Friday of Lent V – Luke 20:9-20

And he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants and went into another country for a long while. 10 When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 And he sent another servant. But they also beat and treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12 And he sent yet a third. This one also they wounded and cast out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “Surely not!” 17 But he looked directly at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone’?

18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

19 The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. 20 So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor.

We sat in my office for a while after she had told her tale. There was not much to say. There really wasn’t any sort of justification for what she had done. It had been colossally foolish and very expensive. There is a funny thing that happens to us when we make a mistake. We have a natural tendency to double down, plunging ahead, and ignoring all the warning signs. Financial types call it the sunk-cost fallacy. If I have just put a lot of money into a car and the transmission goes out, I will be more likely to replace that transmission, sinking more money into a car which I probably should replace. I am afraid of losing the money I have already spent on fixing the car. So, I invest more money. It is neither wise nor rational. I have done it and, even though it has been explained to me, I still find the urge strong sometimes.

This woman had done something like that. It started with helping someone. It was a good thing to do, but soon it became something else. He was taking advantage of her. But she kept on giving, because she could not bear to think that her investment in this scoundrel had been foolish and a waste. Surely, he would eventually see the light. He never came around. In fact, he bolted out of town just as her money was running out. There had been warning signs, pleas from her friends, but she ignored them. In hindsight it was so clear.

Our sin-soaked minds don’t operate very well sometimes. Wisdom and common sense are rare. What are the tenants in the parable Jesus tells thinking when they take that last step and kill the owner’s son? It makes no sense in any way, yet, having seen how people operate, Jesus’ words have the ring of truth. I can imagine people pursuing just this line of argument and doing what they did. Jesus understands us very well.

In Holy Week, the parable is about to become more than a parable. It is about to become history The men who are entrusted with the care of God’s people will seize, try, and crucify the Son of God. But it is not sin and sinners who have a monopoly on irrational behavior. In a strange twist, their very attempt to seize power and authority unleashes a far greater power and authority when Jesus rises from the dead and vanquishes death itself. He willingly submits to the unjust and cruel death they mete out to Him because He loves and would save wretched and foolish people. God, in His response to sin, makes no sense either in all of this. Praise Him for the cross – a stumbling block for some, foolishness for others, but for us who believe, the power and salvation of God Himself

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