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Last night at EFM, we discussed the parable in Matthew 21: 33-45
All the Parables in this section are addressed to the Pharisees who were trying to confound Jesus. The passage below is from the oremus Bible Browser (NRSV). The KJV is also available at oremus.
Jesus outlines a series of crimes committed by tenants who refused to pay the landowner of a vineyard (who is God, himself). Of the slaves (the Prophets) sent to collect the produce, the tenants beat one, killed another, and stoned another. The landowner then sent more slaves who were treated in the same way. Finally, the landowner sent his son and the tenants killed him thinking they would be able to steal the land outright.
Jesus asks, What will the owner do to these tenants?
The Pharisees answer that the landowner will kill them and lease the land to others who will pay the rent.
That is the right answer! Jesus does not say it is the wrong answer but one might easily think he rebukes the Pharisees because they gave the wrong answer.
But Jesus does utter an apparent non sequitur:
‘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.’
The Pharisees' own answer is the answer Jesus gives straight back to them: the landowner will lease the land to others who will produce the fruits of the kingdom. Jesus means the "Chosen People" are out because they are the wicked tenants.
This parable does not mean that nothing happens to the wicked tenants, as might be surmised by the unwary. The parable does not contain a contradiction.
'When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them.'
What one does matters; who one is does not.
oremus Bible Browser
matthew 21:33-45 (NRSV)
The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
‘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 watch-tower. 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.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.