A Bigger Picture

My perspective on life so easily becomes narrow - all about my life, my time, my relationships, even justified by saying I'm focused on "my personal relationship with God". 

I'm very blessed to be a part of several small groups doing Bible study  - one is through the Good Morning Girls blog where I am studying verse by verse through the book of Colossians with 16 other seriously cool women on Instagram. We snap pictures every day to let each other know we've spent time in the Word and share prayer requests and our insights on the passage with each other throughout the week. 

The other is a group of just me and two other girls from church, and we are studying through the Parables of Jesus. Funny thing about parables, because they're tricky - on purpose. 

The one we discussed tonight (while enjoying pumpkin lattes!) really got me thinking:

Matthew 21: 33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “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. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”[i]
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.

Yeah, there's seriously so much to unpack in this parable you're probably thinking this post is going to be a year long...I don't think it will, but here's what got me about the above passage. 

I realized that I usually try to insert myself into a parable to help myself understand it. And usually, that works pretty well. But in studying and talking about this particular parable, it became apparent that Jesus was speaking about a much bigger picture than, well...me. 

What's so cool is that the above parable is really giving an overview of God's dealings with Israel. The landowner represents God. The vineyard represents Israel. The servants represent the prophets that God sent to proclaim the coming of the Messiah and the need for the Jews to repent of their unfaithfulness and return to the Lord (check out 2 Chron. 24:19-21, Jer. 1:5 & 37:15, and Jer. 26:20-23 to read what happened to some of them). 

God tried and tried and tried to send messengers - His servants - to plead with and warn the children of Israel, to no avail. So, as Matt. 21:37 says - God sent His Son, Jesus. And they beat and cast Him out and killed Him, too. (He didn't stay dead - this story has a pretty terrific ending!)

In the parable, Jesus was also prophecying about what would happen to Him. And he also caused the Pharisees, without them really realizing it, to prophecy about what would happen to them & Israel. 
It's kind of the age old game of making someone eat crow by framing the story in a different way and then they realize it was about THEM all along! The Pharisees reacted to the parable and proved that they knew what the just consequences should be. 

“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Jesus brings it all full circle - reminds them that it was part of God's plan for the Son to be rejected so that the entire foundation of the new Covenant and Kingdom could be built upon Him. And then agrees with their prediction about themselves - the Kingdom of God will be taken away and given to a new people who WILL produce fruit and respond to the Lord. Namely, the Gentiles. 

This whole parable is about people groups and God's grand scheme of bringing redemption to the world, and His merciful, loving, forgiving spirit towards His chosen people, the Jews. Not that He stopped loving them and so gave His Kingdom to someone else as an act of retaliation, but that He, in love, expanded His Kingdom to include other people who would believe. 

The whole parable is so not about me at all.

In fact, this whole life thing is not about me at all. Sure, I'm living it and experiencing it.

But Jesus didn't come move into my little life and world to be my servant. 

Jesus moved me into HIS Kingdom and gave me the honor of being a follower and a servant.  

And He reserves the right to ask anything of me and do anything with me that He pleases. Because He is always right, and always good. 

And so in this parable, I find that the only place I can possibly insert myself to make it "personally apply to my life" is in the expanded Kingdom that Jesus talks about. Where I'm supposed to be producing fruit and serving God. And I'm so thankful that He included me!