Fifth Sunday in Lent
When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard…. Then the owner of the vineyard said, “what shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him. But when they soaw him they said to themselves ‘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.
The parable of the Vineyard and the unjust tenants is one of the craziest stories I have ever heard. So much of it just doesn’t make sense on the surface. Though it made perfect sense to the Pharisees to whom it was directed. They understood it right away. Me, well I understand it. But I don’t get the premise. It is hard for me to get my mind around a guy sending servant after servant to his own vineyard demanding rent and not getting it. I don’t get why you send another servant and don’t just show up with the authorities. I don’t get why you send your son to these people that have so severely abused your servants and thus ridiculed you. But such is our Fathers love for us. Such is the patience of our God, that he sends one after the other to our vineyards. And what was this fruit that was so precious that is was worth his only son? What fruit was it that he wanted from these guys?
He is speaking to the Pharisees. They were the most outwardly righteous of them all. They lived upstanding lives. The kind of people we like to live by you know. They make good neighbors we say. Not friends, they make lousy friends, but good neighbors. Polite cordial, you can leave your garage open and trust they won’t be the ones stealing from you if something is stolen. They keep their lawns trim. But their too serious about their own righteousness to be good friends. To worried about protocol and what is acceptable and not acceptable, and otherwise just stifling to be around. Those types of people. Good neighbors you say. What did the owner of the vineyard want from these people? These who took his law so seriously?
They did you know. That was the problem. They took his law very seriously, perhaps too much so, or maybe not enough. They were extremely careful to it, but it blinded them. Their pursuit of righteousness blinded them to compassion and mercy. Blinded them to his compassion and mercy, robbed them of faith, of trust in Him.
God wanted fruits of repentance, and they would not give him these because they felt they had nothing to repent of. The Pharisees knew. Do you?
This is why God kept sending prophets, one after another, sent many more than three. The people didn’t listen, or if they did, they do what we do. So intent that we know what God wants to tell us, we go looking for that, and we forget to listen. This is man’s problem. We are legalists to the core, even in our more libertine moments we think like legalists. We may not have it in us to be “overly religious” but then so often we think that is how God really wants us to be. Is it?
No, he doesn’t want us flagrantly thumbing our nose at his law, but then again he doesn’t want us to fall in the other ditch. He doesn’t want us being Pharisees, so concerned about our own righteousness that we miss his compassion and mercy. We can’t make ourselves righteous anyway. We have faith, and that is it. Christ’s righteousness is now our righteousness. Because the builders, those so intent on building their righteousness according to the law, rejected the stone that has become the cornerstone.
They rejected Jesus Christ, more than that their own concern for self righteousness, to make it on their own, to be independent of God, to be righteous without him, without his help, spurning his compassion and mercy the same way any middle class republican spurns welfare even when they find they need it. That concern led them to crucify our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. They rejected the stone that has become our cornerstone, the center the all of our righteousness. Outside him, we have nothing. But with him you have compassion and mercy, the forgiveness of sins.
Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.