The Authority of Jesus Challenged
Open Your Bible
Luke 20:1-47, Isaiah 26:19, 1 Peter 1:3-4
Patrick and I sat in a tasting room with ten strangers, drinking wine from delicate glasses. Before us, an expanse of windows revealed a golden hillside. Our host raised a bottle of cabernet and smiled. As he poured the red wine, he told us about the vineyard’s renowned owner, John Shafer, a man who, in 1972 had left a successful banking career in Chicago to purchase farmland in California. A pioneer in American winemaking, John Shafer’s wines helped put Napa Valley on the map.
Enraptured by the tale and tastes, I almost didn’t hear the door open behind me. Turning, I saw an elderly man walk in, using a cane. Wrinkled but smiling, he had blue eyes and a faint suggestion of hair on top of his head.
“Well, here he is,” the tasting host said, standing quickly from the table. “This is John.”
I could tell from the flabbergasted look on our host’s face, that this was no normal drop in. At ninety-two years old, the vineyard owner rarely made appearances. For decades, he’d put in the hard work of tending grapes. Now, he trusted his sons and staff to maintain his legacy. As I stared at John Shafer’s face, I felt like I was in the presence of royalty. In his presence, I cared a lot less about the wine and a lot more about the man who’d made it.
Throughout Scripture, a “vineyard” is used as a metaphor for the nation of Israel. In Luke 20, the crowd listening to Jesus’s parable would have recognized that symbol. With this story, Jesus proclaimed that if the Israelites rejected Jesus, the promises and inheritance of God would go to new owners. In other words, God was about to offer His grace, kindness, and salvation to the Gentiles. The chief priests, scribes, and elders reacted quickly, shouting, “That must never happen!” (v.16).
Imagine if John Shafer had turned to me, and right there in front of his employee, said, “Claire, I’d like you to take over the day-to-day operations of this place.” Consider if he’d smiled, raised a hand, and pointed to the land outside those shining windows. “The whole thing is under your management.” Do you think his employee would have raised a toast? Not likely. Instead, they would have thought the owner had gone mad.
For millennia, Jews held claim to the exclusive privileges of being God’s people. They couldn’t believe those blessings could extend to anyone else. Jesus’s presence, His kindness to Samaritans and women and disabled people, His claims to be the Son of God—threatened everything the Pharisees held to be true. They were in the presence of the vineyard owner, and yet they refused to release their death grip on the grapes. They couldn’t see the person because their eyes couldn’t look past their own power.
If I felt awed by the presence of John Shafer in a tasting room, how much more should I be in awe of Jesus, who hands me the keys to His kingdom? It’s a kindness so kind, it might be seen as irresponsible. He has given us an inheritance that is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading” (1 Peter 1:4). Some may reject Him, but to all who receive Him, Jesus gives the right to become children of God (John 1:12).
He steps forward, points to the vineyard, and says, “My beloved sister, enjoy.”