“Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’” Matthew 21:33-46
We know well the parable Jesus tells in the assigned Gospel for today. When Israel heard a parable of a vineyard, she naturally thought of herself—the vineyard was the Lord’s people, Israel. What was sometimes missed was the fact that although the vineyard was entrusted to Israel, it belonged to the Lord God. The parable makes it clear that this was the sin of the tenants—they came to believe that it belonged to them, that they deserved to have it as their own. Not surprisingly, when the owner sent his own son, the heir, to the tenants, they were prepared to stop at nothing to have it as their own. Even if it meant killing the Son!
Matthew tells us that when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. The question is, when we hear Jesus telling this parable, do we perceive that he is speaking about us?
The great temptation for the Church in every age is that we will begin to think of the vineyard as our own possession. Church leaders throughout history have been guilty of thinking the Church, as an institution, is their own, to do with as they please. Consider the Church at the time of Luther, for example. But we have also seen church leaders today consumed with their church as an institution, free to do as they wish by majority vote, regardless the words of Holy Scripture. Power, politics, institutionalization, personal agendas—these have no place in the Vineyard of the Lord, which is His Church. It belongs to the owner’s Son, the heir—not to human leaders who are mere tenants.
As we meditate on this parable today, let us ask: “Who is the head of this church?” The bishop? The pastor? The lay president? Or Jesus, the Son and rightful heir? What will it mean for our church if Jesus is Lord of the Church, and Lord of my life? How might we live our lives differently in the Vineyard of the Lord, if I/we are only tenants?
Father, humble us daily, that we will welcome your Son, the heir, when He comes to us. In His name we pray. Amen.