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LIFE > Life in the World > Drinkers of Wine > Jesus and Wine > Parables   


Jesus taught the people in parables. The word itself is derived from the Greek word, parabole, which means “a placing beside.” A parable, therefore, would be a narrative, an illustration, or a comparison that is used to teach a central truth or main idea that could be drawn from the story.

By means of a parable Jesus could clearly convey a truth for all to understand, or He could easily veil a truth so that only His disciples could grasp the significance of the narrative. Of approximately thirty parables or stories told by Jesus, at least five relate to the viticulture of the nation.

Jesus likened the kingdom of heaven to a landowner “who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard” (Matt. 20:1); the vineyard must have been large and in need of many workers. The vineyard required tending, or the grapes were ripe and needed to be gathered. During the day he continued to send workers to the “vineyard” and all agreed to work for the same wage. They worked varying times but were paid the same, a denarius, which was an average day’s wage.

Those who had worked all day complained because those who worked only part of the day received the same wage as them. Jesus is teaching that all are dependent on grace, for works do not matter. The owner says: “I will give to this last man the same as to you” (v. 14). God is sovereign in the distribution of His favor (see: God is Sovereign). He saves whom He wills. And He saves all in the same manner (see: Matt. 20:1-16).

In another parable two sons were told by their father to go and work in the “vineyard.” They responded differently to their father’s instructions. The first son refused to go but afterward he went; the second son said he would go but never went. Jesus is teaching the necessity of repentance that demonstrates itself in life. It is not what one says initially but what one finally does that is significant. The tax collectors and harlots are saved before priests and elders because of what they do, not what they say. In life the destiny is settled by what one does eventually with the Word of God. It is not the lips but the life that is most important (see: Matt. 21:28-32).

Another time Jesus tells of a landowner that planted a “vineyard,” constructed a “hedge,” prepared a “winepress,” and built a “tower.” He leased the vineyard to vinedressers and went away, waiting for the time of profit.

“When vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit” (Matt. 21:34), for payments were made at harvest time. Different servants were beaten, stoned, and killed. Lastly, the owner sent his son who was killed. Then the owner determined that he would return, destroy the wicked vinedressers, and lease his vineyard to others who would give to him his fruits (see: Matt. 21:33-46).

The meaning is obvious in light of Psalm 80:8-18 and Isaiah 5:1-7. God is the landowner; the vineyard is the kingdom of God; the original vinedressers would be Israel; the servants are the prophets; the son is Jesus; and the new vinedressers would be Gentile believers. When Christ was rejected by the Jewish people, the Gospel was given to the Gentiles. “Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them” (Matt. 21:45).

In response to the lawyer’s inquiries concerning how to inherit eternal life and who was his neighbor, Jesus gives the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man going from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed, stripped, wounded, and left half dead. After the priest and Levite passed by, the Samaritan came and had compassion of him. He bandaged his wounds, “pouring on oil and wine (oinos),” and carried him to the inn, giving money to provide for his care.

Oil was used to ease the pain, and wine was use as an antiseptic to disinfect and cleanse the wound. These two, oil and wine, were commonly used by both Jews and Greeks in medicinal ways (see: Lu. 10:25-37).

Jesus speaks of a fig tree in a “vineyard” where often fruit trees were planted. It was producing no fruit, and the tree had not produced fruit for at least three years, even though it was an established tree that should be productive. The owner of the vineyard said: “Cut it down.” The “keeper of his vineyard” asked for it to be spared for another season. The decision was made to give it one more year (see: Lu. 13:6-9).

Mainly the parable is for Israel (Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:7), but it is also applicable to any unbeliever. God is longsuffering, showing great patience toward sinners, waiting for repentance. But His pending judgment is not forever stayed. When God’s Word is finally rejected, judgment commences. The nation of Israel would be removed, like the unproductive tree, if the nation failed to respond to her Messiah.

Jesus did not hesitate to tell parables relating to the viticulture of His day. It was part of the everyday life of the Hebrew people, and they could relate to the stories. There is no condemnation in the words of Jesus regarding the vineyard, the vine, or the wine. The hearers participated in this culture and so did Jesus; the stories were effective because they were so well understood.

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