The parable of the tenants was told against the chief priests and Pharisees – the most religious people of the day – and they knew it. Jesus’ listeners would have recognised that the owner was God, and that the vineyard was the chosen people of God – several Old Testament passages use that imagery, referring to the children of Israel. The Pharisees and chief priests would have recognised that the servants sent to get the fruit were the prophets, often ignored by their audiences. What is new is the presence of the son and heir of the owner: Jesus is obviously referring to himself in a very daring way, and predicting his death at their hands. The point of the parable was that God would take the kingdom of God away from the Jewish religious leadership, so that the people of God from then on might not be Jews. This was an astonishing message.
The reason for this was that the Jewish people on the whole were no longer producing the fruit God was looking for. (Jesus and his little band of disciples of course were Jews who certainly produced that fruit – there is no excuse for anti Semitism here.) But what exactly was God looking for? What is God looking for now? What is this ‘Kingdom fruit’?
The two greatest commandments sum it up. Love for Him is the most important thing God looks for from us. He really wants a close loving relationship with each one of us – because he loves us so much. It is not mere obedience, important though that is. He wants us so to know him that we truly appreciate him – and if we really appreciate what he is like (as Jesus reveals him and as Paul experienced him), we cannot help love him.
The next most important thing is to become like him, especially in our love for our fellow human beings. The ‘fruit of the Spirit’ (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control, Galatians 5:22,23) is the nature of God, and is mostly about relationships. If we love our neighbour, we cannot help but want them to know God also; so part of becoming like God is becoming one with him in his mission to extend his kingdom of love all over the world.
God’s mission brought Christ to the cross. It will bring us suffering, too; but also the power of his resurrection!
1) If God took the kingdom from the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, what danger is there that he might do something similar today?
2) What fruit does God want from you?