‘ The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone…’ (Matt 21:42)
Bible Reflection: Read Matthew 21:33-46
In this parable we effectively have the essence of Jesus final days here on earth. Here Jesus lays it all on the line and makes it perfectly clear who He is and why He came. Seldom did Jesus ever make such a direct claim, lay down an unmistakable challenge and issue such a terrible threat. And everyone listening picked up on this, because the overall meaning of this parable was abundantly clear, as were the individual details.
The vineyard was Israel and the owner of the vineyard, God. Those looking after the vineyard were the leaders of the nation, the messengers were the Prophets and the Son, Jesus Himself. As for the threat at the end – Israel’s place of privilege in relationship with God would be taken from them and given to others. If there had even been the slightest possibility of Jesus being able to back track, to make recompense for what he had said and done over the past two days – there was now no chance whatsoever of being able to do that.
For in this passage Jesus quite deliberately sets himself apart from all the others. The days of servant and prophet were now in the past but the day of the Son was now. What else could God do in order to appeal to the people. How much further could He go to invite them back into His fold – and yet we see that even that is not enough. The cross was fast approaching for Jesus. Yet here at the end of this parable we have this expression by Jesus of the confidence of the triumph and vindication to come thereafter, and for this display of confidence, Jesus again turns to the Psalms.
The image of the stone which the builders rejected, but which eventually became the cornerstone, was actually intended to apply to the nation of Israel. As the cornerstone they were the elect, they were the chosen people of God. But here Jesus takes this image and applies it directly to Himself and in so doing he expresses nothing but complete confidence in all that is about to happen.
The parable of the Tenants, is perhaps not one that immediately jumps out at us when we think of all the well know parables that there are within all the Gospels, particularly so at this time of the year. However, it is at this very time in the liturgical year when it does become one of the most important. Why? Because in this parable we find Jesus laying down His final challenge to the authorities and to the people and He does so by claiming this special relationship with God. He is the Son of God and as such He claims the right to judge, to condemn and to reject.
In this act Jesus is completely aware that He is taking the path which will lead to the cross. However, never for one moment does He see that cross as the end. He goes to the cross in the certainty that He will ultimately triumph. The cross is only the beginning – beyond there is a glorious new beginning.
A new beginning which He has invited all of us to be part of……All we have to do is to walk with Him!
Gracious God, we know we can never repay the love you have shown us in Your Son, a love that has given us a bright new future with You, a love that you continue to pour upon us day by day through your Holy Spirit. Yet we long to show You our gratitude by loving you in return, by serving you as you desire and by being the sort of people you call us to be…Set us free from our preoccupation with the things of this world, from our obsession with self and from all that blinds us to what really matters. Rather teach us to live according to the values of your kingdom, to the glory and honour of Your name. Amen