A definition of a parable is “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” The gospel for this Sunday is a parable about a vineyard, but we understand that the story is really about the call to accept and honor Christ as our master.
This Sunday’s parable doesn’t seem so cut and dry. A landowner plants a vineyard, digs the winepress, and does everything else you’d need to gather in a decent harvest. Then he leases it to tenants to run things while he goes away. When the harvest comes in, he sends his servants to collect his due. Instead of collecting the money the tenants and they beat, stone, and even kill his servants. And when he sends more and the same thing happens. And so then he sends his son and his son is killed as well.
After telling this parable, Jesus, at least according to Matthew, asks the critical question: “When he owner of the vineyard returns, what will he do to those tenants.” And then, right on cue, the Pharisees and the chief priests,fall for the trap hook, line, and sinker: “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.”
But Jesus has a new plan.
It’s kind of crazy, when you think about it. First, I believe that the tenants think that if they keep killing off the servants and event the land owners son that they will not only survive but they will thrive. They will own the land and have it forever. But why on earth do these guys think that they’re going to inherit the vineyard?
The land owner is not gone forever. He’s sent servants, and more servants, and then his son. Who’s to say he doesn’t have another son, or more servants, or an army, or at least a gang of thugs at his disposal to take care of these tenants. They’re crazy,They think they can get something for nothing. They’re crazy.
But they’re not half so crazy as this landowner! Think about it. First he sends servants, and they’re beaten, stoned, and killed. Then he sends more — not the police, mind you, or an army, just more servants — and the same thing happens again. So where does the bright idea come from to send his son, his heir, alone, to treat with these bloodthirsty hooligans? It’s absolutely crazy. Who would do such a think? No one…except maybe a crazy landlord so desperate to be in relationship with these tenants that he will do anything, risk anything, to reach out of them. This landowner acts more like a desperate parent, willing to do or say or try anything to reach out to a beloved and wayward child, than he does a businessman. It’s crazy, the kind of crazy that comes from being in love.
“What will the landlord do when he comes?” Jesus asks, and all they can imagine is violence: “He will put those wretches to a miserable death.” But notice — it’s not Jesus talking right now. They condemn themselves. That’s not what the land owner would do — that’s what the Pharisees would do — Jesus is turning things around, he is talking about God. What does God do?
The land owner, God sent Jesus, to treat with all of us who have hoarded God’s blessings for ourselves and not given God God’s own due. And when we killed him, God raised him the dead, and sent him back to us yet one more time, still bearing the message of God’s desperate, crazy love.
This parable is about the amazing love of God, who not once but twice sent his son to us. But God does not stop there, God continues to send Jesus to us every time we need him, every time we mess up, every time we take for ourselves.
To learn more about this crazy loving God of ours I will see you on Sunday. Services are at 9:00 am and 11:00 am.
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