Often we see that Jesus Christ teaches in parables. He is an amazing story teller. We learn so many amazing things through His stories, because these stories reveal God’s reality to us. This is why movies and books can have such a powerful affect on us and on society. We attach ourselves to stories. The Lord Jesus wants us to be attached to this story, this parable that He’s telling today. It is the story of a landowner. This landowner did what any landowner does. He decided that he had a purpose for this land. He wanted to create a vineyard. A place where grapes could be grown and pressed into wine.
We are told that the landowner leased it out to tenants and went away to another country. So we see that these tenants lived there and worked there on behalf of the landowner. Now we’re told that when the season of fruit drew near, that is to say, when it was time for harvest, the landowner sent his servants to the tenants to get the fruit.
But something unexpected happened. We are told that the tenants who were leasing the land, took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. So the landowner expected to see his fruit and instead he received back his servants who were beaten and humiliated by the tenants. What right did these men have to act in such a way? None. They didn’t owned the land, they simply worked it and leased it. They owed the landowner, but they refused to pay up. So the landowner again sent more servants and we are told that they treated them in the same way. Can you imagine that? But the landowner had an idea. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ Of course that makes sense right? These men live on his father’s land, they receive wages from his father’s account, so of course they will respect his son. Only they didn’t. Not only did they disrespect him, they treated him worse than most of the other servants because he was the heir to the fortune that they were holding. They were jealous and envious and he became their scapegoat. So they didn’t simply beat him or throw stones at him…they killed him. And now comes the truth of the matter; they didn’t kill him, they crucified him.
See, this story is not about some landowner in a far away place. It is a story about God the Father who had a holy people named Israel. This people was God’s vineyard. God also had tenants who were in charge of tending to His vineyard. These people included the priests, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees. So when God wanted to see the fruit (the holiness of His people), He sent His prophets to the vineyard and we see how His prophets were treated. Finally, God thought to Himself, I will send my Only Son whom they will respect and love and hear. Only we know that the story doesn’t go that way. They crucified Him because they didn’t like what He had to say about their way of living. They crucified Him so that they could remain in power over the people of Israel. But it was never their Israel, it was always God’s. They were entrusted with so much, and yet what did they produce? Nothing much. They had a religion of rules, laws and rituals, but where was the love for God and their neighbor? Those are the heart of the law.
God saw the crucifixion coming, but He didn’t stop it from happening. Little did they know that God had already planned for that in advance. God always knew that Jesus would be rejected by the people and killed because God knows our hearts and sees everything. People had been rejecting God’s law, His message, His prophets for many many centuries. The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus was meant to destroy Him, but instead it destroyed the power of sin in our lives. It was meant to hurt God’s Son, but it was used by God to heal each of us. Our story as Christians is the story of the cross.
This story is given to the Jewish people by the Lord Jesus to show them that He knows exactly what is going to happen to Him. But this story wasn’t just meant for those Jews living 2000 years ago. The story is meant for us. St. Paul mentions “the Israel of God” while speaking to the Christians at Galatia (6:16). This is a direct reference to the Church, with all its members. We are part of God’s vineyard.
God love us and He is still sending his servants to us. They often come in the forms of teachers, deacons, presbyters (priests), and bishops. These people are sent by God to tend the vineyard and make sure that it produces proper fruit. But God also sends the prophets, the apostles and the Lord Himself to try and teach us and to see our fruit but how do we treat them? In many cases we ignore them and pretend that they don’t matter to our lives. You might be thinking “how do we ignore them?” Well, we let our Bibles gather dust instead of opening them. Sometimes I’m asked, Father, what is the best thing that I can do to feel God’s presence in my life? I go to church, I fast, I pray a bit but I am still missing something. One of the answers is that we have to allow God to teach us through the Bible. That is why the Lord Jesus said “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We have to be hospitable to God and His servants and invite them to come into our homes. We invite Dr. Phil and Oprah into our homes. But what about the Lord? We have to welcome God’s word into our hearts. I don’t want us to go through the motions here every week, I want us to make changes and to be changed people.
Let’s make a commitment together that either alone or with our children, we will take 5 minutes everyday to open the Bible and read….I recommend beginning with the New Testament. As you read, feel free to take notes and send me your questions through email. Let’s all take this challenge for one month and let me know what you’ve learned at the end of the month.
May God guide us and help us to hear and accept His words, and glory be to God forever AMEN.
The Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 21:33-42
Questions or Comments? Please leave them below!