The devotion this week is from the alternate Gospel reading in the one-year lectionary for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity. To read a devotion based on the other Gospel reading option, click here.
–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Hear another parable. There was a master of a house who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a winepress in it and built a tower and leased it to tenants, and went into another country. When the season for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit. And the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first. And they did the same to them. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus 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 marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:33-44 ESV)
Jesus is in dialogue with the chief priests and the elders of the people as he speaks this parable. He is inside the temple just days before the final Passover He will celebrate and just days before He is crucified. Just the day before, He cleansed the temple. The chief priests and elders confront Him, questioning under whose authority He dares to do such things. They clearly show that they have to idea who He really is. So Jesus begins to speak to them in parables.
The people of Israel are the tenants. They, like the fig tree Jesus curses earlier (Matthew 21:18-22), have not borne the fruit which Yahweh expects. They have not showed mercy and walked humbly with Yahweh. They have rejected His gifts and His ways. With every overture, they have beaten and killed His messengers, the prophets. Finally, Yahweh has sent His Son, Jesus, into their midst. And they are about to kill Him. In the course of the telling of the parable, they pronounce their own judgment: that they should be put to a miserable death and the vineyard be given to others.
And so it has come to pass. They rejected Christ, the cornerstone, and were put to eternal death. The vineyard — the gifts and promises of God — which was originally given to them has now been given to others.
We who have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection are the new tenants of the vineyard, and we bear fruit 100 fold. Jesus brings to bear in and through us the fruit of mercy, humility, faith in Him, love of neighbor and more. He is the Son who willingly goes to the cross for the sake of the tenants-to-be so that we may inherit through Him eternal life, forgiveness of sins, holiness, righteousness and blessedness. God has made a new people for Himself through His Son, and thanks be to God that we are it.
Let us pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, You are the Great Owner of the Vineyard; continue to spread the gifts You give through Your Son to new tenants through Baptism into Your Triune Name so that the fruits of love, forgiveness, and mercy may continue to grow until the time of the final Harvest, for the sake of Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion.