Luke 20:9
Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.
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(9-19) Then began he to speak to the people.—See Notes on Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12. The presence of this, as well as of the last section, in the first three Gospels, with so little variation, indicates the impression which these facts and teaching made at the time, and probably also that they occupied a prominent place in the early records that served as the basis of our present Gospels.

A certain man planted a vineyard.—The absence of the fuller detail in St. Matthew and St. Mark shows that St. Luke’s report was not derived from them, but probably from a version, orally repeated, of that which they reported more fully. On the other hand, the addition of “for a long time” is peculiar to St. Luke, and reminds us of the like phrase in Matthew 25:19.



Luke 20:9 - Luke 20:19

As the crisis came near, Jesus increased His severity and plainness of speech. This parable, which was spoken very near the end of the protracted duel with the officials in the Temple, is transparent in its application, and hit its mark immediately. The rulers at once perceived that it was directed against them. The cap fitted too well not to be put on. But it contains prophecy as well as history, and the reference to Jesus’ impending fate is almost as transparent as the indictment of the rulers, while the prediction of the transference of the vineyard to others is as easy of translation as either of the other points.

Such plain speaking was fitting for last words. The urgency of Christ’s pleading love, as much as the intensity of His moral indignation, made them plain.

I. We note, first, the vineyard, its lord and its tenants.

The metaphor was familiar, for Isaiah had ‘sung a song touching’ Israel as God’s vineyard, and other prophets had caught up the emblem, so that it had become a commonplace, known by all. The parable distinctly alludes to Isaiah’s words, and almost reproduces them. Matthew’s version enlarges on details of the appliances provided by the owner, which makes the parallel with Isaiah still more noticeable. But Luke summarises these into the simple ‘planted.’ That covers the whole ground.

God had given Israel a system of revelation, law, and worship, which was competent to produce in those who received it, the fruit of obedience and thankfulness. The husbandmen are primarily the rulers, as the scribes and chief priests perceived; but the nation which endorsed, by permitting their action, is included. The picture drawn applies to us as truly as to the Jews. The transference of the vineyard to another set of tenants, which Christ threatened at the close of the parable, has been accomplished, and so we, by our possession of the Gospel, are entrusted with the vineyard, and are responsible for rendering the fruits of holy living and love.

The owner ‘let it out, and went into another country for a long time.’ That is a picturesque way of saying that we have apparent possession, and are left free to act, God not being manifestly close to us. He stands off, as it were, from the creatures whom He has made, and gives them room to do as they will. But all our possessions, as well as the revelation of Himself in Christ, are only let to us, and we have rent to pay.

The collectors sent for the fruit are, of course, the series of prophets. Luke specifies three-a round number, indicating completeness. He says nothing about the times between their missions, but implies that the three covered the whole period till the sending of the son. Their treatment was uniform, as the history of Israel proved. The habit of rejecting the prophets was hereditary.

There is such a thing as national solidarity stretching through ages. The bold charge made by Stephen was only an echo of this parable, when he cried, ‘As your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?’ Each generation made the ancestral sin its own, and staggered under a heavier burden of guilt, till, at last, came a generation which had to bear the penalty of all the blood of prophets shed from the beginning. Nations live, though their component atoms die, and only national repudiation of bequeathed sins can avert the crash which, sooner or later, avenges them.

The husbandmen treated the messengers with increasing contumely and cruelty. Content with beating the first, they added shameful treatment in the second case, and proceeded to wounding in the third. If God’s repeated appeals do not melt, they harden, the heart. The persistence of His messengers leads to fiercer hatred, if it does not produce yielding love. There is no bitterness equal to that of the man who has often stiffened conscience against the truth.

II. So far, no doubt could be entertained of the meaning of the scathing parable.

There was probably as little about that of the next part. We cannot but notice the broad distinction which Jesus draws between Himself and the mightiest of the prophets. They were the owner’s ‘slaves’; He was His ‘beloved Son.’ The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews begins his letter with the same contrast, which he may have learned from the parable. It is a commonplace for us, but let us ponder how it must have sounded to that hostile, eager crowd, and ask ourselves how such assumptions can be reconciled with the ‘sweet reasonableness’ of Jesus if he belonged to the same category as an Isaiah or a Micah.

The yearning of divine love for the fruit of reverence and obedience is wonderfully expressed by the bold putting of an uncertain hope into the owner’s mouth. He must have known that he was running a risk in sending his son, but he so much desires to bring the dishonest workmen back to their duty that he is willing to run it. The highly figurative expression is meant to emphasise God’s longing for men’s hearts, and His patient love which ‘hopeth all things’ and will not cease from effort to win us so long as an arrow remains in His quiver.

III. Our Lord now passes to prophecy.

Deep sadness is in His tone as He tells how the only effect of His coming had been to stir up opposition. They ‘saw Him’ and were they touched? No, they only gripped their privileges the tighter, and determined more fiercely to assert their ownership.

Nothing is more remarkable in the parable than the calmness of Jesus in announcing His impending fate. He knows it all, and His voice has no tremor, as He tells it as though He were speaking of another. The very announcement that He penetrated the murderous designs hidden in many of the hearers’ hearts would tend to precipitate their execution of these; but He is ready for the Cross, and its nearness has no terror, not because He was impassive, or free from the shrinking proper to flesh, but because He was resolved to save. Therefore He was resolved to suffer.

The husbandmen’s reasonings with one another bring into plain words thoughts which probably were not consciously held by any even of the rulers. They open the question as to how far the rulers knew the truth of Christ’s claims. They at least knew what these were, and they had fought down dawning convictions which, fairly dealt with, would have broadened into daylight. They would not have been so fiercely antagonistic if they had not been pricked by an uneasy doubt whether, after all, perhaps there was something in these claims.

Nothing steels men against admitting a truth so surely as the suspicion that, if they were to inquire a little farther, they might find themselves believing it. Knowledge and ignorance blended in these rulers as in us all. If they had not known at all, they would not have needed the Saviour’s dying prayer for their forgiveness; if they had known fully, its very ground would have been taken away.

The motive put into their mouths is the wish to seize the vineyard for their own; and was not the very soul of the rulers’ hostility the determination to keep hold of the prerogatives of their offices, while priests and people alike were deaf to Jesus, because they wished to be no more troubled by being reminded of their obligations to render obedience to God? The root of all rejection of Christ is the desire of self-will to reign supreme. Men resent being reminded that they are tenants, and are determined to assert ownership.

Jesus carries the hearers beyond the final crime which filled the measure of sin, and exhausted the resources of God. The sharp turn from narrative to question, in Luke 19:15, not only is like the sudden thrust of a spear, but marks the transition from the present and immediate future to a more distant day. The slaying of the heir was the last act of the vine-dressers. The owner would act next. Luke, like Mark, puts the threatening of retribution into Christ’s lips, while Matthew makes it the answer of the rulers to his question. Luke alone gives the exclamation, ‘God forbid!’ The ready answer in Matthew, and the pious interjection in Luke, have the same purpose,-to blunt the application of the parable to themselves by appearing to be unconcerned.

Their levity and reluctance to take home the lesson moved our Lord to sternness, which burned in His steadfast eyes as He looked on them, and must have been remembered by some disciple whose memory has preserved that look for us. It was the prelude to a still less veiled prophecy of the fall of Israel. Jesus lays His hand on the ancient prophecy of the stone rejected by the builders, and applies it to Himself. He is the sure foundation of which Isaiah had spoken. He is the stone rejected by Israel, but elevated to the summit of the building, and there joining two diverging walls.

The solemn warning closing the parable had its special meaning in regard to Israel, but its dread force extends to us. To fall on the stone while it lies lowly on the earth is to lame one’s self, but to have it fall on a man when it rushes down from its elevation is ruin utter and irremediable. ‘If they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven.’

Luke 20:9-19. A certain man planted a vineyard, &c. — See this paragraph explained on Matthew 21:33-46, and Mark 12:1-12. And went into a far country for a long time — It was a long time from the entrance of the Israelites into Canaan to the birth of Christ. He shall destroy those husbandmen — Probably he pointed to the scribes, chief priests, and elders; who allowed, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, Matthew 21:41, but could not bear that this should be applied to themselves. They might also mean, God forbid that we should be guilty of such a crime as your parable seems to charge us with, namely, rejecting and killing the heir. Our Saviour means, But yet ye will do it, as is prophesied of you. He looked on them — To sharpen their attention.

20:9-19 Christ spake this parable against those who resolved not to own his authority, though the evidence of it was so full. How many resemble the Jews who murdered the prophets and crucified Christ, in their enmity to God, and aversion to his service, desiring to live according to their lusts, without control! Let all who are favoured with God's word, look to it that they make proper use of their advantages. Awful will be the doom, both of those who reject the Son, and of those who profess to reverence Him, yet render not the fruits in due season. Though they could not but own that for such a sin, such a punishment was just, yet they could not bear to hear of it. It is the folly of sinners, that they persevere in sinful ways, though they dread the destruction at the end of those ways.See this parable explained in the notes at Matthew 21:33-45. 9-13. vineyard—(See on [1706]Lu 13:6). In Mt 21:33 additional points are given, taken literally from Isa 5:2, to fix down the application and sustain it by Old Testament authority.

husbandmen—the ordinary spiritual guides of the people, under whose care and culture the fruits of righteousness might be yielded.

went, &c.—leaving it to the laws of the spiritual husbandry during the whole length of the Jewish economy. (See on [1707]Mr 4:26.)

Ver. 9-18. We met with this parable at large both in Matthew 21:33-41, and in Mark 12:1-11. Its obvious scope is to let them know, that God in righteous judgment, for the Jews’ abusing the Lord’s prophets, John the Baptist, and himself, who was in a few days to be killed by them, would unchurch and destroy them, and raise up to himself a church amongst the Gentiles; and that this was no more than was prophesied of, Psalm 118:22.

Then began he to speak to the people this parable,.... According to the other evangelists it seems to be spoken to the chief priests, Scribes, and elders; and certain it is, that they looked upon themselves as struck at in it; it might be spoken to both. Christ having silenced the sanhedrim, turned himself to the people, and delivered the parable of the vineyard to them, though his principal view was to the priests:

a certain man planted a vineyard; the people of the Jews are designed by the vineyard, and the "certain man", or "householder", as Matthew calls him, Matthew 21:28 is the Lord of hosts; and the planting of it is to be understood of his bringing and settling the people Israel in the land of Canaan. Luke omits certain things which the other evangelists relate, as setting an hedge about it, digging a winepress, and building a tower in it; and the Persic version here adds, "and planted trees, and set a wall about it"; all which express the care that was taken to cultivate and protect it; and signify the various blessings and privileges the Jew's enjoyed under the former dispensation; see Gill on Matthew 21:33 and See Gill on Mark 12:1.

and let it forth to husbandmen; put the people of the Jews under the care not only of civil magistrates, but of ecclesiastical governors, who were to dress this vine, or instruct these people in matters of religion, that they might be fruitful in good works:

and went into a far country for a long time; for a long time it was, from the times of Moses and Joshua, when the first settlement, both of the civil and ecclesiastical state of the Jews, was made, to the time of Christ; it was fourteen or fifteen hundred years; see the notes, as above.

{2} Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.

(2) It is nothing new for those who are knowledgable of the very sanctuary of God's holy place to be the greatest enemies of Christ, but in due time they will be punished.

Luke 20:9-19. See on Matthew 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12.

ἤρξατο] after that despatch of the members of the Sanhedrim.

πρὸς τ. λαόν] “muniendum contra interpellationem antistitum,” Bengel. Otherwise in Matt. and Mark, according to whom the discourse is addressed directly to the members of the Sanhedrim, and these, according to Luke, are also present (Luke 20:19).

Luke 20:10. δώσουσιν] (see the critical remarks): see on 1 Corinthians 9:18; Ephesians 6:3.

αὐτῷ] to him, the possessor of the vineyard, by the servants.

Luke 20:11. προσέθετο πέμψαι] a Hebraism, Genesis 4:2, and elsewhere. Comp. on Luke 19:11, and see Valckenaer, p. 253 f.

Luke 20:13. ἴσως] perchance. The corresponding German word (vielleicht) expresses not mere conjecture, but, although in a still doubting form, his expectation (“spem rationi congruentem,” Bengel). See Locella, ad Xen. Eph. p. 213; Bornemann, Schol. p. 122 f.; Ellendt, Lex. Soph. I. p. 855. Only here in the New Testament.

Luke 20:14. ἰδόντες δὲ αὐτόν] with emphasis, corresponding to the previous τοῦτον ἰδόντες.

Luke 20:16. εἶπον] Persons from the people in Luke 20:9, who have comprehended, although dimly, the foreshadowing of evil.

μὴ γένοιτο] (see on Romans 3:4), to wit, that the γεωργοί lay hands themselves on the son, kill him, and bring about the ἀπολέσει κ.τ.λ.!

Luke 20:17. οὖν] what then, if your μὴ γένοιτο is to be allowed, what then is this scriptural saying, etc. It is meaningless, there is nothing in it.

Luke 20:19. καὶ ἐφοβ.] καί, and yet; comp. on Mark 12:12.

ἔγνωσαν] the people, to wit,[235] whose understanding the passage of Scripture, Luke 20:17 f., accompanied by the heart-penetrating glance of Jesus (ἘΜΒΛΈΨΑς), has opened.

[235] See on Mark 12:12. The reference to the scribes and chief priests involves us in subtleties as in Grotius, Lange, L. J. III. p. 494, and others. πρὸς αὐτούς refers first of all to the hierarchs.

Luke 20:9-19. The parable of the wicked vinedressers (Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12:1-12). Between the last section and this comes, in Mt., the parable of the Two Sons.

9-19. The Parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard.

. to the people] but still in the hearing of the priests and scribes who had only withdrawn a little into the background (Luke 20:19; Matthew 21:32; Matthew 21:45). St Luke here omits the Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32), in which, as in this Parable, the hidden meaning—applicable in the first instance to Pharisees and the people, and in the second to Jews and Gentiles—was hardly veiled.

a vineyard] As in Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms 80; Ezekiel 15:1-6; Jeremiah 2:21. St Luke omits the special isolation, &c. of the vineyard. Vines, grapes, and vineleaves were symbols of Palestine, on the coins of the Maccabees.

to husbandmen] namely, (1) the Jewish nation; (2) their rulers and teachers.

for a long time] The nearly two thousand years of Jewish History. Comp. Matthew 25:19. In this long time they learnt to say “the Lord hath forsaken the earth,” Ezekiel 8:12; Psalm 10:5.

Luke 20:9. Ἤρξατο, He began) After that the scribes had given Him new cause for speaking.—λαὸν, the people) who needed to be fortified against the cavilling objections of the chief priests; [as also who needed to be fortified against the impending offence of His cross.—V. g.]—χρόνους ἱκανοὺς, during long periods of time) after the people’s entrance into the land of Canaan; [from which event down to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans was a period of more than 1500 years.—V. g.]

Verses 9-19. - Parable of the wicked husbandmen in the vineyard, and the simile of the corner-stone. Verse 9. - A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen. Under a very thin parabolic veil, Jesus foretells the awful tragedy of the next few days. He adopts a well-known imagery, and seems to say, "Listen to Isaiah's well-known story of the vineyard, the vineyard of the Lord of hosts, which is the house of Israel. I will expand it a little, that I may show you how it stands with you as regards this matter of 'authority,' that we may see whether you have as much respect for the ascertained will of God as ye pretend, so that ye should be sure to submit to me if only ye were satisfied that I was an accredited Messenger of God" (Professor Bruce). For a long time. Representing the nearly two thousand years of Jewish history. Luke 20:9Let it out

See on Matthew 21:33.

Went into a far country

Not necessarily far, but as Rev., another country. See on Mark 13:34.

A long time (ἱκανούς)

See on ch. Luke 7:6.

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