Gospel: Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Listen to another example: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a hole for the wine press, built a watchtower, leased the vineyard to tenants, and then, went to a distant country. When harvest time came, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to collect his share of the harvest. But the tenants seized his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third.
Again, the owner sent more servants; but they were treated in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they thought, ‘This is the one who is to inherit the vineyard. Let us kill him, and his inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Now, what will the owner of the vineyard do with the tenants when he comes?” They said to him, “He will bring those evil men to an evil end, and lease the vineyard to others, who will pay him in due time.”
And Jesus replied, “Have you never read what the Scriptures say? The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, and we marvel at it. Therefore I say to you: the kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit.
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these parables, they realized that Jesus was referring to them. They would have arrested him, but they were afraid of the crowd, who regarded him as a prophet.
“The kingdom of heaven will be taken from you, and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
The crowd “regarded him as a prophet.” What protected Jesus, on this occasion, was also what threatened him. A prophet, after all, is one who speaks truth to power—a dangerous profession. The powerful elite liked to invoke God’s promises as an unconditional guarantee of their wealth and happiness. They measured their faithfulness by the volume of their prayers and the value of their burnt offerings. But for the prophets, the crucial measure was the degree of mercy toward the weak and justice for the poor and oppressed. Many of the prophets suffered persecution or even death.
The chief priests and Pharisees “realized Jesus was referring to them.” In telling this parable, Jesus had held up a mirror. Those captured in it saw their own reflection, and responded in character: “They would have him arrested.”
Lest we be quick to judge the hapless Pharisees: Let us ask ourselves if we have served our Master any better than the wicked tenants. Prophets continue to arise in our midst. If we fail to heed their word, the kingdom of heaven will be taken from us “and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”
© Copyright Bible Diary 2019