2nd week in Lent, Friday – 13th March 2020 – Matthew 21, 33-43. 45-46
When people in authority challenged Jesus, he often responded to their challenges with a parable. If those challenging him didn’t get the first parable, he’d give them a second one. Today’s gospel is just a second parable addressed to the challenge posed by the chief priests and elders about the source of Jesus’ authority (21,23-27). In Isaiah’s vineyard metaphor, the allusion to ‘the house of Israel and the people of Judah’ was unmistakable (Is 5,1-7). There God was the caretaker of this vineyard. Despite careful attention from the vinedresser (Is 5,4), the vineyard produced only ‘wild grapes’. The vineyard’s failure to produce better fruit forced the owner to remove his attentiveness (Is 5,5-6). In Jesus’ parable, the ‘produce’ was fine, but the delivery system was malfunctioning. The problem was not with the vineyard’s production but with the tenants themselves. They were extremely violent, harming and slaughtering the various groups of slaves sent by the landowner. Jesus’ story was no longer about the vineyard, the produce, the tenant farmers, or the slaves. The attention was centered toward the abused son, who was also handled brutally and murdered mercilessly (21,38-39). Jesus’ parabolic twist on Isaiah’s vineyard provided a citation from Ps 118. His scriptural citation shifted the focus of the parable altogether, from a critique of the tenants/leadership (in the parable) to a statement about the son/stone (in the scripture citation). Therefore, this twist was a Christological one in which the landowner’s innocence was really God’s plan: “this was the Lord’s doing” (21,42). This parable could be called “the parable of the rejected and vindicated son”.