The Signs of the Times


February 8, 1899

Silencing the Pharisees


“Then began He to speak to the people this parable: A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of his vineyard; but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant; and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third; and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. ST February 8, 1899, par. 1

“What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” Christ asked his listeners; and the scribes and the Pharisees answered, “He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others.” When they said this, they saw that they had condemned themselves, and they exclaimed, “God forbid.” And He beheld them, and said, “What is this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” ST February 8, 1899, par. 2

In this parable Christ exposed the deceptions of the priests and rulers, and declared that the Lord would punish the Jewish nation with fearful severity. It had treated His servants with contempt, injustice, and cruelty; the kingdom would be taken from them, and given to those who would obey its Ruler. ST February 8, 1899, par. 3

The Pharisees watched Christ narrowly as He gave this parable. They were cut to the heart by the Saviour's words; for they could not fail to see that He read every purpose of their hearts. To them these words were an evidence of His divine character; but they dreaded to hear them, because they were condemned by them. They feared that Christ would lay before the people the wicked deeds that those they had been taught to reverence had committed, and that thereby they would lose their popularity. They decided that Christ knew too much of their lives to be allowed to live. They were filled with rage, and had they dared, they would have laid hands on Him, and silenced His voice, so that He would no longer annoy them. But they feared the people. ST February 8, 1899, par. 4

They had often planned to entrap Him in His words, but thus far their attempts had been baffled. They now took counsel with the Herodians, and, having laid their plans, they sent out spies, “which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of His words, that so they might deliver Him unto the power and authority of the governor.” They did not send the old Pharisees, whom Jesus had often met, but young men, who were ardent and zealous, and whom, they thought, Christ did not know. ST February 8, 1899, par. 5

Feigning to be interested in a certain question, the spies approached Christ. With apparent sincerity, as tho desiring to know their duty, they said, “Master, we know that Thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest Thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly.” Had the speakers been sincere, these words would have been a wonderful admission, but they were spoken to deceive. Their testimony, however, was true. The Pharisees did know that Christ taught truly, and by their own testimony will they be judged. ST February 8, 1899, par. 6

“Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no?” they continued. This was a question over which there was much contention. Many denied the right of the Romans to demand tribute, and the Pharisees paid their taxes unwillingly. The spies decided to ask Christ this question, thinking that He would answer it by a simple yes or no. If He told them it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, He would be going contrary to the opinions of the Jewish nations, and would be put out of popular favor; and if He said that it was unlawful, they could accuse Him to the Romans. Thus they hoped to catch Him in His words, whatever way He might answer. ST February 8, 1899, par. 7

The spies thought that by their apparent honesty they had sufficiently disguised their purpose. But Jesus read their hearts as an open book, and revealed their hypocrisy. “Why tempt ye Me?” He asked, giving them evidence of His divinity by showing that He discerned their hidden purpose. “Show Me a penny,” He said. They brought it, and He asked them, “Whose image and superscription hath it?” They answered, “Caesar's.” Pointing to the inscription, Jesus said, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's.” ST February 8, 1899, par. 8

Thus Christ rebuked the hypocrisy and presumption of the Pharisees, and His answer seemed so wise to the bystanders that they admired His tact and wisdom. His reply was no evasion, but a candid answer, and not only were the Pharisees rebuked by His words, but in many minds a vexed question was settled. ST February 8, 1899, par. 9

Many who heard these words ever after upheld the right principle. They could not but see that the principle underlying the question had been laid down in straight lines. ST February 8, 1899, par. 10

When the Pharisees heard Christ's answer, they marveled, and left Him, and went their way. They were convinced; but, altho they marveled at Christ's wisdom, they would not yield. Another evidence of the Saviour's divinity had been given them, but they hardened their hearts against it. And from that time evidence had no effect on their deeply-rooted prejudice. ST February 8, 1899, par. 11

The Pharisees could not at that time satisfy their wrath, but they were none the less determined to carry out their purposes. At every opportunity they manifested their bitter opposition against Christ. There was no more peace for Him; for the caviling of His enemies was continual, and their plans to entrap Him abundant. They set spies on His track, to report His movements. They thought this unknown to Christ, but He was much more accurately acquainted with their movements than they were with His. He knew every step that would be taken and every event that would take place. ST February 8, 1899, par. 12

But in spite of the opposition of the priests, Christ kept His mission ever before Him. With a heart ever touched with human woe, He ministered to those around Him. His words were spoken with clearness, simplicity, and authority. His discourses were such as had never before been heard. His principles were so clearly and wisely inculcated that none needed to make a misstep if they but followed Him. ST February 8, 1899, par. 13

Mrs. E. G. White