October 3, 1999

Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus told the chief priests and leaders to listen to this story:

A land owner once planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it and dug a pit to crush the grapes in. He also built a lookout tower. Then he rented out his vineyard and left the country.

When it was harvest time, the owner sent some servants to get his share of the grapes. But the renters grabbed those servants. They beat up one, killed one, and stoned one of them to death. He then sent more servants than he did the first time. But the renters treated them in the same way.

Finally, the owner sent his own son to the renters, because he though they would respect him. But when they saw the man's son, they said, "Someday he will own the vineyard. Let's kill him! Then we can have it all for ourselves." So they grabbed him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.

Jesus asked, "When the owner of that vineyard comes, what do you suppose he will do to those renters?"

The chief priests and leaders answered, "He will kill them in some horrible way. Then he will rent out his vineyard to people who will give him his share of grapes at harvest time."

Jesus replied, "You surely know that the Scriptures say,
          'The Stone that the builders tossed aside
          is not the most important stone of all.
          This is something the Lord has done,
          and it is amazing to us.'
I tell you that God's kingdom will be taken from you and given to people who will do what he demands. Anyone who stumbles over this stone will be crushed, and anyone it falls on will be smashed to pieces."

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard these stories, they knew that Jesus was talking about them. So they looded for a way to arrest Jesus. But they were afraid to, because the people thought he was a prophet. [CEV]


1. October 3 is World Communion Sunday. How do you understand this story in light of Jesus' body being broken for you, his blood being spilt for the forgiveness of your sins and the sins of many?
     How many messengers of GOD have you ignored (symbolically beat, killed, stoned)? How do you expect to be treated for your harshness and the way you have humiliated others? Will you be horribly done in, as some religious leaders say? Will Jesus' advocate for you even as you betray him and others? (will he forgive you and welcome you like the thief crucified with him?) What you expect may well be what you receive.

2. Isn't it amazing that the very folks we declare in one way or another to be second-class citizens or people not worthy of GOD's love become, scripturally, those last who become first and enter Heaven before the religiously righteous? Only the Lord would do such a thing! Are you willing to be on the side of such an amazing GOD?

3. I suspect you are willing to say you are willing to be on that side. Most of us would affirm the loving aspect of GOD when it comes to ourselves. It may be that the only way of judging whether or not we are serious about participating in the amazing love of God is to ask how we are passing it one or living it out when we are the ones being injured. Do we yearn to do something horrible to those who have been horrible - the death penalty, for instance? If so we may not have experienced our own having stumbled over the love of Jesus.
     So, is it still time to try to lock up dangerous Jesus? After all, he still takes part in the great reversal -- those who lock up others in rules will be locked up; those who forgive will be forgiven -- and invites you to come along.

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