owner represent the prophets that God has sent in the past, many of whom have been mistreated and even killed by Israel and its leaders. The son represents Jesus.
When Jesus tells this parable, his main purpose is to tell the religious leaders what the reality of the situation is: God has placed them over Israel, but they (including past leaders) have been evil by mistreating his prophets.
However, Jesus is also making a statement about himself in relation to God, since he is the son of the owner of the vineyard. He is even predicting his death at the hands of the religious leaders.
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