The promise

deeplyrooted-crThere is something poetic, mysterious, and magical about a vineyard before the harvest on an early morn with the dew on the vine and a just-rising sun glistening upon the fruit. In the full light of day, if you are like me, you probably do not have any experience in the vineyards except perhaps as a visitor.

The vineyard does not just happen by itself. There is complex dance between the vine, the branches and the vine grower. For example, did you know that a single grape-vine can produce as much as 13 feet of new branch growth in one growing season. What happens if all that new growth remained un-pruned? It would not be unusual for that un-pruned vine to have as many as 300 fruit producing buds. While that might sound great, that’s way too many buds for the plant to support. You might have lots of produce, but it will be incredibly low quality, and good for not much. It would probably just end up as fuel for the fire. You would have to remove as much as 75% of the buds and other vegetative growth so the plant can properly develop and ripen the good fruit. The goal is always good fruit. Continue reading

Given to a People

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantine As mentioned in a previous post, this expression ethnos might point to new people of God arising out of Jesus’ ministry and characterized by faith in him. We previously saw such a motif outlined in 8:11–12 and in the rabble of tax-collectors and prostitutes who “go ahead of” the chief priests and elders into the kingdom of God (vv. 31–32). The term ethnos, “nation,” calls for some such understanding, takes us beyond a change of leadership to a reconstruction of the people of God whom the current leaders have represented. Continue reading

The One Rejected

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineThe Traditional Interpretation. This interpretation holds that the parable is a symbolic account of the history of Israel, whose leadership (tenants of v.34) has rejected God’s earlier prophetic messengers (cf. Jer 7:25–27 seen in servants of vv.34-35). In v.37 the parable leaves Israel’s past and intuits the events of the Passion and Crucifixion that lay in the days to come. Indeed, the leaders of Jerusalem will seize Jesus and crucify him outside Jerusalem (cf. v.39). Where the traditional interpretation begins to waver starts in v.43 taking on a different direction from its OT parallel in Is 5:1-7: Continue reading

When vintage time draws near

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineCommentary. This parable begins much like Isaiah 5:1-2 (the reading from the OT accompanying our gospel). It is the third parable in Matthew with a vineyard setting (20:1-16, the workers in the vineyard; 21:28-32, the two sons). What does the vineyard represent? In Isaiah it represents Israel and many have assumed that is its meaning in the parable, e.g., the vineyard = Israel; the tenants = religious leaders; landowner’s slaves = prophets whom they rejected. With this interpretation, we note that the vineyard is not destroyed, but turned over to new tenants. To use another biblical metaphor, the unfaithful, greedy shepherds are removed (Mt 9:36; Ezekiel 34) and new shepherds are installed to care for the sheep. Continue reading

The Vineyard: context

laborers-in-the-field-11thcentbyzantineMatthew 21:33–43 33 “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. 34 When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce. 35 But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. 36 Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 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.’ 39 They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” 41 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.” 42 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’? 43 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. Continue reading