The Parable of the Wicked Tenants
We are in the eye of the storm now.
Lent, for Jesus, is nearing its end,
and folks are getting desperate.
They’re grabbing at straws, setting traps,
looking for anything at all
any reason to bring a charge against him.
And they know exactly what they’re doing.
So when Jesus tells them the parable of the wicked tenants,
they know for sure he is speaking it is against them.
After all this time,
After all this tension,
After all the prodding and plotting,
Finally, the chief priests, the Scribes, and the Pharisees get it.
This parable from Jesus hits home.
This morning they finally understand…
As it is with so many parables, it starts simply, plausibly, and believably.
A man plants a vineyard and rents it out to tenants.
But then, the tenants get greedy and so when the owner’s servant comes to collect his due, they send him away empty handed, and with a black eye to remember them by.
This is strange. But not so strange that they’ve never heard of it happening before.
And so they can guess what happens next.
The owner will send a detail of armed men to collect what is owed and get them off his property, or worse.
So when the owner sends two more servants, who meet the same fate,
They are thinking that this man is either a fool, or hopelessly patient;
Until he decides to send his beloved son.
That seals it.
The tenants may be wicked.
But the owner must be foolish.
These tenants know nothing of respect.
So if the father thinks that sending his son will get any, well, that’s his own fault.
And if the parable were not ridiculous enough when the owner sent his son,
it certainly peaked when the tenants thought that killing him would bring them his inheritance.
Really? How did they think that was going to work?
At least it ends believably, with the owner coming back,
Killing everyone, and giving the land to others.
That, finally, makes sense.
But when they heard this, they said, “Surely not!”
Wouldn’t that be justice?
Wouldn’t that be in keeping with the law?
And aren’t these guys supposed to be the experts at both?
How can they say, “Surely not!”?
Maybe they thought that if the owner were really serious about collecting what was due to him, he would have brought down the hammer from the very start.
Maybe they thought that, after sending the second and third servants away broken and bruised, with no retaliation,
that judgment was a long, long, way off
if, indeed, judgment was coming at all.
And so they had nothing to worry about.
Finally, after all of that, if the owner is foolish enough to send his own son into the hands of greedy, brutal men,
well, then maybe he’s foolish enough to send all his riches with him.
After all, in Jesus’ parable, the owner hasn’t done more than one thing that made sense to us.
And it doesn’t look like he’s going to start now.
Thanks be to God.
This is the depth of the Father’s love for us:
That He would use our violence toward Him
to be merciful toward us.
So merciful that it undoes all our wisdom.
So merciful that the most ridiculous statement,
spoken by the most foolish and wicked of people
could actually be made true:
They cried out:
“‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’
And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”
Jesus is about to live this parable,
and Jesus is about to die this parable.
As you know,
on the Friday the Church calls Good,
This is exactly how things will go.
In the most vile and unthinkable act of rebellion against God and His Kingdom,
The people will take matters into their own hands,
by driving nails through Jesus’ hands.
The time is coming when Jesus will be marched out of Jerusalem and killed.
That the inheritance may be ours.
For, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
It’s true that Jesus preached this parable against them.
But it’s also true that Jesus preached this parable for them.
It’s true that Jesus preaches this parable against you.
But it’s also true that Jesus preaches this parable for you.
Even if it doesn’t happen now, this second,
Jesus holds out hope that they and we,
and all of us together will see.
He is the murdered son.
He is the rejected stone.
And he is the cornerstone;
The stone that holds all things together;
Today and tomorrow,
Life and death,
You and me.
The Father will send no one else.
No longer is he in the business of letting out land.
All that he has, he has sent with his beloved son.
And all the son has, he has given to us.
When he made good out of our evil.
When he made righteous children out of wicked servants.
Does this make sense to us?
Thanks be to God.