Tuesday, June 4, 2024


Given at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged
June 3, 2024

"A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press, and built a tower. He then leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey. At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
Mark 12:1-12 

Like all parables, this parable is based on an everyday reality that the audience of Jesus would have understood. Many land-owners at the time of Jesus were absentee landlords. They liked to live in much more comfortable places than Israel at the time of Jesus so they bought land, made improvements like fences or walls, planted vineyards and then leased it out to tenets with agreements on how they would share the produce at harvest time.

My youngest brother does something like this down in Meade County. He owns a building material business and has done well with it. He doesn’t trust the stock market. Instead, he buys farm land to lease out to tenet farmers. They agree on what to plant and what percentage each will share at harvest time. One year, it may be corn. Another year, it may be soy beans. Another year it may be wheat.

When harvest time comes, he does not have to worry about being beat up by his tenet farmers who try to withhold his share of the profits like the property owner in the parable. He will either take them to court or simply refuse to lease the ground out to them the next year - or ever again for that matter! If the weather has been bad that year and the crop fails, they both share the loss. 

In this parable, the owner of the vineyard is God and the vineyard itself is the people of Israel – both working together as partners in the vineyard. 

The parable says that when the absentee landlord, God himself, sent his representatives to collect his share of the wine that the vineyard had produced, they were beaten and killed. Why would they dare kill the owner’s representatives? Since an owner could start collecting rental the first time on his investment after five years, maybe they thought that the owner was so far away and so much time had lapsed that they could get away with it, that he maybe had died and they could take all the vineyard’s profits. 

Those listening to this parable would have known that those who were roughed up and killed in this parable were God’s “prophets.”  They would have understood that the people of Israel sometimes forgot about God who was far away and who was, often in practice, dead to them.  As a result, they felt they could do anything they wanted in his absence.

The parable teaches us several things about God.  (1) It talks about God’s generosity. God made sure his vineyard was provided with everything to be successful. (2) It tells us about God’s trust in humanity. The owner went away and left the cultivators to run the vineyard themselves. In the same way, God trusts us to run our lives as we choose. (3) It tells of God’s patience. Multiple times the owner gave the vineyard cultivators a chance to pay the debt they owed. (4) It talks about God’s justice.  People might take advantage of God’s generosity, trust and patience, but there will come a time of judgment and justice.

The parable teaches us several things about Jesus.  The succession of “servants,” the prophets, that they killed was one thing, but finally God sends his son Jesus. They would kill Jesus too, but Jesus would rise and be victorious and God’s will would finally be done! After his rejection would come glory. Even after many rejections, the will of God will always be done. 




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