Reading: Matthew 21: 33-41
Verse 40: When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants?
Jesus is teaching in the temple courts. He is in Jerusalem and each day people gather around Him to hear His interpretation of the scriptures and to hear the stories He likes to tell. Others are there to listen for a way to trap Him or to catch Jesus in a blasphemy. He is aware of both aspects of the crowd.
This day Jesus tells the story of the landowner who plants a vineyard and builds a wine press and watchtower. Then he rents the vineyard out and goes on a journey. Harvest time comes and he sends for his share of the crop. But the tenants beat and stone and kill those who were sent. The landowner sends a bigger group, but the results are the same. AND then the tenants do it again when he sends his very own son to collect. Then Jesus asks them a question: “When the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do with those tenants”? The answer seems obvious.
At this point, most everyone in the crowd has the same answer. Most of us would give the same answer too. But Jesus’ stories always seem to have an edge or twist to them. There are probably a few in the crowd besides His twelve disciples who are wary – they know there is more to the story. But for now, for today, the story ends here.
When we consider the story, are we thinking we are more like the owner, like those sent, or like the tenants? At times we certainly think we are the owner. We look at our life and our possessions and our talents and think they are all ours. At times we can see ourselves as those who are sent. We try and share the good news but are rejected and/or abused. And at times we are the tenants – living for self, disregarding all else.
Jesus is also framing larger questions too. The first is who really owns the ‘vineyard’? The second is who is the son that is finally sent to re-establish the correct relationship between owner and tenants? And the third is, what is our response to the one who is sent? From these perspectives, the story takes on new meaning and depth. From here we must consider how we see and relate to God, how we see and relate to Jesus, and what role we are or should be playing in the vineyard.