The parable of the tenants

Published October 3, 2020, 7:58 PM

by Manila Bulletin

MATTHEW 21:33-43

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey. When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’ They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;/ by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes? Therefore, I say to you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Fruits of the Vineyard

The vineyard is a familiar symbol of Israel, God’s chosen people. God made a covenant with Israel and promised to look after his people. All the good things God has done for Israel are illustrated in the parable of the Gospel, in the person of the landowner who plants a vineyard, puts a hedge around it, digs a wine press in it, and builds a tower.

Landowners may be ruthless and cruel, neglecting the well-being of their tenants and regarding them as their property. They may not share their crops with the tenant workers. The landowner in Jesus’ parable is the exact opposite. Everything that Israel needed, God provided. The painful thing was that the Jews desired only the fruits of the vineyard, but rejected the landowner. In the parable, the tenants do not appreciate the trust and confidence that the landowner has reposed on them in entrusting the vineyard to their care. They are given a free hand in running the property. All that the landowner expects upon his return is his legitimate share of the crops.

To his horror and dismay, the landowner, who has dispatched servants to get his share, is rejected by the tenant farmers. They beat one servant, killed another, and stoned another. The landowner sends another batch of servants who suffer a much worse treatment. Finally, the landowner sends his son in the hope that the son will be respected by the tenants. The son stands for Jesus Christ who, like the son in the parable, will be thrown out of the vineyard and killed.

The stone rejected by the builders, Jesus, will later become the cornerstone. Jesus hanging on the cross at Calvary appears despicable before the Jews, considered a person accursed. On the third day, however, when he is risen from the dead, Jesus gains eternal life. This new lease on life extends to forever, and it is a totally different kind of life we will share with God and all his followers.

SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2020,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: