“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:43, NIV84)
Once again we face some stern words spoken by Jesus to the religious leaders of His day. Jesus had just told a parable about how God was like a landowner who planted a vineyard (Israel) and hired tenants (the religious leaders) to tend the vineyard. When it was time, the landowner (God) sent workers (the Old Testament Prophets, including John the Baptist) to them to see how things were going and to collect some of the fruit. Instead of welcoming the envoys sent by the landowner, they beat them and killed them. Finally, the landowner sent His own Son (Jesus) and they killed Him, saying to themselves, “This is the heir! If we get rid of Him, this could all be ours.” Jesus asked the religious leaders what should be done in such a case. They responded, “Take the land away from the current tenants and give it to someone who will produce the proper fruit.” To this Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruits.” Via the parable, Jesus trapped them in a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Let’s not miss the core message of this parable. Something happened within the hearts of the tenants (religious leaders). Somewhere along the line, they forgot that they were tenants of the landowner’s (God’s) land. Not only that, but they forgot what their original hiring was for. They were supposed to tend the vineyard (Israel) to ensure that fruit was produced for the landowner. They began to act as though the land was theirs. In so doing, they began to tend the land according to their own wishes. Hence, they beat and killed all who were sent by the landowner, even the landowner’s son (the upcoming scourging and crucifixion of Jesus).
Before we get too rough on the Pharisees, Sadducees, and teachers of the law of Jesus’ day, we need to make sure that we are not guilty of doing the same thing in our churches today. There seems to be so much redefining and reinventing of the Christian message. We need to make sure (as God’s tenants) that we are remaining true to our landowner (God). It is essential that we stay absolutely true to the principles of God’s kingdom. When Jesus returns again, we want to make sure that we have been faithful to our calling and have produced the fruit He expects to see.