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Parables of Christ

National Prophecy

Various Scripture

Lesson audio

Fruits

Luke 13:1-9 NASB  Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  (2)  And Jesus said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?  (3)  "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.  (4)  "Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?  (5)  "I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."  (6)  And He began telling this parable: "A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any.  (7)  "And he said to the vineyard-keeper, 'Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?'  (8)  "And he answered and said to him, 'Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer;  (9)  and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.'"

 

Why Did God?

One of the unchanging assumptions that human beings make – well, most human beings — is that the word "normal" really means my circumstances, use to measure others. So if I look at you and see that you are, for example, less wealthy than I am I can assume that you are defective in this matter of wealth. That's because I'm normal. On the other hand, if you have more money than I have then you are rich. This carries over into moral judgments as well. If you're worse than I am, a greater sinner, then if you suffer I clearly noted as being suffering because you did something wrong. You deserve it. On the other hand if things are better for you (and bad for me) then it's obvious that I am the one who is suffering nobly.

That's how most of us view the subject of suffering. If you extend that viewpoint into the question of where you're going to spend eternity, your answer is to find some folks who are obviously worse than you are and say, "Those are the people going to hell." Since you are better than those people it logically follows that you are going to heaven. We shall see that this is not at all the case.

Christ's Response

That's the issue that Christ is attacking here. Apparently there were some Galilean rebels who got caught at it, and some workmen who had a fatal work accident. The times being what they were, everyone assumed that God punished them for their misdeeds. If you knew one of them was a really good guy, you'd say he was some sort of secret sinner. But Christ replies that they are all sinners. If they are sinners, they are in need of repentance and the salvation that only Christ can bring.

Of course, the Christian of today has a couple of other answers. While it doesn't apply to fatalities, if you are suffering from some disease or other form of irritation it may be assumed that God is preparing you for some particular task. You're not being punished, you're being prepared. This goes a long way in modern times to explaining away the fact that we all suffer and that we are all are sinners. It doesn't matter how good we are compared to somebody else.

National Sin

Note, please, that immediately after telling you this Christ then comes forward with this parable. Its interpretation is relatively simple. The fig tree has long been noted as a symbol of Israel, particularly a fig tree planted in a vineyard (which would have the best soil). Most of us would interpret it as being applicable only to an individual. We would see it and say that means we are to produce the fruit of righteousness in our lives. This is true. But not exhaustive.

What Christ is introducing to us is the concept of a national sin. Our nation of rugged individualists tends to think this cannot possibly exist. God, on the other hand, castigates Israel for their national sin frequently in the Old Testament. He makes it clear that in some portion he hold you accountable for the sins of your society. One of the holiest men to ever walk the planet expressed his national repentance. The man was Daniel; you will find his prayer in Daniel chapter 9.

Please note the delay. It is God's intention that the nation should not suffer, but rather it should be redeemed and lifted up. Any nation which claims to be a nation of godly people runs the risk of being ripped out of the ground. I leave it to the reader to determine if that point has arrived for the American Republic.

Wicked Husbandmen

Luke 20:9-18 NASB  And He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey for a long time.  (10)  "At the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, so that they would give him some of the produce of the vineyard; but the vine-growers beat him and sent him away empty-handed.  (11)  "And he proceeded to send another slave; and they beat him also and treated him shamefully and sent him away empty-handed.  (12)  "And he proceeded to send a third; and this one also they wounded and cast out.  (13)  "The owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.'  (14)  "But when the vine-growers saw him, they reasoned with one another, saying, 'This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.'  (15)  "So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them?  (16)  "He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others." When they heard it, they said, "May it never be!"  (17)  But Jesus looked at them and said, "What then is this that is written: 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone'?  (18)  "Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

 

The Parable Itself

It is worth noting that this parable occurs in the context of the Pharisees challenging Christ's authority. It is quite clear that he is referencing his own arrival when he talks about the son of the vineyard owner. The servants would be the prophets of course. A glance at the history of Israel throughout the Old Testament will tell you that time and again the Jews rejected the prophets sent to them. That much is clear; his opponents certainly understood it as such. But he introduces something new in this passage.

Old Testament Prophecy

If you examine the concept of a stone which becomes the chief cornerstone, or is used to smite the Jews, you will find these connections:

·         Daniel's smiting stone. In Daniel 2:34-35 we see the prophetic picture of the stone cut out without hands smiting the Earth and growing to be a huge mountain. Virtually every Christian commentator will tell you that stone is Christ, and its growth represents the growth of the body of Christ overcoming the world.

·         In Psalm 118:22-23 we find the prophecy that this stone will be rejected, as Christ was by the Jews.

·         In Isaiah 28:16 we see that this will be a costly cornerstone, referring to the sacrifice Christ made at the Cross.

·         If that's not clear enough, then read Zechariah 3:9. In that passage it is prophesied that this stone will take away the sins of the nation in one day.

·         The stumbling stone is detailed for us in Isaiah 8:13-15.

This point most Christians don't want to study. Jesus is supposed to be a nice guy; what's this business with the stumbling stone? The answer is rather straightforward. If you are one of those people we described earlier who is sure of heaven because after all you're better than somebody, the smiting stone hits you. If you in fact accept him, you will find you're going to have to stumble over him and admit you don't know how to walk without him. Jesus, to put it simply, is offensive to a lot of people. His followers often share this characteristic.

Prophetic Fulfillment

We have already talked about the fact that it will take one day to wipe away the sins of the nation: Good Friday. (Now you know why they call it "good.") But for those who do not stumble over the stone we find that it smites and scatters like dust. This was specifically fulfilled in A.D. 70 when the Romans sacked Jerusalem and scattered the Jews to all parts of the known world.

Jesus is the stone of stumbling; it's a hard fact. He does not change with the times, nor does he adapt to your requirements. The issue really is one of pride versus repentance. A lot of people out there will go along with Mister Nice Guy and be proud of it. Jesus tells us that we need to seek him in repentance and humility. To put it in these terms, we must stumble over him — for he will not be moved.

Marriage of the King's Son

Matthew 22:1-14 NASB  Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying,  (2)  "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son.  (3)  "And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.  (4)  "Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."'  (5)  "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business,  (6)  and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them.  (7)  "But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.  (8)  "Then he *said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.  (9)  'Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.'  (10)  "Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.  (11)  "But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes,  (12)  and he *said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless.  (13)  "Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'  (14)  "For many are called, but few are chosen."

 

Customs

Life was rather different in those days, particularly as regarding the measurement of time. For most people there were only three times of the day that they could we determine accurately: sunrise, local noon and sunset. It was therefore, in when you made an appointment that you would specify the day but not the hour. It was normal for a feast like this to send out the servants to get the guests.

Another custom of the time which might not be as familiar today is the use of wedding clothes. Casual dress having taken hold, we do not see much in the way of wedding clothing. Our weddings used to be a bit more formal, and people were suits and dresses. In those days people had specific clothes that they were to weddings – sort of like that sombrero you got on your last trip to Mexico. You don't know when you get to wear it but it's really fancy. These two customs are somewhat strange to us, but they were very useful in the time.

Meanings

The meaning of the parable is rather straightforward:

·         The guests were, of course, the Jews. God's promise to the Jews is that they would have the Messiah. Obviously, they would get "first crack" at the Messiah. This is why Christ never left the boundaries of ancient Israel in his adult ministry.

·         The destruction of those gifts by the angry King is generally held to have been accomplished in A.D. 70, at the sack of Jerusalem.

·         Sending out the guests to roust up people to come to the wedding from the lanes and outdoors is nothing more than the evangelism of the church to the entire Gentile world. How about that feast? It's difficult to pin this down to a past event, but Revelation is clear that there will be the wedding supper of the Lamb — and it will be glorious.

·         Wedding clothes take on new meaning here. As we see in Revelation 19:8, close stand for the righteous acts of the Saints. So the fellow that thrown out without wedding clothes is someone who accepted Christianity, but never did anything about it.

America Today

Will you please note with me one thing? That fellow the Christ throughout the wedding feast — did you notice that he called him, "Friend?" It's a warning to us. This nation, Christian since its founding, now exhibits the characteristics of the world gone mad. What's missing in our understanding is that Christ's judgment will fall upon a nation as well as an individual. Let me take up two areas with you:

·         The first is the question of charity. I will not speak to the amount of money given at this church, for we are one of the wealthiest congregations of America. Giving money has never been much of a problem here. The difficulty comes in the charity which is personal. Writing a check is easy; forgiving your neighbor his offense is hard. Have you noticed that we have grown more and more a part lately?

·         It is not clear to most evangelicals that this is so. But if you will take a look through the Old Testament you will see that God commands of his people that they act in justice. He calls himself a defender of the widow and the fatherless, those who are so easily disadvantaged in a court of law. What do we do with the down and out people we know? My father had a saying about this: the character of a Christian gentleman is tested by how he deals with the invisible people. Invisible? Yes, those whose jobs are to serve you coffee, get you on the airplane, answer the phone when you have a complaint and so on — these are the invisible people. How you treat them?

I told you this lesson is about prophecy. Please walk away with these three lessons:

·         First, that his judgment will come upon the nation as well as the individual.

·         Second, that he will return at a time when he is unexpected by the world — and a lot of people are going to discover to their horror just who they have been.

·         Third, that the issue is not whether or not you belong to the right church with the right name on the door, but how you treated others in Christ's name.

We do not know the day and hour, but the signs of the time are there for anyone to read. The Jews are in Jerusalem; they are in nation once again. Play with that how you will, it cannot be meaningless.

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