THE PARABLE OF THE TENANTS
(A biblical reflection on the 27th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 8 October 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 21:33-43
First Reading: Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms: Psalm 80:9,12-16,19-20; Second Reading: Philippians 4:6-9
“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. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 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.”
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’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.” (Matthew 21:33-43 RSV)
Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a vineyard and put a hedge around it and then dug a vat and erected a tower. The owner built the hedge out of prickly plants and rocks to keep wild animals out of the vineyard. He also erected a vat for crushing the grapes and he hired a watchman to stay in the tower to guard against enemies who might steal or damage the crop.
The owner then leased the vineyard to tenant farmers, men who cared for and harvested the grapes before making the wine. Because they did not own the land, the tenant farmers agreed to give the vineyard owner a certain percentage of their crop. According to the law at that time, if a vineyard owner died without having any sons, the vineyard would become the property of the tenant farmers.
When harvest time came, the vineyard owner sent his servants to collect his share of the crop. The tenant farmers bat one of the servants, stoned another, and killed a third. The owner sent more slaves, but the same thing happened. The owner finally sent his only son, thinking that the tenant farmers would respect his flesh and blood. Alas, they killed his son too. Furious, the vineyard owner drove out all the tenant farmers and leased the land to others.
This parable is really a summary of how the leaders of the Jewish people treated Jesus. The vineyard is the Kingdom (reign) of God. The owner is God Himself. The original tenant farmers are the Jewish leaders. The servants are the prophets of the Old Testament. The new tenant farmers are the Gentiles (a Gentile is anyone who is not Jewish).
God sent the prophets to the Jewish people but their leaders mistreated and even killed them. God finally sent His Son, Jesus, but they killed Him too. Because the Jewish authorities rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God then offered the reign of God to the Gentiles. The despised Gentiles became the new heirs to God’s Kingdom.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 98-99.)
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, from the above parable we learn that the Jewish leaders believed they were assured a special place in the Kingdom of God because they were God’s chosen ones. Your parable shows that wasn’t the case. We are sorry, Lord Jesus, because so many times we did act and/or think the same way simply because we are Christians. Please forgive us, Lord. Amen.
Jakarta, 6 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim