“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son.'”
(article #10 in a series on the Trinity)
God the Father wanted good fruit from His vineyard. He did not want the corrupt fruit of hatred, envy, jealousy, anger, covetousness, violence and the like. He rightly expected tasteful fruit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. He sought the good fruit—that fruit which grows from humble faith in Him as the God who loves and forgives. He sought this good fruit from His vineyard. Israel was recognized as God’s vineyard (see e.g. Isaiah 5:1ff; Psalm 80:8ff).
To bring forth such fruit, the people needed to hear both Law and Gospel. They needed to hear—again and again—the Ten Commandments, mandating what a person is to do and not to do. When they were rightly crushed by the Law, God’s people needed to hear the Gospel, the good news that God graciously forgives and restores. From such individual restoration, God’s people would produce good fruit.
This message of Law and Gospel was repeatedly preached by God’s holy prophets. God called these men His servants, and through them God continually sought the good fruit. Consider, for instance, how God’s prophets were called His servants through the prophet Jeremiah. God would say, …listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have sent you again and again… [Jeremiah 26:5]. Observe how God sent His servants again and again. In His parable of the vineyard, Jesus simply echoes how God repeatedly sent His servants, the prophets: 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 [Luke 20:10-12]. The final servant-prophet sent by God to His vineyard was John the Baptist, who very specifically identified how true repentance would bear fruit. As with the other Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist’s message of repentance was rejected by the religious leaders who “wounded” him and cast him out.
Finally God says to Himself, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. When God had sent His Old Testament prophets, they were uniquely endowed with His Spirit. Saint Peter thus wrote of such prophets: …holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit [2 Peter 1:21]. Though not conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, John the Baptist was already moved by the Holy Spirit in utero when he leapt for joy. Now God intends to send the ultimate solution to man’s fruitless ways; He sends a prophet who would not only be filled with the Spirit from His mother’s womb, but He would actually be conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is how God would send His beloved Son into the world, by the Holy Spirit. Observe the Trinity at work as the Father sends His Spirit-conceived Son for our salvation.
When God thus sent His beloved Son, this would be the definitive solution to man’s failure to produce fruit. God’s Old Testament people could produce good fruit as they, in repentance, received the forgiveness offered through the Temple sacrifices. When God sent His Son, everything was wrapped in Him. He was the ultimate prophet, the ultimate preacher of repentance. He preached the law like no other, exposing mankind’s sinful acts and corrupt nature. He, like the prophets before Him, was rejected by the religious establishment. By being rejected, Jesus was put to death, but amazingly that death becomes the payment for our sins. Unlike the Old Testament sacrifices that could only bring forgiveness, His sacrifice on the cross actually created forgiveness as He atoned for the world’s sins. His sacrifice on the cross retroactively endowed the Old Testament sacrifices with the power to forgive. Likewise from the cross He endows Holy Communion and Holy Baptism with the power to forgive. From His Word and Sacraments people are uniquely able to produce fruit as they are directly linked to Jesus Himself. Jesus is now the vine, and it is the Father’s will that in Him we thus produce much fruit (John 15:1ff). This fruit is appropriately called the fruit of the Spirit, for the Spirit is like the sap flowing through the Vine and into His branches, giving them life and the power to produce what God desires…good fruit.