On this past Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, we once again find ourselves in the vineyard with Jesus’ Parable of the Wicked Tenants in Matthew 21:33-46. Here Jesus tells the chief priests, the Pharisees and the disciples about a vineyard that a landowner had prepared with everything to bring in a fruitful harvest of grapes, and then leased out the vineyard to tenants as he leaves the country. When slaves are sent to help bring in the harvest of grapes, the tenants act violently towards the slaves, beating, stoning and killing them. When the landowner’s son is sent, the tenants choose to kill him for a possible inheritance. When Jesus asks the chief priests and Pharisees what the landowner should do to these wicked tenants, they tell him the tenants deserve a “miserable death” and the vineyard needs to be leased out to new tenants who will “give him the produce at the harvest time.” Then when the chief priests and the Pharisees realize that Jesus is talking about them, they like the wicked tenants in the parable want to respond in violence towards Jesus, but fear what might happen from the crowds who think of Jesus as a prophet. This rather violent parable would soon convey what would happen to Jesus, as the chief priests and the Pharisees reject him and he would suffer being crucified on the cross. Though, Jesus would be victorious over their rejection and violence, in his resurrection from the dead on Easter morning.
As with all of Jesus’ parables, there is the question we need to ask, who do we found ourselves to be? In Jesus’ Parable of the Wicked Tenants, do we find ourselves to be the tenants who reject the slaves who have come to help bring in the fruitful harvest, and at times in our sinfulness reject the Son, Jesus? Do we find ourselves to be the slaves who in some way have been beaten, stoned and killed in what we have said or done, as we help bring in the harvest? Or do we find ourselves to be the new tenants who Jesus has “leased” the vineyard to, who will “give (God) the produce at the harvest time?” If we find ourselves to be the slaves who have been abused in any way, we can receive hope, comfort and peace, knowing that Jesus has also gone through the violence of this world and was victorious in his resurrection from the dead. If we find ourselves to be the new tenants, we need to be open to where the Holy Spirit will take us, as we work to “give (God) the produce at the harvest time.”