A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants
to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, beat him,
and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent them another servant.
And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.
He sent yet another whom they killed.
So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
He had one other to send, a beloved son.
The theme that God’s message will be rejected occurs throughout Scripture. It is almost comic how often the Israelites demand to be returned to Egypt as Moses leads them to freedom. Jesus is in constant conflict with the religious figures of his day. Today’s reading is a parable Jesus addresses to them to point out that every prophet is persecuted by his people. The Pharisees were the liberals of their day – accepting a loose, permissive interpretation of Scripture. Their populist message resonated and they were successful evangelicals, making converts throughout the Roman Empire. The Sadducees were more conservative and insisted on strict compliance with Scripture even if it required a harsh outcome. (They died out with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.) Jesus was despised by both groups. What the Pharisees and Sadducees had in common was a conviction that God punished sin with poverty, sickness and social ostracism, and rewarded good conduct with wealth, health and popularity. Jesus disagreed. He said the poor, the sick and the outcast had not been cursed, but enjoyed the most sympathy and attention from God. The rich, healthy and popular are not blessed; they're just lucky. That made Jesus’s contemporaries really mad and it doesn’t sit well with us either. We tend to believe God loves us more when we behave well. The opposite appears to be true.
Photo credit: Mark McCormick