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Truth and the offer of Mercy

He [Jesus of Nazareth, Jerusalem, c. AD 30] began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” Luke 20: 9-16
 
It’s the last few days before Jesus is crucified on the first Good Friday. He is under pressure because of his enormous popularity. He is a great healer and a wonderful teacher. He is bringing the good news to the people of Israel that, no matter how sinful, if they turn they will be welcomed back by His Father, forgiven by Him and brought into close friendship with Him forever. 

But he is, at the same time, absolutely committed to disclosing the truth – the truth about everything that matters - to the Israelites. They have been God’s chosen people ever since the LORD God chose to bless Abraham (the grandfather of the man named Israel) around BC 2000.
 
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Truth is truth even if nobody believes it and falsehood is false even if everybody believes it.’ (Os Guiness)
Jerusalem is bursting at the seams in AD 30 – full of Israelites who had come there to celebrate Passover week. Passover recalled BC 1400 when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt and God’s judgment fell, on one fateful night, upon their slave-masters. Following their release Israel started their journey to the Promised Land – to the territory we know today as Israel.

But the history of the people of Israel in God’s Promised Land was a sorry story of departure from the LORD from about BC 950 onwards. In AD 30 Jesus knew that, for the good of Israel (and for the good of all human beings) he must set out the truth about Israel’s history and the AD 30 intentions of its authorities. It’s in bold above. It’s in the form of a parable, a parallel..

A few hours after Jesus spoke this parable to them, precisely what it forecast was carried out by them. When the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. The religious, political, legal and moneyed authorities arranged the death of Jesus.

What took place regarding Jesus’ clear statement in the parable: “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” In AD 70, Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. Josephus, the first century historian (perhaps over-estimating), numbered those Israelites killed then by the Romans at 1,100,000. And Israel’s painful history since then is very well documented in Simon’s Schama’s “The Story of the Jews” (2013) and in Simon Sebag Montefiore’s “Jerusalem the Biography” (2012). 

But the most mind-blowing thing is that not only was the LORD God wholly angry at the continuous sin of His chosen people but also loved (and loves) them - Israel - with amazing love. Luke (the same Luke who recorded Jesus’ parable in bold above) writes that, only seven weeks after Jesus was crucified, Peter, one of the 12 Israelite apostles of Jesus, addressed the crowds in Jerusalem with these words:   “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 

Luke continues: Now when they (those who crucified Jesus) heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

 
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‘Those who deny truth may find themselves denying the God of truth and thereby forfeiting the mercy of God that could be theirs.’ (Anon.)
So, yes, the tenants of AD 30 were destroyed and the vineyard has been given to others. But not before all those involved in the side-lining, dismissal, betrayal and death of Jesus had ample opportunity to do a U-turn and receive the forgiveness which Jesus was and is able to give to them. That’s mercy.
 
Sinner Syvret

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