8 October 2017

Matthew 21:33-46

“…the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom” (v. 43)

Psalm: Psalm 80


The picture of a vineyard to describe God's people was well known and deep set in the minds of Jesus' listeners. Furthermore, they recognised that, within this image, all was not necessarily well. Isaiah 5:1-7 sings of a vineyard which produced wild grapes, in other words, bloodshed and distress where there should have been justice and right relationships. Today's psalm is a cry for help from the people themselves as they recognise the bad state of the vineyard and call for God to come and restore them.

Building on this theme Jesus tells a much more pointed parable. In the past, the failings within the vineyard nation were seen to have been caused by neglect of God's ways. Jesus, however, speaks of a deliberate attempt on the part of those entrusted with the life of the nation to take control of what was not theirs and destroy those who, in God's name, called on them to render account. Within this parable, we get a clear hint that Jesus saw himself in a unique relationship with God and with a unique ministry. He also hints that his ministry will involve laying down his own life (verse 39).

In the concluding words of this passage, we see how the clouds are gathering around Jesus, but it is also clear that God's will and ways are going to prevail, even if those first entrusted with the message of God's kingdom don't live up to their calling.

To Ponder

  • Verse 43 speaks of the kingdom of God being given to a people who will produce its fruit. What do you understand by the phrase "fruits of the kingdom"? What is your role in fruit production?
  • Today is Prisons Sunday and the start of Prisons Week. Take time to pray for those who work in prisons, including prison governors, officers, welfare and educational staff and chaplains, and also the prisoners, old and young, committed to their care.

Bible notes author

The Revd Donald Ker

Donald Ker is a supernumerary minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland. As well as serving as a circuit minister in Bray Co Wicklow and as Superintendent Minister at Belfast Central Mission, he has been General Secretary of the Methodist Church in Ireland and its President in 2009/2010.