Twenty-seventh Sunday, Year A
Once more, this morning, we find ourselves in a vineyard as we read the third
of Jesus’ parables using this pastoral imagery in Matthew’s gospel.
As with last Sunday’s reading, again He was addressing the religious leaders,
the chief priests and elders, and it may well be that this particular story, which
clearly points to the passage in Isaiah 5 we heard in the first reading about
God’s frustrated dealings with His people Israel, and the way Jesus points to
himself as the landowner’s son whom the tenants seized and killed may well
have sealed Jesus’ fate with his detractors
Certainly Jesus does not pull his punches in His summary of the story:
‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and
given to a people who will produce it’s fruits.’
They would have been in no doubt as to the meaning of His words.
As in the Isaiah passage, Jesus’ parable is an allegory of God’s dealings with His
chosen people, Israel.
God Himself is the landowner, Israel is the vineyard which God had tenderly
cared and provided for, and which He had expected in return to produce the
fruits of justice, love and peace.
The wicked tenants are the religious leaders to whom Jesus addressed the
parable, those whom God had placed in charge of His vineyard.
The servants whom the landowner sends to collect His produce at harvest-time
are the prophets sent by God and who, time and again, were persecuted and
killed by those to who God had sent them.
The landowner’s son and heir is Jesus himself, whom, again, they seized and
put to death in the hope of taking over the vineyard themselves.
The second part of the reading from Isaiah tells us what happened when the
landowner took the vineyard away from the tenants in a chilling prophecy of
the destruction of Jerusalem in 70ad as the walls of the vineyard are knocked
down and the land laid waste and trampled underfoot.
‘He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity,
but only a cry of distress.’
Those new people whom God made tenants of His vineyard are you and I.
We are the new people of God, and now the expectation placed on Israel is
placed on us: to produce the needful fruits of right living, justice, love and
Jesus, the Son and Heir put to death by the previous tenants is the cornerstone
of this new building, the Church.
The cry of God in the reading from Isaiah comes from the heart:
‘what could I have done for my vineyard that I have not done?’
God had delivered his people from slavery in Egypt, given them the promised
land as their new home, sent them prophets to teach them His ways and
fought alongside them in their battles against their enemies.
But instead of taking heed of His prophets and living as they had been taught,
God’s messengers had been derided, persecuted and murdered.
And so He had sent to them His Son, His only Son, the Messiah promised to His
people from of old.
And still His people rejected Him and the one who sent Him.
Israel had had a privileged relationship with God, there was nothing He would
not have done for them.
But privilege brings responsibility.
God’s chosen people had failed in their duty to Him.
They had squandered the many blessings He had bestowed on them.
So, now, the vineyard was to become a wasteland and God would turn His
favour to a new people.
And just as He gave Israel everything they needed to be fruitful and successful,
so too He provides us with plentiful opportunities and resources and trusts
that we will make the most of them.
Our own, personal vineyards, the lives which God has given us, are completely
But, do we recognise how our lives have been moulded and shaped by God?
Do we recognise the opportunities and resources that God has given us?
The gifts and talents He Has equipped us with?
Have we been aware of the freedom and trust that God gives us?
Have we responded responsibly or have we abused God’s trust in the way the
tenants in Jesus’ parable did?
What were the fruits which God expected of His people?
He looked for peace, but the people made war.
He looked for true and faithful worship and thanksgiving, but the people
turned to idolatry.
He expected justice and compassion in their dealings with the poor and the
outcast, but instead saw corruption, injustice and exploitation.
He looked for generosity and got greed, for temperance and moderation and
got gluttony and drunkenness, for a compassionate and caring community and
got exclusiveness and leaders who looked down on the people.
He had expected humility and found pride, instead of wisdom and godly living
foolishness and false piety.
This was Israel’s story but it is ours too.
We may not have murdered God’s prophets but have we listened to His Word?
Have we taken the time to study the scriptures which He gave so that we could
learn about Him and the way He wants us to live?
We may not have put His Son to death but have we tried to love as He loved,
or serve as He served?
We, the Church are the new vineyard which Jesus planted by His life and His
He loved this vineyard so much He gave His life for it.
We, His followers must now produce the fruits expected of us:
- justice for the oppressed, compassion for the poor and the outcast.
- true and lasting peace in a world where resources are shared not hoarded
by the rich and powerful.
- Love of God made manifest through love of our neighbour.
Harvest time is upon us.
What fruits have we to show for all God’s loving care of us?
May God have mercy on us, and through His patience with His unworthy
people may we bring for the fruits of His great love.
In the name of the father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.