Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Pentecost 17 Matthew 21:33-46, Mark 12v1-12, The Vineyard Tenants

This story is found in Mark, Luke and Matthew. In Matthew the son is taken, thrown
 out and then killed. One obvious explanation of the parable is that Israel is the
vineyard, Israel's religious leaders are the farmers, the servants are the prophets
and the son is Jesus. Isaiah 5:1-7 and Jeremiah 7:25-26 are background texts
The parable is a kingdom parable, a gospel riddle, but without the introduction 
of "the kingdom of heaven is like ..." It comes immediately after the questioning of 
Jesus authority The parabolh is about judgment.

The rejected stone is now the cornerstone. In the Psalms, Israel is the stone.
The Aramaic words for son and stone are similar so there may have been a
deliberate play on words. 
The prophecy of the stone is not found in Mark or Luke's record of the
parable of the vineyard.  Matthew emphasises that Israel's religious leaders
have rejected  the Messiah so the kingdom is given to others.
  
Jesus is baiting the  chief priests and the Pharisees.
The "people" are sometimes the Gentiles, sometimes the people of the land,
the peasants, the poor people. 

The fruit of the vineyard should be repentance and faith. The blessing of God
comes freely and is not dependent on what we do .
  
The prophecy of the stone is missing from some manuscripts. It was possibly
brought over from Luke 20:18, but may have just been missed during
transcribing.The imagery is from Daniel 2:34, 44-45. When the messiah judges
/ falls on those who have rejected him, they will be ground to dust.   

The word  parable is not usually used with  Jesus' illustrations, his teaching
parables, but 
rather when he employs a riddle.

The landowner has planted a vineyard and he put a wall around it and dug a
wine press in it and a watchtower. The landowner rented to some farmers and
went away on a journey.  
When the harvest time came he sent his servants to collect his harvest. The
tenants seized them, beat and killed and stoned them. 
  
So he sent other servants who were treated in the same way.
Then the heir was sent and the tenants wanted his inheritance so they
grabbed him and cast him out and killed him-a link to Jesus' arrest and
crucifixion. (The Talmud states that people who have worked land that is not
theirs for over three years have gained rights for it. In this case, the owner
may then be treated as an intruder)

Jesus draws out a moral that behavior will be punished - the tenants will
lose their living and the vineyard handed to new tenants.
But bad people will come to a bad end and the vineyard given to other tenants.

 The capstone / cornerstone is a capstone, top stone keeping walls together, or 
the corner foundation stone. The builders rejected it as unsuitable, but from God's 
perspective, it works perfectly just like the ordinary people who have been
rejected. 


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Pentecost 16, Matthew 21v23-32, The parable of the two sons

Jesus had gone into the temple and was teaching and his authority as a religious teacher was questioned by the religious authorities. The chief priests led the temple services and were members of the Sanhedrin and the elders or presbyters weren't. 

In return, Jesus asks them a trick question, showing how shrewd he was in understanding the political expediencies at the time and how they mitigated against truth telling as they do today (like Stafford Hospital and  phone hacking) 
By what authority did John performed his baptism? The religious leaders are unwilling to answer due to the issue's political sensitivity and they get heated with one another because they have been caught out!
Jesus says if you answer me  I'll answer you! 

Political expediency is nothing new. The religious authorities supported Herod and Pilate. Church, state, government alliance as in Nazi Germany. they were as slippery as snakes! The people thought John was a prophet even though they saw him as mad. 
They couldn't answer him because they had no theology just political alliances!

Jesus then uses a parable to illustrate his teaching. In the parable the father is God and the sons, the religious and non religious.  Unlike kingdom parables, teaching parables serve to illustrate a truth. The parable of the two sons illustrates the difference between saying and doing. The Pharisees had a real problem with this. They claimed to be mol upright, , tithing mint and cumin, but were hypocrites. 

"What do you think?" introduces the parable

  
The parable of the two sons underlines doing what is right and not merely talking about it. Walking the walk not just talking the talk! Jesus says that sinners, living sinful lives choose to do what is right but the so called moral authorities, the righteous or self-righteous, just talk the talk.
  
The Pharisees knew that despite the special relationship of the Jews to God, they were blessed by their behaviour, not law keeping but doing good! 

The so called righteous were Israel's religious leaders but are excluded from Gods kingdom. This is heresy! Blasphemous! Its like saying the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Pope are excluded from Gods Kingdom!.

But the lost unclean sinners like tax collectors and prostitutes, and outcasts are included in the kingdom!  They were thousands of religious outcasts in Israel at the time, excluded from its social and religious life. Just like in Britain today!

Jesus however discriminates in favour of the poor! What a message for our Coalition government!  Option for the Poor, Liberation theologies of many kind do the same. Positive discrimination! This is rooted in Old Testament theology but not in twenty first century consumer capitalism!

  




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