“A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey.
At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed. “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this scripture: “‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes’?” (Mark 12:1-12)
After finishing my school education I was looking forward with great excitement to study at a premier College. With 75% marks I sought admission and appeared for the interview, but was rudely shocked to be denied admission. Perplexed I was wondering why I was rejected and soon learnt that even others with similar economic backgrounds were denied admission.
This college was like the vineyard. The owner leased it to the tenants so that they might work it and produce what the owner desired. But then what happens if the tenants usurp the vineyard? In the hands of greedy people who have become owners there is no mission, no accountability to God, no concern for the education of the poor, and no sympathy with the social struggles that the larger society is engaged with.
This parable of the vineyard reveals three aspects of gospel: gospel of resistance, gospel of solidarity, and gospel of hope.
Gospel of resistance
The tenants were denying the rights of the owner, but the owner persisted in getting back what belonged to him. Resistance is not easy. It involves willingness to bear pain. The innocent servant was beaten up for no fault of his. Resistance can be time consuming, demanding and tiring. We must learn from the parable never to give up but to resist.
Gospel of solidarity
The parable reveals how the son of the owner showed solidarity with his father in their mission to retrieve their vineyard. Christian solidarity cannot be localized. It is not only for preaching and theologising. It must be part of our praxis. Often we do not express solidarity with our fellow Christians and God not because we do not understand the issues; instead even after fully understanding the issue, for various selfish reasons and power and prejudice we prefer to express solidarity with the illegal tenant rather than the true owner of the vineyard. Like the son who expressed solidarity with his father we, especially the ones with skills and means should stand by the vineyard owner.
Gospel of Hope
Thirdly, the parable tells us that there is hope for the rejected and the oppressed and the left out. God the Father is our hope. Rejection is temporary because the rejected stone became the cornerstone. Israel will continue to exist, the Church will exist, the institutions of the church will exist as God works transformation in the lives of people, both tenants and servants and owners.
We are a called-out community in God’s mission. We are to stand for justice and truth and support the poor and deprived, and reject selfishness and self-centeredness. If the Church and its members fail to fulfil God’s mission where can we find hope for this world. God has lifted us up and given us this privilege to understand the world and its needs. Out there are very large numbers of marginalized people who look forward to us in hope that we will serve them and not let them down. May the Triune God help us to meet all challenges to ensure that his vineyard is safe and produces useful fruits!
Copyright © Dec 2006. Rev. Henry