Sunday

“Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (v. 37)

Matthew 21:33-46 Sunday 5 October 2014


Background

Some parables that are recorded in the Gospels seem obscure intheir meaning. Indeed, at times Jesus seems to tell parables forthat very reason (eg Matthew 13:13). Understanding the meaning ofthe parable is not always to be the experience of all those whohear the words that are spoken.

However, in today's passage, the parable told by Jesus seemsimpossible to misunderstand. The image of the people of Israel as avineyard was a familiar one (egIsaiah5:1-2, 7), and the resulting identification of the charactersin the parable flows from that understanding. If the vineyard isIsrael, then the landowner is God, the tenants are the religiousleaders, the servants are the succession of prophets sent by Godand the son of the landowner is indeed the Son of God.

In the Gospel of Mark's record of this parable (Mark12:1-12), Jesus describes the landowner sending a series ofmany servants until, "He had still one other, a beloved son" (Mark12:6). The image of a "beloved son" is a clear link to thewords of the voice from heaven spoken at the Baptism of Jesus (Matthew 3:17), but even in the Gospel ofMatthew's record of the parable, where the word "beloved" is notincluded, the identification of the landowner's son with Jesus isdifficult to avoid as we read the parable today.

In Matthew's record of the telling of this parable, the reactionof the chief priests and the Pharisees is interesting (verses45-46). They regard Jesus as a prophet and yet they want to arresthim because they "realized that he was speaking about them". It isonly fear of the crowd which stops them immediately acting out atthat moment their part in the parable that Jesus has told. Despitetheir hesitation, the arrest of Jesus will take place in a matterof days (Matthew 26:47-56).

In the Gospels, people react to Jesus in different ways. Somegladly accept his message, some feel challenged by his words, andsome have mixed emotions. The question, 'What's your response tothe landlord's son?' is still important for us to reflect ontoday.


To Ponder

  • The Gospel of Matthew records this incident in the week beforehis crucifixion. Was Jesus trying to provoke his arrest by tellingthis parable - or was he hoping for a different reaction? What doyou think?
  • What, today, is your response to the landlord's son?
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