Updated: Feb 3, 2021
Jesus said, “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. 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.’ 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. Now when 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 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.”
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.
This is the Gospel reading from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 22, the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud by a priest in church on Sunday, October 8, 2017. It is called “The Parable of the Tenants,” and is important because Christians are the current tenants of the Father’s vineyard.
The context of this parable is it follows the parable of the two sons, which was the Gospel selection for the prior Sunday. When we begin by reading, “Jesus said, “Listen to another parable,” there is no space of time between the two. Both parables are told to “the chief priests and the elders,” those who questioned Jesus’ authority to teach on the Temple steps.
Additionally, at the beginning of Mathew’s chapter 21, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey with her colt, for his final Passover. So, Jesus was speaking in Jerusalem, prior to his being arrested. At the beginning of Matthew 26, Jesus said “As you know, the Passover is two days away.” (Matthew 26:2) The day of preparation (Friday) was one of those two days, with Passover Day being on Saturday (Shabbat), the second day away.
The Seder meal (the Last Supper), beginning after 6:00 PM, was thus on the Sabbath eve. This means Passover (15 Nisan) began on a Shabbat and ended eight-days later on another Sabbath. This means one can deduce how Matthew’s chapters 21 to 25 (and the beginning of 26) were accounts of Jesus’ time in Jerusalem over a four day stretch: Monday through Thursday.
The parables were told to the pilgrims who were gathering in increasing numbers for the week-long festival, and the officials overseeing the festival were also about, checking things out. Therefore, these stories should be seen as the inspection of the Lamb to be sacrificed. Jesus made himself publicly available for all to inspect; but Jesus knew the ones who held the slaughter knife would be the ones looking most closely. The parables told there are how we know Jesus would be found unblemished.
With that understood, look now at the symbolism of a vineyard, one with a fence around it, with a wine press within and a watchtower overlooking. Certainly, that was meant to be seen as metaphor for Jerusalem, which was a beautiful walled city, with a refurbished Temple (credit to Herod) built to the LORD. Upon its watchtowers, at its gates of entry, were the watchers. That symbolically meant the watchers of that Temple, who were the high priests, scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees. However, because Holy Scripture is the Living Word, can you see how the same parable is speaking also about modern times and modern places?
Beginning with a focus on the vineyard, this is that of Christianity. The wine press represents the churches devoted to Jesus Christ. The fence represents the restrictions (as laws) that mark a nation as obedient to the LORD. Finally, the watchtowers are manned by those whose job it is to protect the holiness of that vineyard. We should see them as kings, popes, priests, pastors, ministers, rabbis, and preachers. Do you see that from this parable?
This means to hear these words as those spoken long ago, about people who have long since died, as a parable to be focused only on a religion that makes it exclusively pertinent to Jews is WRONG. The past is long gone, but Jesus is telling us today, “Listen to another parable” relative to those who say they follow him. Therefore, it means combing through the wool to find how this parable is always a perfect analogy of now, and not a blemish on Jesus, who spoke as the mouth for an All-Seeing God.
Many a Crusade has been fought to gain possession of THE Holy Land. The Jews and Arabs who farmed the land were always caught in the middle, as the poor folk living there. Minding their own business, they were being killed by the religions of Roman Catholicism and Islam. Still, was not North America a holy land to Native Americans (tribes of people who saw Mother Earth as sacred and unable to be possessed by Man); and did they not find the religion of the white man meant, “Give us all you’ve got, or we’ll kill you heathens in the name of Christ”?
Think about that history (I know history always put students to sleep, but try to stay focused and do that), and see if any of that recorded past sounds like, “The tenants seized [the] slaves [of the landowner] and beat one, killed another, and stoned another.”
The theft of land, as if legal and proper if an official declaration of war is made so the spoils go to the victor, is still theft. If the declared “war” results in a greedy adult snatching candy from the little hands of a baby, the declaration was evil and the war was one-sided. Man cannot declare war for God; but God can wreak justice on all who take His name in vain.
Someone must have felt pangs of guilt over the pretend war that allowed the new United Nations to declare Palestine legal tender to the Jews of the world [new name Israel], didn’t someone?
Beginning way back when the “landowner” (psssst – it is God) “finally sent his son to [the Jews], saying, ‘They will respect my son,’” and the Jews had the Romans kill him (by divine plan), the same story has been repeated time and time again. It is a story that keeps on keeping on, as contemporary as can be.
The Inquisitions in Europe were examples of Christians nailing Jesus back on the cross, killing him again, so someone would be allowed a window of opportunity to kill anyone and everyone who moved that did not have a silver cross around their necks, for personal gain and quests to acquire more lands. The evil that exists in the New World today (way too many corrupt players to name), began long ago. Still, it kills Jesus Christ Monday through Saturday, before taking the family to church on Sunday (or otherwise relaxing).
Can you hear Jesus asking Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George Bush (x2), William Clinton, et al American Presidents, “What will the Father do to those tenants?” If only politicians had hearts that loved God more than lobbyists.
The correct answer, which was given by the watchmen to Jesus, still applies today: “The Father 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.”
One should read the symbolism of “miserable death” as being more than simply being drawn and quartered in the royal field of punishment. If killing was the answer to sin, organizing a storm and siege of Washington D.C., taking over the rule of the land, with the streets then lit by the burning corpses of government officials (and religious ones too) would be the answer.
The French peasants (led by Zionist Jews in Geneva) went there, did that. After cutting off the heads off every royal figure they could try in a kangaroo court (a period known reflectively as “The Reign of Terror”), they found out that wasn’t the answer. Napoleon slapped some Republican sense into them. Then, given a hundred years to let all that sink in, Hitler-karma came to even that score once again.
The path to Dante’s Inferno must go through France.
“Miserable death” means a soul sentenced to eternal reincarnation. It is the misery of mortality. All humans are born of flesh, to die in flesh that will always be in between – either a bad tenant stealing the land, or a messenger of the Father who is mercifully slaughtered as a sacrificial lamb. Decisions, decisions.
When Jesus asked the watchmen of Jerusalem “Have you never read in the scriptures,” he quoted Psalm 118:22-23. Jesus quoted the part that focuses on a “stone that the builders rejected.” That “reject” is too simple to be seen as Jesus, because (after all) many Americans cry out “Sweet Jesus, save me” all the time (to no avail).
Needing salvation comes from having “rejected the stone that has become the cornerstone.” The “stone” rejected is the “Tablets of Stone” sent by God to His priests. It is easy to revere the stone, on the one hand, but then point with the other and say, “Hide it away somewhere, so we don’t feel guilty about not living up to its righteousness.”
In the parable, the tenants had rejected the Law by stealing, killing, bearing false witness, coveting … you name it. The Pharisees and other officials of the Temple could easily see the answer to Jesus’ hypothetical question, because they had memorized those stones. Still ….
They just did not live by those laws, whole heartedly. They rejected that stone, if it did not mean profit for them.
For the Law to become the “cornerstone,” they needed to cease using a brain that calculated, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” Instead, they needed to be like Jesus – living by the Law because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Mind of Christ, and love of God. With that cornerstone, you stop being the one taking advantage of a landowner and you start taking messages to those who do.
That is what Jesus meant when he said, “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.” If you are not bearing the fruit of an Apostle, who takes a message from the Father to the world, then you are breaking all the Laws God sent to His priests. Without acting faithfully as a true priest, you are still in the reincarnation “Return to Sender” category. No “kingdom of God” is in the future of the ones who love land (material things) more than heaven (spiritual gifts).
When Jesus told the watchmen, “The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls,” those “holy men” had all fallen upon the Law of Moses, like a Crusader hitting the shores of Jaffa, or a Pilgrim on the beaches of Plymouth Rock. Holding a cross in left hand and a sword in the right hand will crush the living life out of a soul’s wish for freedom from a world of sin.
A New Land with a new promise? Or a new opportunity for the New Testament?
When Matthew wrote, “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them,” the next thing to ask is, “How do I fit into this parable?”
Can you see how Jesus was “speaking about” all Christians alive in the twenty-first century? Can you see yourself as a tenant in a leased vineyard that has an understanding (a Covenant) that you are supposed to tend the garden, pick some grapes, turn the ripe grapes into holy wine, and then stand before the landowner saying, “I not only have fulfilled my obligation, Sir, but I have done more than required. I offer you everything and thank you for allowing me to serve you in such a wonderful place.”
Help Wanted. Apply Within.
Or, are you paying the minimum, or skimming off the top, thinking there is still time to put back that which has been stolen … maybe … one day … we’ll see?