Friday of Pentecost 19 – Matthew 21:33-46

33 “Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. 34 When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. 35 And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. 37 Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40 When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41 They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
    and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46 And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet.

“Hear another parable.” Jesus is getting desperate, but not because these men to whom he is speaking are about to kill him. He knows how this will play out. It is Holy Week when he speaks these words, those tense days leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. No, Jesus is desperate for their sake. “Hear another parable.” Why another? He is going to die anyway. They will conspire and plot, suborn his disciple, and finally push his case through a hastily convened kangaroo court. The governor will cave to their demands and Jesus will die the tortuous death of the accursed, crucified by Roman soldiers. He is not trying to change that with this parable. He has come to save this whole world through that death. Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from this earlier in the book and Jesus called that Satan’s way of thinking.  Why another parable?

I see Jesus’ gaze moving from man to man, and they were all men, in that crowd of Pharisees, Sadducees, Priests, and scribes. He stops on each face. Were some of them wavering? Nicodemus had wavered and secretly followed him. Joseph of Arimathea was one of the elites in town. He would ask for Jesus body along with Nicodemus after Jesus’ death. There were those in that crowd who might be called out of their hatred and into something else. That is why Jesus tells another parable.

The religious leaders did not miss the point of the parable. They were the wretched tenants and the owner of the vineyard would surely put them to a wretched end. Does Jesus pause a little longer on the face of the old man in the second row of his enemies. Does he see a glimmer of doubt there? Is that we he is looking for. Does he tell this parable for that man, so he can escape the crushing judgment which follows their terrible deed?

I have imagined all this. I do not know that this scene played out in just this way. But Jesus loved the men who murdered him with a judicial system. He spoke one more parable because he loved them and would that they not participate in this betrayal of justice. Hear another parable and repent. It is not too late. God’s love is deep and wide and enough for you too. Hear another parable.

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