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1.20 Synoptics -- Parables of the Kingdom

Several parables contain teaching related to race or Gentiles.

        a. In Mat 13:36-43 and Mat 13:47-50, the parables of the weeds and the fishing net refer to the Last Judgment. In both cases, the angels gather men either from the field (the world), or the sea. The angels sort them into grain or weeds, good fish or bad. The implication is that this is a universal judgment. Those who are saved are "sons of the kingdom," or "the righteous." There is no traditional dichotomy between Jews and Gentiles. The criteria for being considered wheat or weeds are not stated in this teaching.

        b. Lk 13:6-9 The parable of the fig tree in Luke is echoed in the cursing of the fig tree recounted in Mat 21:18-22, and Mk 11:12-14Mk 11:20-21. In Matthew and Mark, Jesus looked for fruit on a fig tree, but finding none, cursed it. The tree withered to its roots. Luke, however, relates the parable of a landowner who told the vinedresser to cut the fig tree down, because it had been barren for three years. The vinedresser said he would tend it for one more year, and if there was no fruit, then it could be cut down.

        There is a related verse in Jeremiah:

        "I will take away their harvest", declares the Lord. "There will be no grapes on the vine. There will be no figs on the tree, and their leaves will wither. What I have given them will be taken from them" (Jer 8:13).

        The idea is the same whether in the form of a parable or a sign. A sign is a miraculous act with a spiritual meaning. In this case, the story and deed are one of judgment on the current nation and religious leadership. Israel was a great tree with many leaves, but no fruit on it. Therefore it came under the judgment of God – which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

        c. Mat 21:33-43 In the parable of the vineyard, the tenants refused to pay rent to the owner. He sent several messengers to remind them, whom they mistreated and even killed. Finally the owner sent his son, and the tenants decided to kill him and steal the inheritance. The owner will punish the tenants with death and give the vineyard to other tenants. Jesus quotes a psalm:

        The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes (Ps 118:22-23).

        As a parting shot, so no one will miss his meaning, Jesus said that the Kingdom of God would be taken away from its custodians and be given to a nation that would produce fruit (Mat 21:43).

        Luke alters the final part of the quotation:

        Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed (Lk 20:18).

        This is taken from a passage in Isaiah:

        He will be a holy place; for both Israel and Judah he will be a stone that causes people to stumble
             and a rock that makes them fall.
        And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
        Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken,
             they will be snared and captured (Isa 8:14-15).


This teaching, recounted in all three Gospels, can be linked with the cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple as the most vehement of Jesus' judgmental sayings and acts. These were Messianic judgments upon the stewards of God’s Covenant promise. It went beyond reproving the religious leaders for their hypocrisy and falsehood. Jesus was declaring that God is disowning His people, disinheriting and expelling them. 1200 years before Jesus, the Canaanites were physically expelled from the Promised Land in favor of Israel. So, now the current generation of Israel would be spiritually expelled from God’s favor. The Promise, the Covenant, the Blessing – it is all one and the same – will be transferred to new stewards.


This is a massive historical cataclysm, the significance of which is too frequently overlooked. God was changing the nature of His historical activity. Since Abraham, all God's revelatory acts had been centered on Israel. Jesus graphically reminded them that the glorification of Israel was not the point of the Covenant, that the Jews were merely tenants of God’s property, and He was expecting some return on His investment. He had been patient and sent them many warnings through the prophets. Even now, amongst them was the final messenger, the Son himself. But when they killed the Son, as they were even then planning to do, that would be the last straw. Israel would be rejected and judged by God. God’s work will continue among men, but through other servants. And in fact the cornerstone of that new work will be the One whom Israel’s leaders condemn.


Look at all the themes that are packed in one story: the relation of God to Israel, the judgment of God, the identity and work of Jesus, God’s future plan. The Gentiles are not mentioned here, and it is not implied that they will be the successors to the Jews. All we are told is that the new work will be centered on the rejected stone, that it is the Lord's doing, and it will be marvelous (but not for those who hold to the old ways). There is no doubt that his hearers got the message, because all three sources say that the leaders sought to arrest him. This is a bedrock teaching in understanding the transition of God's work in history from the Old Covenant to the New.

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