This parable is sometimes called the parable of the wicked tenants. It is often interpreted as an allegory where Jesus is foretelling how he will be rejected by the Jews. To understand this parable, however, it is important for us to read it in the context of the other parables Jesus is telling at the time. On the day Jesus tells this parable, he begins his teaching by cursing the fig tree for not bearing fruit. Then the Pharisees question his authority because he does not resemble or represent familiar sources of authority, such as rigorous interpretations of the law. Jesus responds with the parable of the two sons, which asks the essential question: “Who understood the heart of the father's will?” This is followed by our passage for today, where the wicked tenants seek to disrespect the vineyard owner by doing whatever they can to usurp his resources. After this passage, the parable of the wedding banquet demonstrates the radically inclusive love of God.

The author of this Gospel is writing to a Jewish audience and is set on showing them that Jesus is the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, which has foretold that the Messiah would be rejected. However, when we listen to the other stories being told in these chapters, we can hear the deeper story of what was so offensive to the Pharisees. The overall theme of these parables is that God’s heart is not centered in rigorous pursuit of the law but bends toward justice and radical inclusion of all people. In welcoming others, we are respecting God and bearing fruit. How can we choose to reject having greedy, cold hearts like the tenants and instead move toward celebrating the abundance of God’s resources and seeking to welcome all those who come to us as God-in-disguise?

Loving God, help me to recognize the truth of your radical love that is all around me. Help me to see you in my neighbor. Amen.

Pray the Scriptures Using Audio Lectio
Read Matthew 21:33-46

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Lectionary Week
September 28—October 4, 2020
Scripture Overview

A common theme this week is the danger of self-absorption. When we are young, we may struggle to understand the importance of rules because we think that our individual freedom is the highest good. God gives the Israelites commandments to guide their relationships with God and others. These laws will help them thrive because God knows what is best for us. The psalmist understands this: The laws of the Lord are good and sweet. Self-absorption might also lead to pride. Paul shows that a true understanding of the gospel means laying aside our rights in the knowledge that God will reward us. In a parable about the rejection of the prophets and Jesus, servants seek to seize a vineyard for themselves, unwisely ignoring that the owner will eventually reclaim what is his.

Questions and Suggestions for Reflection

Read Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20. Recall your earliest experiences with the Ten Commandments. How do they continue to shape your understanding of God’s expectations?
Read Psalm 19. How does the natural world call you to follow God?
Read Philippians 3:4b-14. Whom do you emulate? What would it mean for you to emulate Christ in life and in death?
Read Matthew 21:33-46. When have you participated in or witnessed the rejection of one who could be God in disguise? How might things be different if you had recognized that person as a potential cornerstone of your community?

Respond by posting a prayer.

I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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