The first impressions I had of this week’s Gospel reading was the cruelty and harshness of the Parable of the Tenants which seemed at odds with the usual tone of Jesus’ parables.
Even when Jesus told the parable it was contentious, as the Pharisees would have realized that it was an allegorical story that criticized their position and their teachings and told of Jesus’ authority.
In the parable the landowner represents God.
The generous landowner has prepared a fertile vineyard which is leased out to tenants.
All goes well until harvest time when the landowner does not receive his share of the harvest, which is bad enough, but in those times a neglectful landowner could easily lose control of his land so it was very important that he established his rights.
He sends two different groups of servants (sometimes referred to as slaves) who were beaten or killed. The servants represent the prophets of old who were often abused or killed.
He then sends his son who obviously represents Jesus.
He hopes his son will be respected and can impose his ownership of the vineyard. The tenants kill the son outside the vineyard and harbour the false hope of gaining ownership of the vineyard.
In this Jesus foretells of his own death.
The misdeeds of the tenants are punished and they are ejected from the vineyard.
The new tenants represent the people who live out the new covenant in Christ.
In this, the one who was rejected becomes the cornerstone of a new relationship with God.
Matthew 21: 42 (NRSV)
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;[a]
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
The images used in the parable are very powerful and must have been even more so in rural Palestine two thousand years ago.
The vineyard which represents the generosity of God’s gifts would have been a green oasis in an otherwise harsh landscape.
The lushness of a vineyard still is a pleasing sight, especially when driving through the dry Aussie landscape in summer.
God's gifts can reward us in many different ways.
The vineyard in the parable also tells us something more, for it is very well appointed, being walled and having a watch tower and a winepress.
This tells us about the quality of God’s love, that it wants for nothing and is generously given.
The first tenants are greedy and full of self-interest.
It seems to me that people have not changed much since then.
But Jesus calls us to be much more.
We are invited to follow Christ.
It may be a challenge, but in doing so we will find grace and freedom in God’s love.
Let us Pray:
we turn to you with our prayers for the world.
We pray for all who suffer today
because of injustice and hostility.
We pray for peace, longing for an end to war,
an end to racial and sectarian division,
looking for a world of mutual respect and understanding.
We pray for ending situations where human rights are denied;
where children are denied the means to grow freely and fully;
where people are oppressed and denied the rights of freedom;
where abuse and violence bring despair and fear.
Pour out your Holy Spirit of peace upon every land.
Bring healing and hope to our world, we pray.
Raise up a generation that will establish the ways of your kingdom
for the sake of every human being.
And now, in the silence, we bring the prayers of our hearts to you…
In the name of Christ,
Saviour, Lord and bringer of abundant life. Amen