Working in the Vineyard
Isaiah 5:1-7 and Matthew 21:33-46
In both these readings we have a picture of a Vineyard.
There is a lot buried within the parable and it would not have been lost on the chief priests and scribes as they would be aware that he was talking about the people of God. (Isaiah 5:7)
It tells us of God's TRUST in men.
The owner of the vineyard entrusted it to the cultivators.
He did not stand over them to exercise a police-like supervision. He went away
and left them with their task. The action of the owner was quite common in Palestine.
The owner let the tenants have use of the vineyard, and in return they paid him a portion of the harvest in kind or in money. God pays men and women the compliment of entrusting them with his work in his church and in his world.
It tells of God's PATIENCE.
The master sent messenger after messenger. He did not come with sudden vengeance when one
messenger had been abused and ill-treated. He gave the cultivators chance after chance to respond to his appeal. God is so patient with us with our sin and will not give up on us.
But it also tells us of God's JUDGMENT.
In the end the master of the vineyard took the vineyard from the cultivators and gave it to others. God's sternest judgment is when he takes out of our hands the task which he meant us to do.
The parable also has much to tell us about men.
It tells of human PRIVILEGE.
The vineyard was equipped with everything—the hedge, the wine press, the tower—whichwould make the task of the cultivators easy and enable them to work well. God never asks us to do something without giving
us the equipment to do it.
It tells of human FREEDOM.
The master left the cultivators to do the task as they liked. God is not a tyrannical task-master, but there will also be a day of reckoning. We are answerable for the way in which we have lived our lives.
This was a picture of God’s love and provision for us.
There is a protective hedge around the vineyard, winepress and tower. This was a vineyard that was well provided for and protected. This is about privileged people.
God has given us the world and he offers us His protection and provision for us. He then gives us the freedom to get on with our lives. God does not keep making demands. He trusts us and seeks a faithful relationship with us, but He does want some response. In all his dealings with us God is patient, even when we ignore him and his messengers. God gives us chance after chance but this cannot go on for ever. If we ignore him, that has its own consequences. It is not that God turns away from us; as a nation we have turned away from God and not given him his due. We are all answerable to God for the way we use the world and how we live our lives.
Through this parable it is easy to pass judgement on the House of Israel and keep the story in the past. It is easy to pass judgement on those outside the church – the so called unbelievers. This avoids the issue of God speaking to us, as individuals and as a church. So we need to ask the questions - Do we heed God's messengers? Do we hear God speak to us, from his word, and in the sermons? Do we give God his due? Or do we resent what we have to give to Him and the church. Are we certain we show respect for his world? Before we point at anyone else, we need to remember that three fingers always point back at us. It is so easy to see the Pharisees and the Scribes as the villains but we are all made out of the same stuff. Jesus is being rejected today just as he was then, but he is the foundation stone on which everything is built, and the corner stone which holds everything together.
When things around us are falling apart, when the going is really tough – it is time to remember we are loved by God beyond anything we can even begin to imagine.