|Philip Uffenbach (1566-1636), Parable of the Tenants and the Vineyard Owner|
Twenty-seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year "A") - October 3, 2011
“YOU BROUGHT A VINE OUT OF
[Texts: Isaiah 5.1-7 [Psalm 80]; Philippians 4.6-9; Matthew 21.33-43]
Three scriptural texts today—the reading from Isaiah, the psalm and Jesus' gospel parable—speak of God's vineyard. The vineyard represents both God's chosen people
and the church. Israel
It is unclear when Psalm 80 was written or which calamities caused
The Greek Bible adds a superscription to the psalm “concerning the Assyrians”, referring to the conquest of
Still, as one commentator observed, “whatever the historical setting, the psalm in its continued use belongs to the repertoire of the afflicted people of God on their way through the troubles of history” (J.L. Mays). Or, in the words of the Protestant reformer Calvin, “This is a sorrowful prayer, in which the faithful beseech God that he would be graciously pleased to succour his afflicted Church”.
This lamentation reminds God of past saving deeds as a prelude to pleading for divine intervention in the present dire circumstances. Thus, the exodus is narrated as a transplantation of God's vine from bondage in
After such promising beginnings, the psalmist wonders how God could allow the vine to be devoured, ravaged by the beasts of the field. At times biblical thinking fails to distinguish between primary and secondary causes, so that the actions of an enemy of
are attributed to God, “Why then have you broken down its walls...?” Israel
The question receives no answer; instead the psalmist reiterates
Isaiah's “Song of the Vineyard” addressed what went wrong with God's planting,
Having “hewed out a wine vat in it”, God had hopes that
It has been suggested that in today's gospel Jesus followed an old form of synagogue address, producing a part of the Scripture lesson for the day (Isaiah 5.1-2), illuminating it with a parable and underscoring his words with further biblical passages such as Psalm 118.22 and Daniel 2.34-35, 44-45, which follow the close of today's gospel reading (Matthew 21.44-46).
So today's gospel parable becomes an allegory that speaks about faithlessness and judgment and in which many elements have symbolic value (e.g. vineyard=Israel; householder=God; tenant farmers=leaders of Israel; fruit=what is owed God; rejection of the servants=rejection of the prophets; sending and rejection of the son=sending and rejection of Jesus; tenants punished=Jerusalem destroyed; new tenants=church).
The judgment Jesus pronounced after the interpretation of his parable, “therefore..., the
Strict attention to details of the parable suggests it is the religious leaders who are rejected, and no conclusion may be drawn about God's continuing relationship with his people