“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours. So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.
Have you ever known someone who had a child that just didn’t do anything the parents wanted? They rebelled at every turn along the way. They questioned every decision. Tried every boundary. Pushed every button. It seemed like they intentionally were trying to get everyone upset, angry.
Or perhaps it was a little bit closer. Maybe that child was in your family. Or even closer, perhaps you were that child.
This is where Jesus says that God is in this parable. They’ve taken everything that Gods given, and rather than living in thankfulness, they’ve overturned everything and are living in selfishness. They’ve turned away every warning that he sent through a person or circumstance. And yet they continue to “do their own thing” instead of seeing everything is a gift from God.
The owner of the vineyard, who represents God, is at the end of his rope. He has no other choice other than to pull out all the stops and release his “nuclear” option. And that’s to send not just his one and only son, but a son who is beloved beyond all measure.
When the owner was laying out the land, constructing and planting, perhaps the son was with him. Maybe the son played on the construction site, walking through the buildings, digging in the dirt when the vines were being planted. Perhaps the son was also there when the owner met with the farmers, agreeing on what they would do, how they would work the land, and what they would pay the owner from every crop.
The owner logically thinks that the farmers will recognize and respect his son. But there’s nothing logical about what’s going on here. This is greed pure and simple. This is selfishness and arrogance. Period.
And their plan is simple. It’s not complicated. They’ll kill the son, sending a message to the owner to leave them alone. Without the son, there’s no one else to receive the inheritance.
And so, the farmers execute their plan. They execute the son. They end the crime by throwing his body out in an attempt to hide the evidence. These simple farmers, workers of the soil, turn to murder in order to take what wasn’t theirs. They take the ultimate shortcut, cutting out the middleman, putting themselves in a place to take over.
We look at this story and are shocked. Where were the police? Where was justice? Where was God?
And that’s the point. God was there all along. He not only saw what was going on, but he personally experienced it. As the “man who planted the vineyard,” he gave and then saw what people are like. What they’re willing to do in order to get their way.
We look at governmental officials, their abuse of power, and we shake our heads. We look at captains of technology and industry, with their abuse of our privacy and information. We wag our finger at them in disgust.
And yet, the whole point of Jesus’ story is that we’re those farmers. We’re no better than they are. We are just the same; selfish and self-centered to the point of being willing to kill for our benefit.
No one deserves better than we do. No one should be in line in front of us. If someone has something I want, then there is no reason that I can’t take it from them.
It’s like the scene from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda and R2D2 have a “discussion” about a small electric light. Yoda wants it and is willing to fight for it. “Mine. Mine” is the cry of Yoda as he hits R2D2 with a stick.
Yes, that’s you and me. There is an old hymn that describes us so well.
Who was the guilty? Who brought this upon thee?
Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone thee!
'Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee;
I crucified thee.
We like to think of ourselves as oh so cool and sophisticated. We would never do something so childish for something so small. But deep down in the places where we don’t want anyone to see, we know that’s exactly how we are.
We’re that selfish. We’re that petite. We’re that self-absorbed.
Is it any wonder that the world is in such a mess? Is it any wonder that we are so messed up?
Is it any wonder that only God could get us out of our mess?