Lenten Day 16: Replacement Theology? Bah-Humbug.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 20: 9-19 (MsgB)

Jesus told another story to the people: “A man planted a vineyard. He handed it over to farmhands and went off on a trip. He was gone a long time. In time he sent a servant back to the farmhands to collect the profits, but they beat him up and sent him off empty-handed. He decided to try again and sent another servant. That one they beat black and blue, and sent him off empty-handed. He tried a third time. They worked that servant over from head to foot and dumped him in the street. Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘I know what I’ll do: I’ll send my beloved son. They’re bound to respect my son.’ But when the farmhands saw him coming, they quickly put their heads together. ‘This is our chance—this is the heir! Let’s kill him and have it all to ourselves.’ They killed him and threw him over the fence. What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? Right. He’ll come and clean house. Then he’ll assign the care of the vineyard to others.” Those who were listening said, “Oh, no! He’d never do that!” But Jesus didn’t back down. “Why, then, do you think this was written: ‘That stone the masons threw out—it’s now the cornerstone!’? Anyone falling over that stone will break every bone in his body; if the stone falls on anyone, it will be a total smashup.” The religion scholars and high priests wanted to lynch Him on the spot, but they were intimidated by public opinion. They knew the story was about them.

Replacement theology.

Quite honestly, it’s an ugly worldview that twists biblical truths about God and the covenants He chooses to make with people here on earth. Unfortunately, replacement theology, when embraced at its core, believes that God is basically done with the Jews as of 33 AD, and the emerging church of Jesus Christ, birthed by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, has now replaced the Jews as the primary object of God’s eternal promises. While some would incorrectly credit John Calvin and other earlier church fathers with the beginnings of this theology, the gut-honest truth is that rejection and hatred of the Jews began long before the life and death of Christ and, as I see it, will continue to the very end of time.

The truly sad part of this whole story is that scriptures like the one we read today from Luke’s gospel have been used and abused by those subscribing to replacement theology in order to substantiate this ugly world view. Some, for example, would read Jesus’ parable here and preach that Jesus is suggesting that God, the vineyard owner, would give the Jews numerous opportunities to receive the Kingdom, but after they reject and crucify His Son, God will take the Kingdom out of the hands of the Hebrews and give it to another people. These same theologians see the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD as the confirming sign from God that the age of the Jew in biblical promises has now ended.


World history shows us that replacement theology, at its very worst, has been used by power-hungry men who are nothing but evil at their very core. Some believe that this faulty theology found its apex when Adolph Hitler took this distorted view of scripture and made it into a doctrinal belief giving God’s ‘permission’ to the Third Reich’s plan for the Holocaust. Fortunately, there were men like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other sensible church leaders in Germany at the time who stood up bravely against such nonsense. But that stand for truth was not without cost. As I see it, standing for the truth, as Jesus first taught it, is never really popular.

Just as Jesus’ words here were not popular with everyone in His listening audience, so it is with some of Jesus’ difficult sayings today.

While Jesus was indeed speaking to Jewish leaders at the time of His parable, we must keep in mind that Jesus, Himself, is a Jew. And if we read the New Testament carefully, most of the first-century leadership of the Christian church are Jews as well. It’s truly mind-boggling to think that some theologians, writing in later centuries, could interpret Jesus’ comments here and other New Testament writings as suggestions that God is done with His ancient people and now, we Gentiles can get it right, since we now have the Holy Spirit.


Too bad we can’t all read Jesus’ parable, Jew and Gentile alike, and see the deep warnings the Son of God gives to any and all of us religious folks who presume and assume we have an inside-straight on God’s promises. The truth of the matter is that the vineyard owner, God Himself, has continually sent words to us over the last thousands of years, since the days of Adam until today, warning us to pay attention to the true ownership of the vineyard. And whether it be the Jewish prophets of the Old Testament, the Gentile or Jewish leaders of the New Testament, the anointed men and women of God who have bravely upheld truth over the last two thousand years, or Jesus of Nazareth, Himself; all of us need to listen carefully, lest we ignore God’s voice, choosing to live life our way instead of deferring to Him.

And as Jesus says, we need to be aware that God doesn’t play favorites. As I see it, if we continually choose to ignore wave after wave of mercy and grace sent by God to us sinful folks down here on earth, we can lose our ownership in God’s Kingdom just as easily as those religious leaders of the Temple did in Jesus’ day.

That, my friends, is a warning to all of us. Sinner and saint, alike. I suggest we take heed to Jesus’ call for humility and lowliness as ‘farmhands’ working in the vineyard of our Lord.

My prayer: God, help me to look carefully at my theologies and viewpoints in life. May I never allow the absolute truth of God’s Word to be filtered through my human prejudices and sinful mind. Please keep me from false doctrine and unwise beliefs that might cause me to stumble and live in ways that actually run contrary to Your ways. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: How might I be living out false doctrine and fleshly-driven half-truths, not being aware of how I might be mis-using or mis-interpreting God’s Word in order for personal gain? What safeguards do I have in place, which will hold me safely within the context of God’s eternal truth, from beginning to end?

So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?

Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use. 

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next Lenten session…

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