There is a lot of violence in the Gospel Lesson from the 21st Chapter of Matthew, leaving us to wonder, where is the Good News?
The vineyard owner did all this stuff: planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press and built a watchtower. Then he disappears. He leases it all to tenants and goes to another country. When it is time for the harvest, he sends a group of his slaves to collect but the tenants beat, kill and stone them. Then he sends a larger group of slaves but the result of death is the same. After all that, the owner decides that they will respect his son, so he sends him to collect and he too is killed. What did the tenants hope to accomplish by not giving the profits to the owner? They cannot possibly believe that the owner, now no longer having an heir, is just going to turn the property over to them unless they believe the owner is dead or will never return. In the parable, Jesus asks the leaders, ‘what should become of the tenants?’ and their answer becomes a self-condemnation.
The setting is very important in this parable. Jesus is in the temple speaking to the leaders. He is only two days away from going to the cross. He will be the sacrificial son, turned over to the hands of the tenants by the absentee landowner (God). The tenants are the leaders of society at that time: the chief priests and the Pharisees. They would be the ones that would plot Jesus’s death and the parable could then be understood as the extreme lengths (eccentric love) God will go to maintain his relationship even with those who oppose him.
The Good News is that through Jesus’s death on the cross, God manifest himself in the world. God’s love is not just for Israel, but for all people. It is through us that God’s eccentric love is shown to others and it is through our actions that God transforms the world.