“The Last Great Prophet”
Having recaptured the Temple for God and the people, Jesus returns to it the next morning and uses it as his platform for a great series of prophetic utterances, teachings and intellectual dialogues with his enemies. It is almost like another great ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ only this time in the Temple. As the last and greatest of the prophets, here is Jesus challenging the Nation and its leadership to rediscover its roots in God. Central to this whole episode are the Vineyard parables.
28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29 “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30 “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31 “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32 For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
The vineyard represents the whole experience of being, belonging to and serving in and for the people of God. Israel, the household/nation of God is the vineyard. Jesus prophetically denounces the political and religious leadership of Israel as the brother who offers praises but no action, whilst the outcasts and lowly become the obedient and loving.
During the Coronavirus, we have been called to pray more urgently for our leaders. This Holy Week continue to pray that our nation and its leadership might rediscover its roots in God. We also remember during this crisis the outcasts and rejects who are suffering acutely, in particular we continue to pray for sex workers connected to the Managed Approach in Holbeck.
33 “Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 34 When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit.
35 “The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37 Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.
38 “But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39 So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
This second story is even more devastating than the first.
The Chief Priests and the others are the tenants in the vineyard of Israel. The vineyard owner is God and the servants he sends to collect his fruit are the great Old Testament prophets. These prophets had been generally ignored, ridiculed, persecuted and rejected by the tenants. In talking about himself as the son, Jesus is setting himself up as the last and greatest of the prophets, but he is also daring to be different from them. He is the one and only heir.
In Holy Week we remind ourselves that Jesus was sent as a prophet calling us back to God, but more urgently as a son and heir who would die for the whole world. It can be hard but helpful to remind ourselves of ways we reject Jesus. When God asks to be your loving Father in all areas of your life, in what areas do you reject Jesus?
Do you still have a reminder on you (Stone? Thread? Drawing of the cross?)—keep reminding yourself that all Jesus did this week was in preparation for the cross.