This is the second parable in Jesus’ reply to the Jewish religious leaders question concerning the source of his authority. While Jesus openly challenged the attitude of the religious leaders of his day in this reading, the Spirit uses Jesus’ words to speak to us today, also.
In the parable, the tenants were given a task: to tend the landowner’s vineyard while he was away. The tenants refused to acknowledge who they were: tenants. They did not want to acknowledge that the fruit of the vineyard belonged to the landowner. They didn’t accept the authority of the landowner. Their lack of respect of the landowner’s authority is reflected in their response to those who came in the name of the landowner: they abused and even killed the landowner’s servants who came in the landowner’s name. In what ways do we, as church, act as if we are the final authority, the landowners, rather than tenants of God’s vineyard?
In the parable, the goal of the tenants is to produce fruit for the owner of the vineyard. The last person the landowner sends is his son. The tenants decide to kill the son so that they can own the vineyard with all its fruit. When do we, as church, deny Jesus’ authority by choosing to focus on the fruit of our labor rather than paying attention to how out labor fits into God’s larger work in the world?
In this parable we learn about Jesus’ authority. Jesus is the son of the landowner. We also learn about Jesus’ authority through the analogy of the cornerstone. The purpose of a cornerstone is to be the beginning and foundation of a building. This cornerstone that the builders, some of the Jewish religious leaders, rejected is powerful: those who reject it are crushed or broken. How can we, as church, remember who we are, whose we are, and whose vineyard we are tending in order to more fully live into Jesus’ authority?