Matthew 21:33-46 (NRSV)
33"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. 34When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. 35But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. 37Finally he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance." 39So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?" 41They said to him, "He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time." 42Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures: 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is amazing in our eyes'? 43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. 44The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls." 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. 46They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
Once again our reading speaks of judgment using the image of a vineyard. But this time it is not the vineyard but its tenants who are being condemned. Despite doing nothing to establish the vineyard, these tenants refuse to acknowledge their debt, abusing and killing those sent to collect the rent, and even killing the son under some insane hope of collecting his inheritance! If any were ever worthy of condemnation, it is these tenants.
But we also are like these tenants. Forgetting that everything—even our very self—is a gift from God, we act as though we have earned everything we have. And when God’s Son came among us, we joined those who defiantly seized him and killed him.
Yet God has responded by raising Jesus from the dead to be the cornerstone of our salvation. This is death for all who would please God by their own efforts, and new life for all who receive this gift in faith. “This was the Lord’s doing, and it is amazing in our eyes.”
God who provides, give me this day my daily bread, and open my eyes to see all that you are giving me, through Jesus Christ. Amen.