04 June 2012

On those Tenants

Gospel Mk 12:1-12

Jesus began to speak to the chief priests, the scribes,
and the elders in parables.
"A man planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it,
dug a wine press, and built a tower.
Then he leased it to tenant farmers and left on a journey.
At the proper time he sent a servant to the tenants
to obtain from them some of the produce of the vineyard.
But they seized him, beat him,
and sent him away empty-handed.
Again he sent them another servant.
And that one they beat over the head and treated shamefully.
He sent yet another whom they killed.
So, too, many others; some they beat, others they killed.
He had one other to send, a beloved son.
He sent him to them last of all, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'
But those tenants said to one another, 'This is the heir.
Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'
So they seized him and killed him,
and threw him out of the vineyard.
What then will the owner of the vineyard do?
He will come, put the tenants to death,
and give the vineyard to others.
Have you not read this Scripture passage:

The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
by the Lord has this been done,
and it is wonderful in our eyes?"

They were seeking to arrest him, but they feared the crowd,
for they realized that he had addressed the parable to them.
So they left him and went away.


If one moves the parable to its logical conclusion, there are a few elements that jump out at me.

  1. How foolish is the land lord!  He continually sends messengers to the evil tenants, expecting a different result.  Isn't this the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.  However, if the landowner is indeed an allegorical rendering of God, things take on a different color.  The landowner abundantly pours out goodness, continually pours out offers, again and again.  The messengers are sent without threats or weapons.  Rather, the  landowner sends those whom he loves and trust to merely retrieve what is rightfully his.
  2. At the same time, how can the landlord show such disregard for the lives of his servants?  And yet, they willingly go.  Again and again.  Wouldn't they have realized by this point that their compatriots did not return?  Their goal appears to be merely (merely, ha -- they pay with their lives) doing the will of the master.
  3. While the crowd believes, logically, that the landlord will destroy the wicked servants, I'm not too sure.  If we stay with the allegory, then we see God not destroying the wicked ones, but through the death of his beloved Son, destroying wickedness itself, not those who commit it. 
Good news for me that my God gives so freely, his prophets listen to him so faithfully and that this same God redeems so gently!

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