The preacher who enters the scene described by Jesus in this passage will want to tread carefully. It presumes an agrarian system filled with exploitation, resentment, and eventual overflowing violence. Before it becomes an allegory about the rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, it is an audience participation exercise where Jesus’ hearers would have chosen up sides over the justice and realities of absentee landlords. Some helpful background on peasant household economics appears in Social-Science commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, by Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaught (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003, pp. 390-391).Is it possible to preach this text in a non-supersessionist way? What effect will the recent attacks upon worker’s rights in the United States have upon the way that this text is preached?
Nevertheless, the story is used to bring judgment on the religious leaders, vindication of the rejected son, and an announcement of a new group of tenants “that produces the fruits of the Kingdom.” We can get stuck within the cycle of accountability, judgment, and replacement in this story or we can look to the one who is the cornerstone of a new community. Are we up to the task of interpretation and is the congregation up to the task of producing a harvest for God in response to the grace of Jesus Christ?
Homily Service: an ecumenical resource for sharing the word, vol. 41, no. 4, p. 53-54.
Stephen C. Kolderup is the pastor of First United Presbyterian Church in Leroy, Illinois. He was part of the creative team for the Worship For Life curriculum from the Calvin Institute.