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The Parable of the Murdered Son

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
May 15, 2024 4:00 am

The Parable of the Murdered Son

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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May 15, 2024 4:00 am

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Welcome to Grace to You. As a kid, perhaps you read The Three Little Pigs or The Engine That Could or The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and you learned the importance of virtues like preparation and persistence and honesty. And maybe you've always assumed that Jesus' parables were the same kinds of stories, like simple tales or fables that emphasized important values. But the parables are far more than that, and the depth of meaning and value found in them might surprise you.

John MacArthur helps you see that today as he continues his series titled Stories with Purpose with a look at the parable of the murdered son. So get your Bible now and follow along as John begins the lesson. Many people think that parables were designed by Jesus to make things clear.

That's not the case. Parables were designed by Jesus to make things obscure, to hide truth. He says that in Matthew 13. These things are hiding the truth. And why would He hide the truth? He hid the truth because the people had rejected Him. The conclusion of the leaders of Israel and the people who followed them in chapter 12 of Matthew was that He did what He did by the power of Satan.

He was demon-inspired. His message came from hell. He was a false teacher of the worst kind.

So they concluded the exact opposite of the truth. Jesus pronounced judgment on them from that day on, from that day in Matthew 13, that very day on. He spoke to them in parables so they would not understand. So parables were a judgment. And then He had to explain the meaning of those parables to His disciples so they would understand the meaning.

So He was actually teaching the crowds and teaching His disciples in a fashion that hid the truth so that He could pronounce a judgment on those who had rejected, and then have the opportunity to explain the meaning to those who believed. For the most part, then, they did not understand the parables. That was the whole point of the parables. There is, however, a parable that they did understand. It is, in that sense, a rare and unique parable, and it's found in Mark chapter 12. So I want you to go to this parable. This parable is a parable that the religious leaders, the chief priests, the scribes, the Pharisees, the elders of Israel did get.

And it was designed for that purpose. While all parables were, in a sense, judgments, because the parables talk about salvation, they talk about the gospel, they talk about the kingdom of God. They're all parables, all 40 parables in the New Testament, essentially are, in one way or another, gospel stories, gospel parables.

There are a few of them, and this is one, maybe the leading one, maybe the leading one, that are in themselves judgments that the ones being judged do understand. This is very rare, but that's the case here in Mark chapter 12. We even know the moment that the reality of the parable dawned on them.

It took a long time, but there was a moment in which what he was saying dawned clearly in their minds, and they knew they had indicted themselves. Now, Jesus tells stories that, in many cases, have extreme components, or even outrageous or unpredictable, surprising, almost shocking behavior, such as the father running, embracing, kissing the vile prodigal son. That's a shocking thing to the Jewish people, the Jewish leaders to whom Jesus gives it. There's another shock element here, and it's also the behavior of the leading character in this parable. By the time they discover the reality of this parable, they, the listeners, have really heaped profound guilt on themselves.

It's a remarkable story, and again, it shows us the literal supernatural genius of Jesus to create a story that sucks the hearers in and becomes a trap which condemns them. This is Wednesday of Passion Week. Friday, Jesus will die. He knows that. He knows it. And in the story, and in the story, He says what they're going to do to Him. He's been saying it for months. For months, He's been saying to His disciples, I'm going to be arrested. I'm going to be brutalized. I'm going to be killed, and I'm going to rise from the dead.

He's been saying that for months. There are no surprises in the life of Jesus. He wasn't a well-intentioned religious leader who somehow lost control of His movement, and it all went bad. No, He came to give His life a ransom for many. He came to die. He knew that from the beginning. He even knew the details. He knew He would be mistreated. He would be abused. He would be hit.

He would be crucified. He knew all of those details. Here in this parable on Wednesday, He tells the very people who are going to kill Him that they're going to kill Him. He knows this without question.

This is no surprise to Him at all. It is a very moving parable, and Jesus as the ultimate storyteller captures His audience with the outrageous behavior of the vine-growers, the tenant farmers in this story. The audience of chief priests, and scribes, and Pharisees, and elders are outraged at the behavior of these vine-growers, and we'll see that as we go through, and they should have been. They were the ones who upheld the temple, the sacrifices, the ceremonies, the rituals, and more importantly, the law of God.

They were the representatives of God in the world, and righteous behavior and holy behavior was their stock and trade and their expectation of everyone. They're shocked at the behavior of this man. They're shocked at the behavior of these vine-growers, the man meaning the man who owns the vineyard.

They're shocked at everything that goes on in this story, and then in the end, the shock hits them right between the eyes. Let's look at the parable first of all, and then we'll look at the interpretation. He began to speak to them in parables. Again, this is Wednesday. The day before, He had cleared out the temple.

This is the next day, and at least for that day, He occupies center stage. If you compare Matthew and Luke, you know that He taught at least three parables and a lot of other teaching also, but here He speaks to them in parables, several, but Mark only records this one, and here is the parable. A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower. Now, notice He doesn't say what is the formula for many of the parables the kingdom of heaven is like because this is not about the kingdom of heaven.

This breaks the mold. This is about judgment, and this is not a parable to hide the realities of the kingdom but to reveal the reality of judgment. Now, when He speaks, He speaks in very familiar words.

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a vat under the wine press and built a tower. That is quoted from Isaiah 5. That is essentially a direct quote from Isaiah 5. Now, Isaiah 5 was well known to the people of Israel. Isaiah is a prophet in Judah, and Isaiah's prophecy essentially is this.

You're going to be judged. He's warning them about the coming judgment, in fact, specifically the Babylonian invasion, warning them that the Chaldeans or Babylonians are going to come and be the instrument of God to destroy Jerusalem, destroy the temple, kill the people, and haul them off to captivity. That is his warning. And Isaiah, in his prophecy of warning, includes a parable, and this is the parable from Isaiah.

He says, someone planted a vineyard, put a wall around it, dug a vat, built a tower, all the components necessary to produce grape juice. This from Isaiah 5. If you go back to Isaiah 5, we won't do it.

I'll just kind of let you know. If you go back to Isaiah 5, you ask who the builder is, it is the Lord, says it in Isaiah 5. You ask who the vineyard is, it is Israel, Judah, specifically Isaiah 5, 7. It is Israel and Judah. Now, if you follow Isaiah 5 from the identification of God, planting Israel in the land and blessing Israel and providing everything for them to bring forth fruit, you also know that in the parable, they're indicted because instead of bringing forth good grapes, Isaiah says they brought forth bu'ushim, which are sour, inedible berries.

They produce nothing of value. And so it says in Isaiah 5, what shall I do? God speaking first person. What shall I do to my vineyard? I will destroy my vineyard.

I will destroy my vineyard. And then the rest of chapter 5 describes the massive sins that Israel have committed and the judgment that's coming in the hordes from Babylon. So anybody who heard Jesus quote Isaiah 5 should know what was coming because it is a setup for the judgment of God that came in the Babylonian captivity, which was a massacre by the Babylonians and a deportation, as you know, for 70 years into Babylon. If they were listening with hearing ears, they should have known when he started quoting Isaiah 5, this is going to be about judgment.

But they didn't pick it up right away. Verse 1 again, and here's the addition to the text from Isaiah. This man who planted the vineyard, rented it out to vine growers and went on a journey. Very familiar, very common. Vineyards all over the land of Israel, all over the land of Israel, terraced on the hillsides everywhere.

Very familiar. And a man who's a landowner providing a vineyard, very common. And then going on a long journey, very common. And then renting it out to tenant farmers, tenant farmers. People who make a contract with him to work the land, to bring about the crop, and then to split the proceeds in whatever the contractual agreement stipulates. Goes on a long journey.

People went on long journeys in those days because all journeys were long journeys, as you know. So the man has done everything for production. He's planted a vineyard. He's put a wall.

That's the protection around it. He's dug a vat for the pressing of the grapes. He's built a tower, which is a watch tower to see that no one invades and also a place to store all the implements. Everything's been done.

Everything's been done. Then he goes on a long journey. And according to Leviticus 19, I think it is, it can take as long as five years for a vineyard that's newly planted to really begin to produce grapes. And so they, tenant farmers, it is a long journey. And the tenant farmers have been there a while. That's the idea.

It's a long time. But the time has come for him to have an expectation of a harvest. So verse 2 then picks up the story that our Lord creates.

At the harvest time, he sent a slave to the vine growers in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine growers, the shared crop that belonged to him as had been contracted. This is all pretty normal stuff. They haven't picked up on the Isaiah 5 part. They're not sensing this as a judgment story like in Isaiah.

So far so good. This is a normal kind of procedure they would have been very familiar with. But now the shock comes. Verse 3, the slave arrives. They took him and beat him and sent him away empty handed.

The verb here, dero, simply means really to punch, to physically beat, to hit. This is criminal behavior. This is illegal. There certainly would be assumed a contract to say nothing of ingratitude. This is vicious. This is wicked to do that.

You've been given a tremendous opportunity. Obviously, they'd been cared for during the time they were there working before there was any crop, so they had received some kind of wages in this. And now when all they have to do is give the contracted percentage of the produce back to the man who owned the vineyard and had allowed them this employment and this privilege, they take the servant. They beat him up. They sent him away in pain. Verse 4, again, he sent them another slave. And the implication is that the first slave didn't even come back. Maybe he was afraid of how his master would treat him if he hadn't succeeded, but he doesn't appear to have come back.

But it's just a story. So he sends another one, and they wounded him in the head. That's kephalaiaŨ.

Kephalē is the Greek word for head. What it literally means is they bashed his head in. They smashed his head and treated him in an insulting, dishonorable, and shameful way. I mean, this is just outrageous.

And you can hear these self-righteous, legalistic chief priests scribes and elders buzzing with each other. Who would do this? Who would do this? What kind of person is this? What kind of people are these? Who are these people who do that? So ungrateful for all the privileges, for all the investment, for all that they had been given.

Who would do that? He sent another in verse 5. That one, they killed. They beat the first, smashed in the head of the second, killed the third. Actually, Matthew 21 gives a parallel account of this story, and Jesus added, they stoned him to death.

There were a lot of stones around the vineyard because they used the rocks to terrace the hillsides. They stoned him to death. And so with many others, beating some and killing others. And now, of course, the people are starting to say, whoa, whoa, whoa. You know, first we would conclude that the behavior of the tenant farmers is really outrageous and bizarre. Now we're going to question the sanity of the guy who owns the land. What?

He just keeps sending people to get their head bashed in and get killed? What is going on? This thing becomes outrageous. This whole thing becomes extreme. And just when they think it's reached its extremity, Jesus says in verse 6, he had one more left. All he's got left is a beloved son.

And at this point they must have said, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, please no. He's the heir. He's the future. He's the family.

He's continuity. Don't send him. You already know their behavior.

The gasps now are louder. And not just a son, but a beloved son, not a son you want to get rid of. There are such sons.

This is not one. He sent him last of all to them saying, they will reverence my son is the word. They will respect my son.

Surely they will. This is the ultimate shock in the whole story. Just completely beyond comprehension. First, as I said, they can't understand the behavior of the tenant farmers. And then it begins to shift to the man that owns this place. And the question is, why does he keep sending his slaves to be treated that way? And, oh, whoa, why would he ever send a son? What did they do to the son? What did they do to the son?

Well, they planned. Verse 7, those vine growers said to one another, this is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours. They took him, killed him, threw him out of the vineyard. Really just shocking. If they were shocked on another occasion and earlier when he described the father who ran and kissed his vile son all over his head and put a robe and sandals and had a party to celebrate his homecoming. If they were shocked at that kind of grace because they were legalists, they are equally shocked at this kind of behavior on the part of the killers and even on the part of the landowner. And they'd be shocked because they didn't even give the son a burial.

They just threw him out. Road kill, scavenger, flesh for birds and beasts. Then Jesus asks the question, verse 9, what will the owner of the vineyard do?

What would you do? Well, by Old Testament law, Genesis 9, 6, capital punishment, right? Whoever sheds man's blood by man shall his blood be shed.

This is a multiple murderer. At this point, they volunteer a collective answer that's recorded in Matthew 21 in the parallel passage. They said, the owner will bring those wretches to a wretched end using very graphic language. I mean, they're completely sucked in.

Bring those wretches to a wretched end. I think it was when they said that, that they begin to process what they had just said. Because Luke in his parallel account says, when they heard it, they said, may it never be. May it never be.

No, no, no, no, no, no. It dawned on them. Verse 12, middle of the verse, they understood what he spoke and they understood that he spoke the parable against them. How did they know it was them? They knew their history. They knew their history. This is unmistakable, totally unmistakable.

Me genoita in the Greek. No, no, no, no. Strongest possible negative.

No. First of all, they're going to applaud the owner for sending an army with legal papers to bring about the execution of these murderers. And then, when they begin to realize that this is about them and they are trapped by their own condemnation they have condemned themselves, they begin to say, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. We want to change our mind about the end of the story. Can we write our own ending?

Can you leave it blank? So what is the interpretation of this? That was the parable.

The interpretation should be obvious. The man that planted the vineyard is who? God, as it was God in Isaiah 5. The originator and possessor, the owner of the vineyard is God.

What is the vineyard? The people of God. In this case, Israel, the people of God. Israel is his pleasant plant, Isaiah says. The men of Judith. So it's Israel, the vineyard people. Very familiar picture to the Jews of Israel as a vineyard.

Psalm 80, Jeremiah 2, other places. Who are the tenant farmers? Who are the vine growers? The georgoi. They are the religious leaders that he's talking to. And not only those that he's talking to, but all the ones who came before them. The leaders of the nation. The stewards of, as Romans 9 says, they were given the adoption and the covenants and the law and everything that God had deposited in this world to bring men to the knowledge of himself. He had deposited in the hands of the nation Israel, and there were stewards in the nation of Israel who were to care for that. Stewards of God's possessions, the people. Stewards of God's revelation, the truth.

What is the long journey? The long journey is the Old Testament history. God puts Israel in the land, establishes them in the land, gives them his law. At the time of Moses and Joshua, they're placed in the land. God gives them Scripture, covenants, all that they need, the whole sacrificial system.

Everything is laid out for them, and he puts the stewardship of that in the leaders of the nation, in the priests, in the rulers. What is harvest time? What does the harvest refer to in verse 2? It's the appropriate season when God should expect a spiritual harvest.

God should come back periodically and expect a spiritual harvest, but as Isaiah said, when God came back, there was nothing but sour berries. And who are the slaves that he sent? Who are the slaves that he sent? Old Testament prophets, preachers. Sometimes they were priests as well, but they were the faithful preachers who preached the message of God.

That would be from Moses to John the Baptist, all of them. Those slaves that are sent from God to call the people back to him, to call the people to produce righteous fruit. And what was the mistreatment of these preachers, the nation Israel? What did they do with the prophets?

Beat them, treated them shamefully, wounded them, killed them, killed them, threw them out. The history of Israel is told to them in this story. You're listening to the verse-by-verse Bible teaching of John MacArthur here on Grace to You. John also serves as Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary in Southern California, and today's lesson is part of his series titled Stories with Purpose. John, in this study you make it clear that only believers, only those who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can truly understand God's Word. But I know you'd also say that saving faith doesn't necessarily guarantee a right interpretation, because for that something else is needed.

Yeah, the something else that is needed is study. And that's why the Bible says, study to show yourself approved under God, a workman needing not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. It demands study, studying the Word of God.

It's not going to fall open just by having you look at the page. You've got to dig deep. It reminds me of the Old Testament calls to wisdom that say you have to pursue wisdom, you have to go deep if you want wisdom, you have to labor to find the true wisdom. Even when you're looking into the Word of God, it takes that kind of effort to dig down to understand what Scripture really means, and therefore how it applies to life. So I want to mention to you a booklet today called How to Study the Bible. And if you're going to get the most out of Scripture, you have to learn how to study it. And we'll send one to anyone who asks free of charge. That's our gift.

That's what I said, free of charge. The title of the booklet, How to Study the Bible. God's Word contains everything you need to know about this life and the next, everything you need to know to guide your life in a path that will bring blessing and fruitfulness. And it all comes because you understand the Scripture. So knowing how to get at the true meaning of Scripture is critical. I believe studying Scripture should be a daily practice for every believer.

And this booklet will help you to be able to do that. There's a section on how to read the Bible, on how to bridge the gaps of history, culture, and language, how to interpret what you read, and common mistakes even in reading Scripture. It's especially helpful as a resource for a new Christian, maybe with little experience in reading and studying the Bible.

But even for long-time believers, it's a good measuring stick as well. So we'll send you a copy free of charge. Just let us know you'd like one. Ask for the booklet How to Study the Bible when you contact us today. And if you're a believer, you should rush to get this, because this is the access to all that God has in His Word for you.

Yes, thank you, John. And, friend, there really is no more important skill you can develop than to handle the Word of God accurately and apply its truth to your life. So let us put a copy of this booklet in your hands. Ask for your free booklet called How to Study Your Bible when you contact us today. Just call us at 800-55-GRACE.

That translates to 800-55-47223. You can also request your booklet at our website, Again, the title to ask for, How to Study Your Bible.

It's also a helpful tool to give to someone you've been discipling. Ask for your free copy when you call us today at 800-55-GRACE, or when you visit our website, And while you're at the website,, be sure to take advantage of the thousands of other free resources that are available for you there, with helpful blog articles on trends that affect the church, daily devotionals, more than 55 years' worth of John MacArthur's sermons, all of it free to download in MP3 and transcript format. You're sure to find something that will encourage and edify you. Our website again, Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Look for Grace To You television this Sunday on Direct TV channel 378, or you can watch online at And then be here tomorrow when John shows you why a simple parable caused the Pharisees to plot Jesus' murder. It's another half hour of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-15 05:37:31 / 2024-05-15 05:47:36 / 10

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