Monday, April 14, 2014

A Final Lesson

Matthew 21:43 (MSG)
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.”

What did Jesus teach between Palm Sunday and The Last Supper?  I’m guessing these final lessons were extremely important - messages people then (and now!) need to hear.  Warning!  Some of it is pretty harsh.

In one parable, Jesus described God assigning responsibility to the Israelites for maintaining and harvesting His vineyard/kingdom.  According to crop sharing customs, the tenants would owe the owner/God rent periodically.  So three times God sent prophets to speak with the Israelites about collecting His due.  The prophets brought messages from God, the owner - instructions for better kingdom care and requests for God’s portion.  The tenants had managed the vineyard independently for so long that they had forgotten their agreement with the owner.  They didn’t want to change their ways and resented the implication that they owed the owner anything.  Instead of listening to God’s messages, the religious leaders beat and persecuted the prophets.  Finally God sent his son Jesus who perhaps would carry more weight with the religious leaders, but instead the leaders saw an opportunity to seize power by killing the heir.

In this retelling, I’ve mixed the parable with the traditional interpretation.  However, we shouldn’t leave the interpretation in an ancient vineyard.  The Bible speaks to modern day situations too.  Applying the parable to Holy Week 2014 poses many questions.

What if we believers are responsible for growing God’s post-resurrection kingdom until Christ returns?  Are our efforts productive?  Is God sending messengers to correct our behavior?  Are we receptive?  Do we honor the owner/tenant relationship or do we assume an ownership attitude?  What agreement do we have with God as to our share and His share?  Are we honoring this contract (or covenant)?  Are we willing to share the results of our hard work and the accompanying accolades with Him?  And ultimately, would we give it all over to Jesus or try to maintain power and control?

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