“Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country.” (Matthew 21:33)
When I saw the pairing of this Gospel passage with the option of the Old Testament passage that used the same allusions, I could not resist. Some things to note: in the Old Testament passage, Isaiah 5:1 – 7, it is the vineyard itself that is held accountable but in the Gospel passage the tenants are held accountable; Jesus was talking to the religious leaders – Pharisees, Sadducees, and the like while the writer of Isaiah is talking to all of Judah & Israel; finally, in the Gospel passage the vineyard has value while in the Old Testament it is pretty useless. It is interesting to see (and to imagine) how Jesus updated and used the passage in the Old Testament.
“When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’“ (Verses 34 – 37)
This is a point where the parable strains and foreshadows what is to come. It also makes one wonder if the religious leaders actually did recognize and know that Jesus was from the Divine, but conveniently pushed that idea aside in favor of their own agenda and social/religious standing. Read on to see what I mean.
“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.” (Verses 38 – 39)
It strains, does it not beloved reader? The writer of the gospel of Matthew seems to be telling the attuned reader things that might not have been realized at the point that Jesus most likely told this story. But the writer of Matthew, like the other gospel writers, is writing from great hindsight. Not only after Jesus’ death but after the inspiration of the Holy Presence and seeing what the result of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was. However, it is most likely the religious leaders had not caught on to the trap that Jesus (and the writer of the gospel of Matthew) were setting.
“Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” (Verse 40)
When the owner comes. I had to stop in my pondering and remind myself of the fact that I laid out before. The religious leaders might have thought this was an ethical question; and not seeing the allusions and analogies, they fell into the trap.
“They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.” (Verses 41 – 44)
In the book of Isaiah, it was the vineyard that was destroyed and left exposed to a harsh world. But here it is the chief priests and Pharisees who are exposed. I invite you, beloved reader, to be your own biblical commentator. Consider this passage, and the message & heads up that Jesus gave the religious leaders of his time. And the message that may very likely come down to current religious leaders who do not recognize the divinity and authority that Jesus Christ and the Lord God have. It could also be a message to other leaders who advocate and establish governing principles that are contrary to what the Divine would have those in authority do.
“When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.” (Verses 45 – 46)
Again, it strains; what I mean by that is the realization that the religious leaders must have had (according to the writer of the gospel of Matthew) of who Jesus truly was and Who had sent him did nothing to change their behavior. How could leaders who supposedly committed themselves to advocate and encourage their congregates to seek and follow the Lord God work against the clear Son of God who was sent to them? That is the whole “reveal” of this parable. The writer of Isaiah says that Judah and Israel failed in being the called and chosen people of Yahweh. And the leaders who took on the mantle of office have continued to fail.
I pray, beloved reader, that you have good leaders who guide you in faithful authentic worship. I pray for all of us that the leaders we have remember they are to work towards our good. And I pray most fervently at this time of the year that leaders in whatever office they may hold are held accountable to the people they serve. Shalom & Selah!