THE PARABLES OF JESUS

The Wicked Vinedressers

Scripture: Matthew 21:33-46
33 "Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; 35 and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. 37 Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.' 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.' 39 And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41 They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons." 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: `The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it."
Meditation: What is the point of the parable of the vineyard?  Jesus’ story about an absentee landlord and his not-so-good tenants would have made sense to his audience. The hills of Galilee were lined with numerous vineyards, and it was quite common for the owners to let out their estates to tenants. Many did it for the sole purpose of collecting rent at the right time.Why did Jesus' story about wicked tenants cause offense to the scribes and Pharisees?  It contained both a prophetic message and a warning.  Isaiah had spoken of the house of Israel as "the vineyard of the Lord" (Isaiah 5:7). Jesus' listeners would likely understand this parable as referring to God's dealing with a stubborn and rebellious people.

This parable speaks to us today as well.  It richly conveys some important truths about God and the way he deals with his people.  First, it tells us of God's generosity and trust.  The vineyard is well equipped with everything the tenants need.  The owner went away and left the vineyard in the hands of the tenants.  God, likewise trusts us enough to give us freedom to run life as we choose.  This parable also tells us of God's patience and justice.  Not once, but many times he forgives the tenants their debts.  But while the tenants take advantage of the owner's patience, his judgment and justice prevail in the end.

Jesus foretold both his death and his ultimate triumph.  He knew he would be rejected and be killed, but he also knew that would not be the end. After rejection would come glory -- the glory of resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father. The Lord blesses his people today with the gift of his kingdom.  And he promises that we will bear much fruit if we abide in him (see John 15:1-11).  He entrusts his gifts and grace to each of us and he gives us work to do in his vineyard — the body of Christ.  He promises that our labor will not be in vain if we persevere with faith to the end (see 1 Cor. 15:58). We can expect trials and even persecution.  But in the end we will see triumph.  Do you labor for the Lord with joyful hope and with confidence in his victory?

"Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which you have given us; for all the pains and insults which you have borne for us.  O most merciful redeemer, friend, and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, for you own sake." (prayer of St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century)


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