Scripture Reading: Matthew 21:23-46 (NRSV)
This section definitely foreshadows the crucifixion. Matthew even identifies the targets of the parables at the end as the chief priests and the Pharisees. These would be the dominant religious leaders in Jerusalem at the time.
As unpopular as taxes are today, imagine
if they were being collected to be sent away
to a foreign government?
We see at the outset that they did not appreciate the ministry of John the Baptist either. He was valued by the people but would have been upsetting to the priests as he may have pulled people away from the Temple for a time out to the Jordan River. Matthew tells us that many of the Pharisees even went out to see him but they didn’t receive a warm reception!
We see once again a reversal of the social order with tax collectors and prostitutes being valued ahead of the keepers of the Law.
The parable of the Wicked Tenants foreshadows the Christian movement beyond Jerusalem which would have been present in Matthew’s day. The crowd listens to the parable about the death of the son of the landowner (Jesus as Son of God) and interpret that the owner will put the tenants to a miserable death as a result. Then Jesus later speaks of the cornerstone crushing anyone on which it falls. Of course, this is written after the violent repression by Rome of the revolt that ended in the destruction of the Temple in the year 70. Many of the Jewish people were killed in this time and this passage would almost mark this event as if they had it coming.
Later generations may have adopted an anti-Semitic attitude from this particular interpretation and so we must remember that when it was written, it was done so by a minority off-shoot of the main branch of Judaism. It would have been seen by outsiders as an intra-religious dialogue rather than a sharp critique of a different faith.
Ironically, when Christians assume the dominant role and set others as the outsiders, we inherit the role of the wicked tenants.
During Lent, I want to examine my own sense of faith and self to make sure that I have not entered into dangerous territory regarding others who may need access to God.
Who today might be going into the kingdom ahead of us?
Prayer for the day:
God, as we begin to move to Jerusalem with Jesus,
we are reminded that we are moving toward the cross.
Help us to recognize the systems and the human nature
that seem to relegate others to this road of suffering.
May we seek to alleviate the painful conditions of this world.
May we be faithful tenants of the world God has given.
Photo by Pictures of Money via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.