“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
“Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet.
St. Matthew 21:33-46 (KJV)
A few Sundays ago, the above parable of Jesus was read in Church. The priest interpreted this passage as relating to the individual Christian, saying that we as sinful people are the wicked vinedressers and we have a choice to either stay in the sin which killed the landowner’s son (Christ), or to seek forgiveness and become good tenets. The priest also noted how Christ responded to his disciples, saying that they were in error for seemingly denying the mercy of the landowner who is God the Father. Now I take no issue with the interpretation of my priest’s homily. His message was fair and I accept it, but I also have my own interpretation of Christ’s parable in St. Matthew’s gospel. I do not seek to put my interpretation over his, but rather would like it to be taken alongside of it.
What struck me most when hearing this passage read in Church was the line where the wicked servants say: “this is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.” Now this whole parable is in relation to the coming of the Messiah to the Hebrew people, and how those people would respond to the Incarnation. This is rather obvious, but it bares stating outright. The vineyard is creation, the universe, or specifically, the realm which we humans inhabit. God set aside a particular people, the Hebrews, to be stewards of the Father’s earthly possession (possession in the sense of a royal holding or realm). Now, the vinedressers rebelled against the landowner, by claiming the fruits of the vineyard for themselves and ignoring the terms of their contract with the landowner. The Hebrew were singled out from the other nations of the world. They were a people who had been given a Covenant with God. They were to follow His commands and in turn God would see to their needs. Unfortunately for the Hebrews, upon receiving the benefits bestowed upon them by God, they would soon forget their Covenant obligations, so far as to worship pagan gods and to persecute and kill the prophets sent to them by God to remind them of their responsibilities. This is essentially what the Old Testament speaks about. The prophets are referenced as the other servants sent by the landowner to collect what was owed. Now, a covenant is a contract between two parties. Despite the Hebrews being largely unfaithful, God was not going to break the contract or abandon what He had put in place. He was going see to the fulfillment of His Covenant with the Hebrews by sending His Son to be their Messiah. Christ came in part to fulfill to Old Testament Covenant on behalf of the Hebrew people as a whole, but it was efficacious only for the remnant who remained faithful (in all times there is always a faithful remnant). Likewise, outside of the Hebrew Covenant which gentiles were not under, Christ came to save us all from sin, but His sacrifice on the cross is only efficacious for those who are Christian.
Now the Pharisees saw themselves in the characters of the wicked vinedressers. Was this an error on their part? The Pharisees would later have Christ put to death, but this is often explained by modern theologians to have been a result of their failure to recognize Christ as the Messiah. After all, the Pharisees and Hebrews now Judeans (or Jews) were expecting a marshal messiah, one who would come and establish a new Jewish Kingdom and exterminate the Romans interlopers. But this parable of Christ, as well as Romans 9, makes it clear that the great sin of the Pharisees was not that they failed to recognize Christ as the Messiah, but rather that they knew Him to be the Messiah, the Son of God and God Himself, yet they chose to have Him put to death. And they put Christ to death so that they could take the Son’s inheritance for themselves. But what does it mean, to take the Son’s inheritance? The answer is three-fold. The Son’s inheritance is of course the Holy Scripture, specifically in this context the Old Testament which testifies to the coming of Christ. In killing Christ, the Pharisees would be free to interpret the Old Testament in any manner which they desired, and to facilitate this they created a secondary scripture in the form of the Talmud, which provides legalistic justification for almost any act, even acts that would contradict the Old Testament. The second component of the Son’s inheritance is the world itself. Upon the coming of the Messiah, He would assume possession of that which was His, which Christ did upon His ceremonial entry into Jerusalem on a donkey (the kings of Israel would enter Jerusalem on a donkey to symbolize a time of peace, and enter upon a horse if during a time of war). The Pharisees firstly did not want a peaceable Messiah, and secondly did not wish to be subordinated to Him and instead, aligned themselves with Herod and the Romans so that their power and influence could be retained. With Christ killed, the Pharisees would retain their power over the Jewish people, and would instill in them a sense of their superiority over the nations and their divine right to eventually inherit the world through their interpretation of the Old Testament through the lens of the Talmud. Thirdly and lastly, Christ in being the Son of God is God, thus in killing Christ the Pharisees have set themselves up as usurpers of Christ’s divinity, rendering themselves as “ethnically divine”. For modern Jews, the Jewish race itself becomes something to be venerated, if not worshipped, as it is not God’s Christ which saves them but their own bloodline. What this “salvation” is to an individual Jew can vary, but be they religious or atheistic, it is their blood which completely defines and justifies them, and seemingly sets them against gentile nations.
This parable of Christ perfectly explains Jewish history in relation to Christian nations and why there exists such enmity between us. Over the centuries, the Pharisees came to define what today is modern Judaism, and the attitudes which Christ warned us about in His parable persist in that community today. Christ also states that His Kingdom shall be taken away from the Jews and given to others who are able to bring about good fruit. Well, it is obvious that Christ here is referring to the Church, which has utterly eclipsed the fruits of the Jewish people, who are the image-bearers of those who knowingly committed deicide. Now, this parable does not justify pogroms, or any such similar actions. Rather, if anything it should provide a warning to the Jewish people that it is needful for their well-being, as well as for their salvation, to denounce the sins of theirs fathers and to worship Christ. As Christians, it is our duty to inform them of their predicament and not to pretend that they retain the favour of God because of their supposed continuity with the Hebrews. The lineage of modern Jews is that of the Pharisees, and it is because of the Pharisees that Jews today consistently work to undermine gentile society in general and Christian society in particular. The Jews have become slaves to their own blood and it is only through the blood of Christ that they can be freed from the pitiable servitude. And they are pitiable, utterly so. No matter the sins they commit against us we should remember this, but of course they are responsible for their actions. Understanding why people act the way they do does not justify the actions they take, but as Christians this awareness is important so that until the very last moment, one’s eternal life may be saved even if the temporal one has been forfeited through the wages of sin.
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