THE PENNY DROPS
Lord, I recognize You as the master vine dresser.
Read MATTHEW 21:33–46
The Parable of the Tenants
33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
40 “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”
41 “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”
42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44 Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”
45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46 They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Invite God to come into this time with patience, as you acknowledge how slow you can be to understand and respond to his words.
Some people take a long time to catch on. They need additional prompts. So Jesus tells another parable, drawing the Pharisees and elders toward an unavoidable conclusion. Back then, the vineyard was both an agricultural reality and a profound symbol for his listeners. As scholars, they would recognize the references to Isaiah 5:1–7 (planting new vines, the construction of a winepress and a watchtower) and the spelling out of the symbol in verse 7a: “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the house of Israel” (TNIV). One by one, the truth would dawn on these leaders—that he is talking about them. They were the unreliable, the self-serving, aggressive tenants.
Sometimes, when reading the Bible or listening to a sermon, I recognize others in the message. At my more perceptive moments, I admit that I myself am also in there. In my best moments I’m drawn to confession and repentance. Such is the initial response Jesus hopes for from his audience, but he also wants to lay before them a scenario for the days to follow. The murder of the son is the culminating violence that has grown throughout the story. Can he now get his audience to see that he is that son?
The Pharisees and elders deliver their self-righteous verdict: the tenants get their just desserts. Then they are surprised to find themselves in the dock: “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit” (43). Touché, as the French put it. There is still a chance for them, as there was for the tenants at any point in that story: just give the owner his due. Ultimately, they are forced to recognize their role in the story. Their reaction? Kill the messenger!
Make contact with someone in your church family who is totally unlike you. This might be by phone, email, letter or a spontaneous visit. Enjoy their company.
Lord, keep our understanding sharp and never allow us to sink into spiritual dullness.
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