October 6, 2002

Matthew 21:33-46

"Here's another story. Listen closely. There was once a man, a wealthy farmer, who planted a vineyard. He fenced it, dug a winepress, put up a watchtower, then turned it over to the farmhands and went off on a trip. When it was time to harvest the grapes, he sent his servants back to collect his profits.

"The farmhands grabbed the first servant and beat him up. The next one they murdered. They threw stones at the third but he got away. The owner tried again, sending more. Servants. They got the same treatment. The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. 'Surely,' he thought, 'they will respect my son.'

"But when the farmhands saw the son arrive, they rubbed their hands in greed. 'This is the heir! Let's kill him and have it all for ourselves.' They grabbed him, threw him out, and killed him.

"Now, when the owner of the vineyard arrives home from his trip, what do you think he will do to the farmhands?"

"He'll kill them--a rotten bunch, and good riddance," they answered. "Then he'll assign the vineyard to farmhands who will hand over the profits when it's time."

Jesus said, "Right--and you can read it for yourselves in your Bibles:

  'The stone the masons threw out is now the cornerstone.
  This is God's work; we rub our eyes, we can hardly believe it!'

This is the way it is with you. God's kingdom will be taken back from you and handed over to a people who will live out a kingdom life. Whoever stumbles on this Stone gets shattered; whoever the Stone falls on gets smashed."

When the religious leaders heard this story, they knew it was aimed at them. They wanted to arrest Jesus and put him in jail, but, intimidated by public opinion, they held back. Most people held him to be a prophet of God.

<The Message>


1. While the story is told in the negative (throw the rascals out) its import is in the positive (invite thosee who live "heaven on earth" in).

2. The rejected Stone crushes the rejectors. That is a pretty familiar story about our experience of war and setting up the next war. No wonder some ancient manuscripts lack this verse. I will opt to not read that verse on Sunday. This leaves the end of the story on the importance of living well, even if that puts one on the receiving end of bitterness and revenge.

3. Those who live by public opinion will die at the hand of public opinion. How does public opinion play into living the best way you want to live? It seems that public opinion doesn't just hold evil in check (sometimes) but its real strength seems to be in holding good in check. Check it out with issues of preparing for war with Iraq and not changing the substance of capitalistic profit before all else. Doesn't public opinion really put so much emphasis on relatively minor things that can be understood in "this versus that" terms that there is no time or energy left to consider the big "continuum in the middle" issues.

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