Summary: Doing the Lord’s Work on Earth
Growing up on a farm in south eastern Iowa, I can relate to the parable in the Gospel. We rented farm ground from others, for hay and extra grain ground. Part of the contract usually involved a share of the grain and bales of hay to go to the landlord. However tenant farming in this parable is more like that of the sharecropper farms in the South. Where the land lord supplied the seed to the tenants, whose job was to plant it, harvest it, and receive a “share” to pay back their expenses for the year.
In this parable the land owner, has come to collect his crop from his tenant farmers. The problem is the tenants have conspired to break their contract and keep the crop for themselves. The land owner sends his own hired hands to enforce the contract, but the tenants revolt and beat up, murder, and execute the employees. Rather than calling the law enforcement, this landlord sends his own son to make sure the contract is carried out. But the tenants have another idea; they feel if they kill the son, the landlord will have no choice but to make them heirs to his land. For the landlord will surely not endanger his self to reclaim his land. What they failed to realize in their greed is that the land lord would lease the land to others and drive the rebellious tenants off.
Why did Jesus tell the Pharisee’s this parable, and what did he mean by his response to their answer? Let me reread Matthew 21:42-44
Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?” 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.
He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed."
The scripture Jesus refers to is from Psalm 118 verse 22 to be exact. But what Jesus trying to tell his audience. The Pharisee’s were quick to understand the message within the parable. You see the land owner is God, the Father, and the tenants are the Isrealites, while the land owner’s servants were the prophets. You see nearly every time God sent one of His prophets to remind the Isrealites of their “contract” with Him. They would either beat up, stone, or kill the prophets out right.
Now keep in mind a prophet is not necessarily someone who predicts the future. The biblical prophets usually reminded the people of the covenant they had made with God. The prophets revealed God’s promises to these people. Most of the time when a prophet had a warning for the people, they had a choice to make. God never sugar coats the outcomes, and it was eventually the people and the rulers own decisions that sealed their fates. Unfortunately, a number of the rulers whether it was kings or priests felt if they killed or stifled the prophet, that they could remain ignorant of the punishment God had for them. Much like the tenants in this parable who felt that the land owner needed them more than they needed him.
So here we go again, the Pharisee’s probably thought, another prophet. The Pharisee’s did not really want another Jeremiah, or Isaiah, and they most definitely did not what another Elijah or Moses. They were actually happy with the status quo and did not want their apple cart turned over. Do not get me wrong, the Pharisee were not happy with the Roman Government, they were happy with being on top of the Hebrew/Israelite hierarchy. They were happy in the fact, that they had created a religious system that benefited them not only in money, but status. Remember what I said last week, status is even more of a temptation than money. Status for you kids that would be popularity, and in this case the Pharisees and Saduccees were at the top of the popularity food chain in their own world that is. Outside of their circles they were feared and despised.
What Jesus was telling the Pharisees is that God had a covenant/contract with you and you have consistently reneged on that contract. Now it is time for me to make a contract with some else to share my fruits with. You chose to ignore me; you have taken advantage of the Law for your own benefit, and to interpret the contract to meet your personal needs not the needs of the whole nation. So, now I will turn my vineyard over to those who have not known me before in the hopes that they will bring in the harvest and serve me.