The Signs of the Times


February 17, 1898

Christ and the Pharisees—No. 2


“Hear another parable,” Christ said: “There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country; and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on the inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” ST February 17, 1898, par. 1

The Pharisees had been listening to the parable, and without realizing that they were condemning themselves, they answered, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. ST February 17, 1898, par. 2

“And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard His parables, they perceived that He spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude, because they took Him for a prophet.” Christ's application was so plain that they could not misunderstand or misapply it. Notwithstanding their own blindness, they could not fail to see that Christ had rebuked them. They recognized their own methods and practises. But did the picture held up before them, that they might see their sinful course, lead them to repent?—No; their hearts were filled with hatred and murder. Notwithstanding the sentence they had pronounced on the unfaithful stewards, they were ready themselves to fill out the picture saying, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him.” “But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitude.” God put His restraining power upon the priests, and they were unable to carry out their murderous designs. When they sought to stir up the people by accusing and denouncing Christ, they found that the public sentiment was in His favor. His words had impressed the multitude as being words of truth, and they believed Him to be a prophet sent from God. ST February 17, 1898, par. 3

By this parable the past and the future history of the Jews was faithfully illustrated. Christ presented before them their true religious character, and then asked, “When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?” The Pharisees answered as Jesus meant that they should; for they were always ready to condemn others. Christ's design in asking this question was that they should condemn themselves, and admit the justice of the punishment that was soon to fall upon them. He wished to show them the justice of taking away their national privileges, which work had already commenced, and which would end, not only in the destruction of their temple and city, but in the dispersion of the nation. ST February 17, 1898, par. 4

The Jewish nation was indeed a vineyard inclosed. God's law was a moral hedge about them. This law was altogether superior to the law of any other nation. They were forbidden to intermarry with other peoples, and were warned to keep from idolatry. Every facility which would enable them to become the greatest and most righteous people on the face of the earth was provided. God designed that they should preserve their peculiar, holy character, and represent Him in a godless world. ST February 17, 1898, par. 5

A wonderful manifestation of God's love had been given in the remarkable deliverance of the children of Israel from Egypt. “For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.” Because of the stubbornness of Pharaoh, the whole land of Egypt was ruined. ST February 17, 1898, par. 6

God brought His people out from slavery and idolatry that they might keep the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. He Himself ruled over them. But in their desire to be like the nations round them, they rejected the Lord's rule. “Make us a king,” they said to Samuel, “to judge us like all the nations.... And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.” ST February 17, 1898, par. 7

Elijah came to maintain the honor of God, but he was rejected by the people. Because of the sins of the nation God sent a drought upon the land. The suffering of men and animals was terrible; but this did not lead Ahab, the ruler of the people, to repentance. Instead it provoked him to sullen defiance. His and Jezebel's anger was kindled against Elijah and the prophets of the Lord; and they slew all that they could find. Jezebel served Satan with all the idolatrous devotion of her nature. She was the agency through whom he wrought to eclipse every ray of light that God designed should come to the nation. She was determined to uproot the religion so hateful to her, and which, as she thought, was the cause of the drought. ST February 17, 1898, par. 8

Spiritual blindness was upon Ahab, and he met Elijah with the question, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” This he asked as if to lead Elijah to make some explanation of the drought. Had he been spiritually enlightened, he would have seen behind Elijah the working of the God of Elijah, the great I AM. But Ahab was dishonoring God, and those who dishonor God do not desire to retain the thought of God. They do not like to think of Him as one who knows all their thoughts, and who will surely punish them for their wrong actions. They educate the mind to think of other things, and they lose the habit of seeing God in the providences and transactions of daily life. Those who make this world supreme are conformed in character to the world, and Ahab could only trace the calamity of the world to Elijah. “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” he said. With a sharp reproof, Elijah threw back the accusation. “I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim.” ST February 17, 1898, par. 9

Jeremiah suffered the severest persecution from his own countrymen, because he bore a faithful message from God. Isaiah, who was permitted by the Lord to see wonderful things, was sawn asunder, because he faithfully reproved the sins of the Jewish nation. The prophets who came to look after the Lord's vineyard, were indeed beaten and killed. “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented”—men of whom the world was not worthy. They were cruelly treated, and banished from the world. ST February 17, 1898, par. 10

Thus Satan strove to gain control over the human mind, that he might wreak his hatred and revenge on the only-begotten Son of God. But the last act of the tragedy was yet to be enacted. The Son of God was yet to be killed by the unfaithful stewards. ST February 17, 1898, par. 11

God sent a forerunner before His Son. Gabriel appeared to Zacharias, a priest of the Lord, saying: “Fear not, Zacharias; for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a Son, and thou shalt call his name John.... And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zacharias doubted, and, because of his unbelief, he was struck dumb by the Lord. But at the birth of his son, his tongue was loosed, “and he spake, and praised God. And fear came on all them that dwelt round about them; and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judea. And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for He hath visited and redeemed His people.... And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.” ST February 17, 1898, par. 12

John's mission was to prepare the way for Christ. But the Jewish people rejected John's message. They refused to prepare for the reception of the Son of God. They treated God's messenger with disdain, and his solemn words of warning as idle tales. This hardened their hearts, and prepared them to reject the still clearer light that came to them. And when the Son of God came to present His Father's claims, they said, “This is the Heir; come, let us kill Him.” He came to save them from themselves, but they refused Him, choosing a robber and a murderer in His stead. ST February 17, 1898, par. 13

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples, and they “are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” ST February 17, 1898, par. 14

Mrs. E. G. White