The Parable of the Tenants
1He then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 2At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10Haven’t you read this scripture:
” ‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone;
11the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12Then they looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
He Does As He Wants…but what does he want?
Getting to sound a bit cliche…but another difficult teaching of Jesus. I hope that by now we recognize that Jesus was not a simple intinerant preacher, talking about good deeds and being a good guy. His agenda was not a human one, but a heavenly one, and as such, it was difficult for people of that time (and our time) to understand. I think that only makes sense in the end, that the teachings of God-on-earth would be a bit over our heads.
This teaching is a parable in the simplest sense, a story to give us insight into our own context and situation. A critical insight that we often overlook is that the tenants probably had their own reasons and justifications for what they did – maybe the don’t like the rent. Maybe they had a bad season. Maybe they misunderstood the terms of their lease. But whatever their reason, they believed that they had the right to keep the owner and his messengers out!
But of course, none of those reasons really can stand against the owner’s justification: it’s his vineyard. He cares for it, protects it, and it is his to do as he wants with it. Those who simply rent from the owner, no matter their justifications, have no right to do as they did. It’s not their vineyard – they are clearly in the wrong here. And sometimes it is really helpful to remember that basic idea for our own lives as well: God, as the owner of this vineyard (a.k.a. creation), fundamentally can do as he wishes. We, as tenants, no matter our justifications, don’t have the right to question the owner when it comes to this vineyard.
BUT. Parables are never perfect analogies, but only serve to illustrate. Along with God’s right to do as he wishes is what we read in Romans 8:28, that God works all things for the good of those who love him. That is the heart of the parable above: the servants were the prophets, and the son was the Son, come to bring eternal life and reconciliation to the vineyard!! So when you combine these two ideas together, what do you get?:
God gets to do what he wants, and what he wants is to bless us. So let him!
1. Has there ever been a situation in your life where you didn’t understand God’s reasons at first, but eventually were blessed nonetheless?
2. Is there a situation in your life right now where you just can’t understand God’s reasons?
3. What could God possibly be teaching you through this situation? Has any good already come of it?