Today we come to Jesus’ Parable of the Tenants, a thinly veiled attack on the Pharisees (21:45).
A landowner plants a vineyard and rents it out to tenant farmers to care for the vineyard while he is away on a journey. Harvest time comes and the landowner sends slaves to collect the fruit that is rightfully his. The tenant farmers kill the slaves. He tries again with a second group of slaves and the same thing happens. The third time he sends his own son, thinking they will surely respect him. Seizing the opportunity to get rid of the heir, the farmers kill the son too:
This fellow’s the heir!” they said among themselves. “Come on, let’s kill him, and then we can take over the property!“ (21:38).
Jesus asks the crowd what these tenant owners should expect because of their deeds? Death, at the hands of the vineyard owner.
Let’s remember who the Pharisees were: the religious establishment. They were the ones to whom God had given the leadership of His people. But they allow that power to go to their heads and they tried to take what was God’s “property” and make it their own.
We would be a bit naive to think that the same selfish impulse can’t exist in religious people today. Does God ever give us a farmer’s role and we turn it into a power trip? Do our churches and Sunday School classes become our own domains? Does our paycheck become ours? Do we think our kids are our property? Do we even think that our life is our own? Maybe we have not been as malicious as the tenant farmers, but we should heed the warning of their example.