As Jesus neared the end of his ministry, he taught more and more by way of parables. Parables provide the opportunity to appeal to a variety of different types of people. They stimulate the imagination, challenge discrimination and provoke critical thinking. They enable a teacher to present new and even startling truths while at the same time largely avoiding controversy and outward clashing with tradition and established authority. Thus, in dealing with the hardhearted religious leaders of his day, Jesus used parables to expose their error and reveal their ill intent.
On one occasion, when Jesus was confronted by the ‘chief priests and older men’ who challenged his authority (Matthew 21:23), he gave the parable we will call the Parable of the Absent Landlord. It goes like this:
“Hear another illustration: There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and erected a tower, and let it out to cultivators, and traveled abroad. When the season of the fruits came around, he dispatched his slaves to the cultivators to get his fruits. However, the cultivators took his slaves, and one they beat up, another they killed, another they stoned. Again he dispatched other slaves, more than the first, but they did the same to these. Lastly he dispatched his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ On seeing the son the cultivators said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance!’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those cultivators?” They said to him: “Because they are evil, he will bring an evil destruction upon them and will let out the vineyard to other cultivators, who will render him the fruits when they become due.”
– Matthew 21:33-41
The parable carries the idea that God prepared a people and allowed certain men, the priests and older men, to tend to them. Over the years, He sent His prophets to upstep the people, but these caretakers rejected the prophets, killing many of them. When the final season for reaping came, which corresponds to Jesus’ arrival where he would uplift the people, those who had been appointed as caretakers refused to turn over the people to God’s son, and were instead looking for a way to kill him, ‘get the inheritance’ and maintain power and control.
The jealousy for the inheritance seems to always be the reason behind spiritual antagonism. We saw it in the case of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-8), in the case of Isaac and Ishmael (Genesis 21:8-10), and in the case of Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27:41). We also saw a similar controversy between the Northern and Southern Tribes of Israel and Judah. And in Jesus day, the controversy was between Jesus and the religious leaders. Who was the rightful caretaker of God’s people? Who had the authority to speak and teach in God’s name?
When the priests and older men of Jesus’ day heard the parable, they knew exactly what Jesus was referring to:
“Now when the chief priests and the Pharisees had heard his illustrations, they took note that he was speaking about them.”
– Matthew 21:45
Yes, these men were well aware of their own history. They knew how their predecessors had ill-treated the prophets. And they were also aware that they were about to be guilty of the same offense, but this time, they were going to kill the son. And for what purpose? Jealousy. They wanted to take the inheritance. They wanted the “fruits” – God’s people – for themselves.
True to their intent, they did, in fact, kill Jesus. And the result to them was the same as mentioned in the parable. Jesus told them:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you.”
– Matthew 23:37-38
Despite their efforts, Jesus began ‘reaping the fruit.’ The people who were rightly disposed to the Father’s will separated from the synagogues and joined themselves to Jesus and his apostles. Jesus was rightfully due the inheritance. He alone had the rightful authority to direct the sheep of God. As Paul wrote:
“God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.”
– Hebrews 1:1-2
Yes, at the end of the days, the Father sent his son.
Jesus, Still the Active Head of the Congregation of God
Though the ‘chief priests and older men’ had Jesus killed, God resurrected him. This we cannot deny.
“This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.”
– Acts 2:32
He alone is the head of the Christian congregation:
“But I want you to know that the head of every man is the Christ; in turn the head of a woman is the man; in turn the head of the Christ is God.”
– 1 Corinthians 11:3
“He also subjected all things under his feet, and made him head over all things to the congregation, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.”
– Ephesians 1:22-23
“But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ.”
– Ephesians 4:15
“Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation.”
– Colossians 1:17-18
And we are told that Jesus would need no successors:
“Furthermore, many had to become priests [in succession] because of being prevented by death from continuing as such, but he because of continuing alive forever has his priesthood without any successors. Consequently he is able also to save completely those who are approaching God through him, because he is always alive to plead for them.”
– Hebrews 7:23-25
Yes, Jesus continues to be the active head of God’s people, the one who alone has authority over the Christian congregation of God’s children.
Yet some say that when Jesus returned to the heavens, he appointed certain men to act in his behalf – to be the ‘channel of God’ to the Christian congregation. What does the Bible say about that?
The Bible does say that Jesus appointed his followers to be ambassadors substituting for him:
“But all things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of the reconciliation, namely, that God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and he committed the word of the reconciliation to us. We are therefore ambassadors substituting for Christ, as though God were making entreaty through us. As substitutes for Christ we beg: ‘Become reconciled to God.’”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
But, we are ambassadors of the kingdom, not of God Himself. There is a difference! Ambassadors for Christ have been given a ministry to help others become reconciled to God by entering into the kingdom of God on earth – the spiritual brotherhood of Christ. We are ministers, not lords over anyone’s faith – not the world’s and certainly not our brother’s:
“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One. Neither be called ‘leaders,’ for your Leader is one, the Christ. But the greatest one among you must be your minister. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
– Matthew 23:8-12
“Not that we are the masters over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for it is by [your] faith that you are standing.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:24
Thus, it cannot be said that the ambassadors substituting for Christ are the ‘channel of God.’ As ambassadors, we promote the kingdom as is. We do not claim to speak for God or make new laws. We promote the laws already in place.
Ministers of the Accurate Knowledge of the Christ
The Bible also tells us that Jesus appointed certain ‘gifts in men:’
“And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man, to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.”
– Ephesians 4:11-14
These men are to minister to the ‘accurate knowledge of the Son of God’ that promotes a ‘oneness’ of faith. They are to preach and teach the things Jesus taught – nothing more. Much of what Jesus taught is recorded in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, though we are informed that many other things Jesus taught are not contained in the Bible.
“There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.”
– John 21:25
But until a further revelation of Jesus’ teachings is provided, the things we are to teach are contained in the books of the Bible. Thus, the entire banquet of ‘well-oiled dishes’ was laid out in the first century by Jesus himself. Any ‘new light’ would be a greater understanding of what was already taught, not a new teaching.
This helps us understand the role of those who take the lead in the Christian congregation. Everything they teach that has salvation implications must be supported by scripture. Ideas that originate from their own thinking, can be expressed as thoughts of men, but they must not be presented as new teachings of Jesus or of God such that the failure to heed or hold those thoughts affects a person’s standing before God. Jesus condemned that sort of arrogance:
“In reply he said to them: “Why is it you also overstep the commandment of God because of your tradition? For example, God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Let him that reviles father or mother end up in death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother: “Whatever I have by which you might get benefit from me is a gift dedicated to God,” he must not honor his father at all.’ And so you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, yet their heart is far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep worshiping me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.’”
– Matthew 15:3-9
When men substitute their own ideas for Jesus’ plain and open teachings, they are overstepping and invalidating Jesus’ teachings. For example, as noted above, Jesus taught:
“But you, do not you be called Rabbi, for one is your teacher, whereas all you are brothers. Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.”
– Matthew 23:8-9
“However, as many as did receive him, to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.”
– John 1:12-13
However, when men teach that only 144,000 are brothers and the rest are friends, or that God is the Father only of 144,000 and friend to the rest, they are overstepping and invalidating Jesus’ plain and open teaching.
Jesus also taught:
“Accordingly Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He that feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has everlasting life, and I shall resurrect him at the last day.”
– John 6:53-54
But when men teach that only 144,000 can eat and drink Jesus’ symbolic flesh and blood, they are overstepping and invalidating Jesus’ plain and open teaching. Jesus taught:
“When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who have been blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world. “Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, ‘Be on your way from me, you who have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”
– Matthew 25:31-34, 42
But when men teach that most of those approved by God do not inherit the kingdom, but can live on the earth as a third option, they are overstepping and invalidating Jesus’ plain and open teaching.
It is the same with the illustration of the ‘wheat and the weeds.’ (Matthew 13:24-30) If the wheat are the anointed Christians and the weeds are false Christians, who are the ones with the ‘earthly hope?’ Where do they make a showing? Jesus repeatedly illustrated only two destinies – life in heaven or everlasting death. He never presented a third option! Further, Jesus taught:
“I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved, and he will go in and out and find pasturage.”
– John 10:9
“I am the fine shepherd, and I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”
– John 10:14
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
– John 14:6
But when men claim to be ‘the way’ to salvation or ‘the ark of salvation’ such that the only way to get saved is to be in association with them, they are overstepping and invalidating Jesus’ plain and open teaching. When men do these types of things, as Jesus said, their worship is in vain. (Matthew 15:9)
The Blasphemy of Jesus
Really, those who overstep Jesus’ plain and open teachings and who seek to take Jesus’ place as the head of the Christian congregation are blasphemers. They are, by their actions, saying that Jesus was not resurrected, that he is not a ‘priest forever,’ and that he abdicated his position to successors. All of these allegations are lies and a gross dishonor to, and disrespect of, Jesus’ authority.
Further, the claim to be a ‘channel’ for God is a statement that Jesus is irrelevant. It completely bypasses Jesus and is tantamount to saying that Jesus never came and never had a message for mankind. Whereas Jesus said:
“All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.”
– Matthew 28:18
And Paul affirmed:
“For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:9-11
Thus, even God Himself has stepped back, so to speak, and allowed his Son, Christ Jesus to take the lead role. If there is to be a ‘channel,’ it would be a channel for Jesus, not for God. Yet we know that there is already ‘a channel for Jesus.’
“If you love me, you will observe my commandments; and I will request the Father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever, the spirit of the truth, which the world cannot receive, because it neither beholds it nor knows it. You know it, because it remains with you and is in you.”
– John 14:15-17
The Spirit of Truth is Jesus’ channel by which he directs the Christian congregation today.
“I have many things yet to say to you, but you are not able to bear them at present. However, when that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak of his own impulse, but what things he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things coming. That one will glorify me, because he will receive from what is mine and will declare it to you. All the things that the Father has are mine. That is why I said he receives from what is mine and declares [it] to you.”
– John 16:12-15
And the Spirit teaches us individually, not as a group:
“And as for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to be teaching you; but, as the anointing from him is teaching you about all things, and is true and is no lie, and just as it has taught you, remain in union with him.”
– 1 John 2:27
So when men claim to be the ‘channel of God,’ they are both disowning the Christ and usurping the role of the Spirit of Truth. They are also denying the Spirit’s authority and its ability to adequately teach us. That is unforgivable blasphemy!
“I say, then, to you, Everyone that confesses union with me before men, the Son of man will also confess union with him before the angels of God. But he that disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone that says a word against the Son of man, it will be forgiven him; but he that blasphemes against the holy spirit will not be forgiven it.”
– Luke 12:8-10
If we find ourselves skirting blasphemy of Christ or the Spirit, we must immediately change course before we are so hardened in our ways that our hearts will not allow us to repent and accept the Father’s forgiveness.
All who seek to please God and be a part of his everlasting purpose must honor and obey His son, Christ Jesus, as head of the Christian congregation. They are to live by means of Spirit and follow its divine direction, not the rules and commandments of self glorified men who twist the spiritual words of life into debase babel that causes desolation.
When men call themselves the ‘channel of God,’ they are shamelessly interfering with God’s arrangement. We will try our hand at a parable to illustrate this:
A host prepared a banquet for his guests. He laid out all the appetizers, entrees, and desserts on a buffet table and invited all his guests to take what they want while he went to handle other matters. The guests were grateful. They thanked and praised their generous host. But certain guests wanted the accolades for themselves, so they decided to usurp the buffet arrangement of the host and set themselves up as waiters. When the host left, they told the other guests to stay in their seats because the host appointed them as his waiters to serve the food they choose in their own time. Not only this, but they presumptuously added their own seasoning to some dishes, omitted ingredients from other dishes, and failed to even serve others. If any guest requested other dishes, or rejected their new arrangement, the waiters kicked them out of the banquet hall.
Now, when the true host arrives to check on his guests, what do you think he will do to those self-appointed ‘servers?’ Will he say “Well done, my good and faithful slaves?” (Matthew 25:21) No! Will he “appoint them to over all his belongings?” (Matthew 24:47) Hardly! More likely he will say “I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23)
We should expect nothing less to occur to those who today try to interfere with the Father’s banquet and the Spirit’s call:
“And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: “Come!” And let anyone hearing say: “Come!” And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.”
– Revelation 22:17
The banquet of spiritual food was provided by Jesus and reinforced by the Christian Bible writers in the first century C.E. The Bible has ever since been, and still is, the most widely distributed book in the world. How foolish for men to think that they can somehow rein in all that spiritual food and become the ‘only channel’ for its distribution! The cat is already out of the figurative bag! The horse is already out of the figurative barn!
All thinking children of the Father must turn away from such wine of arrogance, and drink freely from the ‘fountain of waters of life’ given by means of Spirit. (Revelation 21:6)
Truly, as the Parable of the Absent Landlord says, ‘lastly’ the Father sent his son. There is no ‘channel of God’ other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ has no successor. He is alive and well, and actively leading God’s children into the kingdom of the heavens.
“Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.”
– Acts 4:12