Open our ears, O Lord, to hear your word and know your voice. Speak to our hearts and strengthen our wills that we may serve you now and always. Amen.
Throughout the gospels Jesus shared the truths of the Gospels with His Apostles and disciples through parables. In very general terms a parable is a story that’s used to teach a spiritual truth or moral lesson; the parables of Jesus often couched these lessons in terms that the Jewish population of the day would understand. Today’s Gospel is no exception to this and we see Jesus using a story about a vineyard to teach the great truths of the Gospel plan.
I’m sure that when some of us first read this story we may have had difficulty seeing the Gospel truths hidden within it. Often the parables seems confusing and hard to interpret especially given that we’re not first century Jews and the basis of our life is quite different to them. However, if we ask the Spirit to dwell within us and enlighten our minds, and if we do a little study, the parables can easily be opened to us.
As foreign as vineyards and workers wanting to murder and steal an inheritance may be to us today’s parable of the Vineyard holds a surprising message for us. Encapsulated within this parable is the whole mission of Jesus and our part in the plan of salvation. Each character in the story represents “players” in God’s great plan of redemption and I’m sure that the Apostles were as amazed at figuring this parable out as I was when I first realised what it was about.
The parable stares with a man who is preparing a vineyard; in this parable the man represents God and the vineyard refers to his people. Just like a vigneron tends his vines and wants them to mature and reach their full potential God tends to his creation. When the Father placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He wanted them to be full of Joy and live a life in full communion with Him for all eternity. Sadly we all know how that story goes; however, just like a vigneron wouldn’t abandon his vines God has not abandoned us. He wants to vineyard to prosper and for each and every one of us to return to Him.
As God has tended to the vineyard over the years His chosen people have been tended to by leaders. These leaders, the Jewish establishment, are represented by the vinedressers; these people were chosen by God to tend to the vineyard, to carry out His will and to make sure that His children could obtain salvation. To ensure that this was happening the Lord sent Prophets to His people to ensure that the message of salvation was being heeded by all and taught with fidelity. In the parable these prophets are represented by the servants sent by the Master. One would expect that these heralds of the Lord would be welcomed in the vineyard and their message would be headed however any student of the Bible will know that this wasn’t the case. Those tending the vineyard weren’t keen on having the Masters “spies” in the vineyard reporting back or telling them what to do. So instead of heading the Masters word and be ready for the harvest they killed the servants. This is exactly what Israel did throughout their history; they treated the chosen prophets of God with contempt and rejected their messages choosing to follow their own wills instead of God’s.
It’s for this reason that the Master had to resort to sending his son, just as God had to send His own Son Jesus to the earth. So what did the workers do to the son? They did exactly what the people of Israel did to Jesus. They threw him outside of the walls of the vineyard to be killed. This action has a double meaning in reality; firstly we know that Jesus was killed outside of the walls of Jerusalem and secondly those who tended the Vineyard (the Jews) didn’t actually put Jesus to death, instead the Romans (those outside the vineyard) carried out this task.
The concepts raised in this parable raise an interesting question for me; if humankind was able to be obedient, if we were able to truly follow the will of God from the beginning, how different would love on earth be? Would Jesus have had to sacrifice His life for us? Would there be sickness, disease and death? Many of us have a tendency to blame God for these things; how many times have your hard people say “why does God allow evil?” or “If God was real He wouldn’t allow all this war” or a myriad of other statements. What this parable points out for us here is that none of this is actually God’s will! He created a vineyard for us that was perfect and He has done all that he could to keep it this way. It is the fact that we couldn’t listen and follow the plan that has led to a world full of evil and heartache; God doesn’t perpetrate evil those who tend to the vineyard do!
The parable ends with a dire warning to those of Israel who were listening. The vineyard will be taken away from those who do not tend it correctly or who reject those who are sent to manage it. So who will the vineyard be given to? Who will reap the rewards meant for the vineyard workers? The answer is those who are obedient to God and who bear the fruits of following the path that Christ has laid out.
It is my hope brothers and sisters that we will listen to the Son and not be like the workers in the vineyard. We must try our hardest to work out what it is that God would have us do and follow that path with all of our hearts. If we do so, at the great last day when we stand before the throne God will look into our hearts and welcome us into His kingdom with open arms.
Let us pray:
Lord God, we are grateful that you have prepared this world for us and that you have sent righteous workers to tend to it. We ask that your blessing will fall upon all of those you have called to minister to us that they may reach your word and care for your people. May our hearts always be open to heeding their words and following the paths of righteousness so that on the last day we may be found worthy of our heavenly abode. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.