Most of us are familiar with product warning labels. A warning label is designed to protect us from harm. If there was a warning label attached to the passage of Scripture we are looking at today, it would read: WARNING – IF YOU REJECT GOD’S SON YOU WILL RECEIVE GOD’S JUDGEMENT.
On the Sunday before His crucifixion, Jesus was welcomed by the cheers of the people. As He entered Jerusalem, He paused and sobbed bitter tears over how the people of Israel had rejected Him. Over the next few days, He taught openly in the temple courts. The religious leaders tried unsuccessfully to entrap Him with trick questions. In the midst of these questions, Jesus shared a parable that contained a scathing indictment against the failure of the Jewish people to accept Him (Read Luke 20:9-19):
A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 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. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’
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.’ So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!”
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’? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
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.
When Jesus finished telling this parable the people were so shocked, they cried out, “May it never be so!” They were astonished because Jesus disrupted their nice, neat understanding of the God of Israel. Their view of God had become so skewed they thought God existed for the sake of Israel, not Israel for God.
Over 90 percent of Americans claim to believe in God, but what kind of God do they trust? For some, He is the nice, neat God they salute for an hour a week on Sunday and then live the rest of their lives as if He doesn’t exist. For others, their religious rules and rituals have become a substitute for actually knowing God. Jesus Christ visited planet earth 2,000 years ago to teach us what God is really like. In this parable, He reveals four foundational aspects of the nature of God. You may be shocked to learn the truth!
1. God is good – He has placed us in this world to tend it
Like the owner of the vineyard, God created this world. He is the owner of this vineyard called Earth. He has placed us here to manage it. We don’t own anything, we’re just the tenants. “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (Psalm 24:1).
A good place to learn about the nature of God is in the book of Genesis. The first three words in the Hebrew Bible are, “Bershith bara Elohim,” which means, “in the beginning God created.” The Bible really doesn’t go into detail about how God created the universe, it simply says, “In the beginning God created” (Genesis 1:1).
Sadly, most Americans have been taught the universe just came into existence by chance rather than by creation. Most schools teach billions of years ago there was a big bang somewhere in space and the spark of life was ignited. Then, through the process of natural selection, this tiny cell of proto-life evolved.
But the Bible says God created the heavens and the earth. You don’t have to commit intellectual suicide to believe there is a higher being, who planned and created this world. The first two chapters of Genesis were not written to teach us about the exact process of creation, they were written to teach us about the God of Creation. From the beginning, we see He is a good God.
During creation, God was like a master painter. He created something, stepped back, and said, “That’s good.” In Genesis 1, the phrase “and God saw that it was good” is repeated six times. When He finished, “God saw all He had made and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
When He created Adam, God saw he was alone and said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). God’s nature is to create and seek good. When He sees something that is not good, He corrects it. That’s why God gave Adam a wife; He knew she would be good for him.
God is good and everything good in our lives comes from Him (James 1:17).Things may not look too good in your world right now. Some people think for things to be good, there must be the absence of problems or pain. They argue, “If God is good, then how could He allow this war to happen? If God is good, why do bad things happen?” Look at the parable again. The bad things that happened in the vineyard were not caused by the owner; the tenants messed up a good thing. That’s what has happened in our world today. We live in a fallen, sinful world and our sin has messed it up. When someone complains to me that life isn’t fair, I sometimes say, “You’re right, life isn’t fair – but God is good.”
God really is good and He’s good all the time! I can stand here all day and tell you God is good, but you’ll never know for sure until you get to know Him for yourself and you experience His goodness. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 24:8). When you experience the living God of the Bible, not a religion, you’ll say like Andy Griffith used to say, “umm umm good!”
In Part 2, we will look at two more truths about God we learn from this parable.