Tuesday in Holy Week 2019
A man once planted a vineyard and rented it out. Then he left the country for a long time. When it was time to harvest the crop, he sent a servant to ask the renters for his share of the grapes. But they beat up the servant and sent him away without anything. So the owner sent another servant. The renters also beat him up. They insulted him terribly and sent him away without a thing. The owner sent a third servant. He was also beaten terribly and thrown out of the vineyard.
The owner then said to himself, “What am I going to do? I know what. I’ll send my son, the one I love so much. They will surely respect him!”
When the renters saw the owner’s son, they said to one another, “Someday he will own the vineyard. Let’s kill him! Then we can have it all for ourselves.” So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
Jesus asked, “What do you think the owner of the vineyard will do? I’ll tell you what. He will come and kill those renters and let someone else have his vineyard.”
• Luke 20:9-16
All the Synoptic Gospels report that Jesus’ final week was characterized by public teaching, disputes and other encounters with the people and religious leaders in Jerusalem. One example in Luke is this parable.
This particular parable is straightforward and more allegorical than many other of Jesus’ stories.
- Israel is traditionally symbolized as God’s vineyard (for example, Isaiah 5:1-7), so in this story God is the owner and the vineyard the nation.
- The renters are the nation’s leaders, those responsible for stewarding God’s people, practicing and encouraging covenant faithfulness.
- Israel’s prophets are portrayed by the servants God sends time and time and time again for his harvest.
- Finally, the owner sends his beloved son to represent him, but the renters seize him and kill him. This, of course, is Jesus himself, who came to his own but his own would not receive him.
- The owner executes judgment on the vineyard’s stewards and puts others in charge of it. This is a warning that the current leaders of Israel are about to lose their privileged status and the Gentiles will be brought in to share in the promise.
Again, this time through an allegorical parable instead of a prophetic action, Jesus tells the story of Israel and puts himself right at the climactic point of it. He is the One God sent as rightful heir and ruler of his vineyard.
This is not a story that is going to end well. Or so it seems.