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Matthew 21:33-46 The Parable of the Vineyard

(28)

Sermon shared by David Smith

October 1999
Summary: Father Dave’s Sermon on Matthew 21:33-46 & the East Timorese Martyrs. The nature of God, the price he’s willing to pay for His ’Vineyard’ and the wait for the justice that will eventually take place.
Denomination: Episcopal/Anglican
Audience: Believer adults
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And Jesus tells a story about a vineyard:

"There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. 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."

What do these stories have in common? They are all stories of violence. Indeed, if we understand the story of the vineyard as a sort of allegory concerning the whole of the history of God’s dealing with his people, then the story of the vineyard is suggesting that the whole history of God’s dealing with his people has been marked by violence!

Jesus finishes the story with a question which he himself does not answer: "when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" The crowd provide an immediate answer: "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 accepts this answer. There will be a final settling of accounts. The real question though is ’why hasn’t that judgment happened already?’

Follow the story. The landowner built that vineyard himself. Why then didn’t he choose tenants more carefully? You might be a renter and feel and immediate sympathy for the tenants. I have had the ’privilege’ of being pseudo-landlord for the church. We recently had a woman screaming and throwing a tantrum out the front of the rectory, demanding the spare key to the property. We weren’t entitled to give her the key, especially as we didn’t really know if she lived there! These tenants though make the worst of our tenants look like angels.

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.

It sounds like East Timor. It sounds like Nazi Germany. It sounds a little like Dulwich Hill - a place of repeated senseless acts of violence. It doesn’t make any sense. If they’d wanted to keep the master away, they would have given him some token amount to satisfy him. If they’d wanted to fool the master into thinking that his messengers never arrived, they would have killed them all quietly. Perhaps they’ve forgotten that there is a master to the vineyard. They certainly don’t fear him.

The only thing more incomprehensible than the tenants response is the master’s response. Instead of calling the police, bringing them to account, and turfing them out, the master thinks ’maybe if I send another group of guys they will respect them.’ So he sends the second group - greater in number than the first. These guys also get beaten up, abused, killed, stoned.

After this the master says ’I was a fool for thinking that these tenants might have a change of heart. I should have nuked these guys the first time.’ And so he sends in his troops, arrests these guys and sentences
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