Friday of the Second Week in Lent

Posté par diaconos le 5 mars 2021

Here is the heir : come on ! Let’s kill him !

Voici l'héritier : venez ! tuons-le...

# The parable of the unfaithful winegrowers incites us to be faithful and obedient to the Christic commandments. It threatens anyone who rejects Jesus with divine punishment. In his homily LXVIII on Saint Matthew, John Chrysostom says that the servants sent were the prophets, and the Son of the winegrower, Jesus Christ. God asks humans to bear fruit like the vine in this parable ; this is similar to the parable of the True Vine (Jn 15, 1-12). The cornerstone is also Jesus Christ. At the Angelus on Sunday 2 October 2011, Pope Benedict XVI commented that the vine, the People of God, had to work for good and that believers should remain faithful to Christ in order to bear the desired fruit, the fruit of compassion.

In their commentary on this parable, the exegete Daniel Marguerat and Emmanuelle Steffelk indicated that the murder of the beloved son is an allegory of Christ’s assion. They added, in connection with the rejection of the cornerstone (Luke, 20, 15-19), that the rejected stone [Jesus] becomes a dangerous stone », a crushing stone. It is understood that « the attitude towards Jesus] decides the ultimate fate of the person and those who despise Jesus expose themselves to divine judgment.


From the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew

At that time, Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, and listen to this parable : « A man owned a vineyard, planted a vineyard, surrounded it with a fence, dug a wine press and built a watchtower. Then he rented this vineyard to winegrowers, and went on a trip. When the time of fruit came, he sent his servants to the winegrowers to receive the produce of his vineyard.

But the winegrowers seized the servants, struck one, killed the other and stoned the third. Again the owner sent more servants than the first, but they were treated in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, « They will respect my son. » But when the farmers saw the son, they said to each other : « Here’s the heir: come ! Let’s kill him, we’ll get his inheritance ! »

They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Well, when the master of the vineyard comes, what will he do to these winegrowers ? He is answered : « These wretches, he will wreak miserable havoc on them. He will rent the vineyard to other winegrowers, who will give him the produce in due course. »

Jesus said to them : « Have you never read in the Scriptures : The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone : this is the work of the Lord, the wonder before our eyes ! Therefore I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation that will bring forth its fruits. »

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard the parables of Jesus, they understood that he was talking about them. While trying to stop him, they were afraid of the crowds, because they thought he was a prophet. (Mt 21,  33-43.45-46).

Reproaches to members of the Sanhedrin

Jesus liked to relate his teachings to the Old Testament. But the similarity was developed for his own purpose. This goal was obvious: after rebuking the members of the Sanhedrin who listened to their impenitence, Jesus made them feel guilty by this tragic story; after leading them to pronounce their own judgment, he judged them by telling them about the iniquitous conduct of the leaders of Israel in all times.

They themselves filled the measure of these iniquities by the murder of the one who spoke to them.  A fence was used to protect the vineyard from outside devastation. Among the Orientals, the wine press was dug into the vine itself. It consisted of two superimposed basins, one of which was used to receive the grapes that were thrown into it to be crushed ; the other, placed underneath, was intended to collect the must that flowed into it.

Finally, the tower was a watchtower, built in the middle of the vineyard and from where it could be watched over in its entirety. This did not mean that these farmers would have to pay in money for the annual product of the vine ; the master had concluded a contract with them for the cultivation of his vineyard; he had to receive all or part of his produce in kind.

The winegrowers mistreated and killed the master’s servants, so as not to deliver his fruits to him ; now that they held the heir, they thought that by putting him to death, nothing could prevent them from taking possession of his inheritance.  Jesus forced his opponents to pronounce on themselves the terrible sentence that the wine growers deserved.

In Mark and Luke it is Jesus himself who makes the question and the answer. Matthew’s account is more dramatic: the conscience of Jesus’ interlocutors forces them to pronounce the condemnation of the wine growers, that is to say their own condemnation. Matthew alone kept this comparison of terms, which highlighted how severe and deserved the condemnation was: He miserably destroyed these wretched people.

Jesus wanted to make the leaders of the theocracy feel what this son of the parable was who was rejected and put to death by the wine growers. They themselves were the foolish and guilty builders who rejected the cornerstone. This stone, in the image used by the psalmist, is the one which, placed as a foundation at the corner of a building, supports two walls and sustains the whole building.

This is what Jesus Christ is in the spiritual temple that rises to the glory of God. This glorious destiny, which contrasted with his rejection by men, is the work and the express will of the Lord and will remain the object of the admiration of the centuries : « For it is said in the scripture, ‘Behold, I have set in Zion a cornerstone, a chosen and precious stone; and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. »(1P 2, 6)

The master of the house who planted a vineyard and gave it all his care, it was God who, in his great mercy, founded on this land plunged into darkness because of sin, a kingdom of truth, justice and peace. He entrusted it to his people of Israel, especially to the leaders of the Jewish theocracy. He had the right to expect and demand its fruits, the fruits of religious and moral life: gratitude, love, obedience, holiness.

The servants he sent on various occasions to gather these fruits were his holy prophets, who, alas ! They were always rejected by the many, persecuted and put to death : « Some women recovered their dead by the resurrection ; others were given over to torment and did not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection ; others were mocked and whipped, bound and imprisoned ; They were stoned, sawed, tortured, they died by the sword, they went here and there dressed in sheepskins and goatskins, devoid of everything, persecuted, mistreated, those of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in the deserts and the mountains, in the caves and the dens of the earth.  « ( Hebrews 1, 35-38)

Deacon Michel Houyoux

Links to other Christian websites

◊  Reflections on the sacred liturgy : click here to read the paper →   Friday of the Second Week of Lent

◊ Ra Hanselman : click here to read the paper →    Let’s Kill the Heir – Matthew 21, 38


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