Mk 21:33-43, 45-46: The Parable of the Tenants

NICE GUYS?

“They seized him, dragged him outside the vineyard, and killed him.” —Matthew 21:39

Joseph’s brothers intended to kill him, but Reuben proposed they throw him into a cistern where he would die slowly of starvation (Gn 37:21-24). Although Reuben planned to come back and rescue Joseph, the other brothers thought they were being nice guys by giving Joseph a slow death rather than a fast one. Judah was even nicer than the other nice guys and proposed that Joseph be sold as a slave for twenty pieces of silver (Gn 37:26-28).

The brothers transacted the sale of their brother after they had sat down to their meal (Gn 37:25). They were so callous that they could eat after condemning Joseph to starvation, and then sell him between mouthfuls of “grub.” How cold-blooded can the human person be to murder, munch, and sell all together? It’s like shooting someone while snacking on a bag of potato chips.

We can be appalled at others’ callousness, but we must realize we’re the same way. Jesus’ brutal death on the cross is the everlasting monument to the cold-blooded callousness of the human race. By our sins, without flinching, we shared in the murder of Jesus, God Himself (Catechism, 598). Although we try to make excuses, we were no nicer than Joseph’s brothers. We not only killed our Brother, we killed God’s only Son. We killed God. We must repent.

Prayer: Father, this Lent may I be baptized in — immersed in — repentance (Lk 3:3). Promise: “The Stone Which the builders rejected has become the Keystone of the structure. It was the Lord Who did this and we find it marvelous to behold.” —Mt 21:42 Praise: Through the years, the Davids opened their home in hospitality to countless people of all ages.

Source:  Presentation Ministries

Wretched tenants In Jesus’ time, many vineyard owners were rich absentee landlords. They had property in Israel but lived in Rome or other big cities.

Tenant farmers instead could hardly make ends meet: They paid rent, taxes, and social dues. Naturally, they were frustrated, desperate, and driven to violence.

The parable is directed at Jesus’ opponents. The “antagonist” is no longer the landlord, but the “violent and greedy tenants” who do not give God his due. The parable recalls Isaiah’s “Song of the Vineyard” (Is 5:1-7). But while, in Isaiah, the problem lay with Israel itself, in Jesus’ parable it now lies with the leadership of the people. The chief priests and the Pharisees realize that Jesus is directing the parable at them, warning them that patronage will be taken from them and given to those able to produce fruits.

The parable may as well be directed at Matthew’s own community. Stewardship has been transferred to the leaders of the Judeo-Christian community. But they, too, are to take care that they produce proper fruit, otherwise it will be taken away from them and given to others more worthy.

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2010,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.,); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph

Application of the parable

  • Learn how to rightly estimate and improve your privileges
  • Earnestly seek to obtain and retain the favor of the Lord
  • Be prepared to surrender your accounts, with joy rather than grief
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