An Obvious Parable
The text this week is Matthew 21: 33-46. This is the parable of the wicked tenants. The landowner sends his servants to collect what is owed him and the tenants beat and kill them one after another. The landowner then sends his son, and they kill him as well. The prediction is that when the landowner himself arrives the tenants will be put to a miserable death. This is not the place to discuss what hell looks like, yet we can at least acknowledge that the tenants will not arrive at a good end.
It is crystal clear that this parable is an analogy to creation and the Kingdom of God. It is also clear that those killed by the tenants were God’s prophets and the son is, of course, Jesus, also a prophet in the Jewish tradition. It is only at the end do the chief priests and Pharisees realize that Jesus is talking about them. To be fair, though, we have the benefit of hindsight. But what of our current sight?
Who Are We in This Story?
It is easy to read this and feel smugly confident that we will not do what those wicked tenants did. Yet can we be so sure? It is all too easy for any of us to get so wrapped up in picayune rules and judgmental attitudes, that we may in fact be acting like the wicked tenants. While it is highly unlikely that we would put anyone to death, we may in our smugness put someone’s faith to death.
Have we become too enamored of the “rules” and the “correct” way of going about our response to God’s gifts of grace upon grace that we turn seekers away. Further, are we turning away from those modern-day prophets that God has placed in our midst that are calling us to give God what is His. What is His is everything that we can give. This means our devotion, our worship, and the best response we can to further the expansion of the Kingdom of God. The fruits of this kingdom that God seeks are penitent hearts and a faithful humanity. This is what God is coming to claim.
Those God sends to proclaim will very likely preach a message that is uncomfortable. A message of radical love, radical forgiveness and radical peace. This is not the way of the world and too often we get caught up in that world. These modern-day prophets may not look like us, and they assuredly will not act like us. They may even be considered treasonous or turncoats to the rah-rah world we too often inhabit. We know they are from God by the very message that makes us so uncomfortable. If someone is telling you who to fear and hate, then be confident that this is not God speaking to us and that this is a false prophet.
Rejecting those true prophets proclaiming the uncomfortable, yet salvific message of our Lord is bad enough, but equally disastrous is rejecting those seeking something beyond themselves because they do not fit our preconceived notions of what the faithful should look like. These seekers may be tattered and abused by the values of this world. They may be bedraggled and marginalized. These are the very people we should be on the lookout to help, and they are whom those uncomfortable prophets call us to help. Rejecting any of these is rejecting God Himself.
A Better Response
The better response that we can offer God to all that He has given us is to accept those that come in the name of the Lord preaching what makes us uncomfortable. That very discomforting message may be the best proof that this messenger is from God. Also not to be rejected are those bedraggled “misfits” who exist on the margins of “respectable” society. These are the least of these that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25:37-40. It requires a deep dive into the recesses of our hearts to realize that these are His people, and we must unconditionally open our arms to them. This is not complicated, just as hard as a heart attack to accomplish.
The end of this parable sees Jesus reminding everyone that the stone that was rejected (Jesus) was the cornerstone upon which God builds everything. It is these whom the world rejects, both prophets and the marginalized seekers, that are the cornerstone of God’s kingdom. Do not gloss over the obvious analogy that Jesus is making in this text and assume that we are surely on the good side in all of this. We must always examine ourselves and recommit to responding to God’s awesome gifts by radically working for the building of His Kingdom. That is hear these words, believe, then obey.
Praise Be to God