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Lent for Everyone: Week 4, Thursday (120322)

Lent For Everyone Reading Plan

This is Thursday of the fourth week of Lent. The reading is Matthew 20, with a focus on 33-46. (If you want to listen, scroll to the bottom of that page for the audio links.)

Wright comments on the parable of the wicked tenants (the one where they murder the son of the landowner): In the Bible, the ‘vineyard’ is often used as an image for the people of Israel. In the old prophets, the vineyard has often gone wrong, gone wild, rebelled against its planter. In this story, though, it’s the tenants who are at fault. The ‘vineyard’ itself seems to be God’s inner purpose, Israel as the bearer of his saving plan for the world. As in the Old Testament, God sent prophets to his people, but his people refused to listen. Now at last he is sending his son — and his people, instead of listening, think that if they kill the son they can have the vineyard for themselves.

Jesus then explains the parable in terms of two stones: “the stone that won’t fit the wall but will go nicely at the very top (Psalm 118.22—23), and the stone that will crush all opposition (Daniel 2.34). The English words ‘son’ and ‘stone’ are very similar; in the same way the Hebrew words ben (son) and eben (stone) are very much alike. The rejected son, like the rejected stone, will become the Lord of all and judge of all.”

“This parable is Jesus’ own explanation for what was happening. Once again, telling cryptic stories is the only way you can say the really important things. As we watch, we find ourselves drawn into the action. Are we part of the group that don’t want the Owner to take control of his own vineyard? Would we rather keep it for ourselves?”

I was struck by the fact that as we get closer to Easter, even the parables Jesus tells begin to have an Easter feel to them. In light of that, and in view of Wright’s last question, I was drawn to the old hymn Smitten, Stricken and Afflicted as sung by Fernando Ortega.