Insane Resistance

Scripture Reading

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people:
“Hear another parable.
There was a landowner who planted a vineyard,
put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.
When vintage time drew near,
he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.
But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat,
another they killed, and a third they stoned.
Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones,
but they treated them in the same way.
Finally, he sent his son to them,
thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’
But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another,
‘This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’
They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.
What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”
They answered him,
“He will put those wretched men to a wretched death
and lease his vineyard to other tenants
who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?

Therefore, I say to you,
the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for they regarded him as a prophet.
(Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46)

Scripture Study

21:33 Planted a vineyard … a tower: cf. Is 5:1–2. The vineyard is defined in Is 5:7 as “the house of Israel.”

21:34–35 His servants: Matthew has two sendings of servants as against Mark’s three sendings of a single servant (Mk 11:2–5a) followed by a statement about the sending of “many others” (Mk 11:2, 5b). That these servants stand for the prophets sent by God to Israel is clearly implied but not made explicit here, but see Mt 23:37. His produce: cf. Mk 12:2 “some of the produce.” The produce is the good works demanded by God, and his claim to them is total.

21:38 Acquire his inheritance: if a Jewish proselyte died without heir, the tenants of his land would have final claim on it.

21:39 Threw him out … and killed him: the change in the Marcan order where the son is killed and his corpse then thrown out (Mk 12:8) was probably made because of the tradition that Jesus died outside the city of Jerusalem; see Jn 19:17; Heb 13:12.

21:41 They answered: in Mk 12:9 the question is answered by Jesus himself; here the leaders answer and so condemn themselves; cf. Mt 21:31. Matthew adds that the new tenants to whom the vineyard will be transferred will give the owner the produce at the proper times.

21:42 Cf. Ps 118:22–23. The psalm was used in the early church as a prophecy of Jesus’ resurrection; see Acts 4:11; 1 Pt 2:7. If, as some think, the original parable ended at Mt 21:39 it was thought necessary to complete it by a reference to Jesus’ vindication by God.

21:43 Peculiar to Matthew. Kingdom of God: see note on Mt 19:23–24. Its presence here instead of Matthew’s usual “kingdom of heaven” may indicate that the saying came from Matthew’s own traditional material. A people that will produce its fruit: believing Israelites and Gentiles, the church of Jesus.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, our Gospel today recounts the parable of the landowner who planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. God is the landowner, the vineyard is his creation, and we are the tenants, responsible to care for it. In Jesus’ telling of the story, the servants that the landowner sent to obtain his produce are the prophets and teachers of Israel, those who remind the people of their responsibilities toward God. But the tenants beat one servant, killed another, and stoned a third.

Finally, the landowner sent his son expecting the tenants to respect him. So, Jesus came that we might direct the whole of our lives back to God, that we might remember that we are tenants and that the whole of the world belongs to God.

“But when the tenants saw the son, … they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” Here, of course, is the whole tragedy of Jesus’ cross. When God sent his son to us, we killed him. This is the insane resistance to God’s intentions which is called sin.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.