Week 3 of Lent is upon us and the question we are asking today is What do you think you own? As one of Jesus’ parables, this story of the wicked tenants is not that easy to understand or is one that we would be drawn to refer back to from time to time as we do other parables.
Mark places this parable between two major events in the gospel, the account of the triumphal entry and the night Jesus was betrayed. It is one of a number of conflict stories, in which Jesus is either openly challenging or cryptically evading the religious leaders who have it in for him. This is not the Jesus who is silent before his accusers but the Jesus who is right in the thick of things, holding his own. In the story right before this, authority is the issue in question, with the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders asking him who he thinks he is. The discussion ends in a draw, and then Jesus tells this story: landowner, slaves, tenants, son, murder, revenge, new tenants.
But at the end of the parable, Jesus makes an odd leap, asking his opponents if they know the one about the stone that goes from rejection to exaltation, and how amazing that is. It is only at that point that they realize the parable is about them. But how is it about them? And what does the cornerstone have to do with it? It only makes sense if you unfurl it against what is to come, the death and resurrection of Christ. In the parable, the father is outraged, the son is dead and unburied, but the “cornerstone” interruption says the story isn’t really over. Not by a long shot.
I think one of the major questions that we can ask ourselves regarding this parable is who are the tenants now? There are times when we wish to reap the rewards or the acclaim and not give God the true praise or acknowledgement. I’m also not saying we would kill the son, but it is something to think about.
It is really easy to skip over the parables that can make us uncomfortable or that are hard to understand, but part of being a learning community here is admitting we don’t always get it or that what we get we don’t like.
I believe God wants to be part of everything we do. I believe that is one of the reasons the Jesus came to share our human lives. We need to knock down the fences that can keep God out of our lives and enjoy sharing all with the one who loves us always, even if we happen to kill the son.