A story of rejection and betrayal
As Jesus journeys resolutely on with His disciples towards His betrayal right there in Jerusalem, there seems to be a sense of urgency as He tries to prepare His disciples for His impending demise. This leg of the journey follows a time of His earlier triumphal entry; He had been accepted, palm branches had been spread before His way, people had been ecstatic at His arrival, but this seems to have changed now and the movement, as always, was being led by the religious leaders, who continually tried to upstage Him by questioning His authority.
Jesus answers them in parables. His parables, told in the language of the day, were meant to teach the people of the day, and now us today, deep truths or lessons we could understand, we could identify with, and we could transfer to situations in our own lives.
This is a story of rejection and of betrayal – absolute betrayal – taken to the point of death. It is a story of the trusting landowner being betrayed in stages by those to whom he had entrusted, even his son and heir. Does that strike a chord within us? This parable, another of the stories that Jesus is telling, was meant to make these scribes and Pharisees uncomfortable and, by extension, even us today.
There are always different levels to these parables, and in today’s troubled society we can simply ask ourselves if we are guilty of betraying those who have trusted us. With all the negativity that is around us, is this as a result of our betrayal of another? Have our relationships with one another become so toxic that we take it to the ultimate and then seek to destroy another? And we can destroy, not only with the physical sword, but also with the tongue being wielded as a venomous sword (Jas 3: 6–9).
At a deeper level, this parable is meant to speak to us of our absolute betrayal of the Son of God. This God had protected His people and provided for them. “What more could be done for my vineyard that I did not do?”
What more could parents do for their children that would enable them to grow in the fear of the Lord, thus leading to a just and equitable society? What more could teachers and educators do to show the right example to their charges, again leading to righteous living? What more could politicians do that would encourage the citizenry to accept one another equally – regardless of race, colour, class or creed?
What could entertainers do, how could they wield their influence to ensure that their followers be not distracted from Godly values? What more could our religious leaders do that would take them out of themselves and show us the way of Christ that would lead us to His eternal kingdom? Where am I now? What more can I do to help foster the kingdom and not betray sound gospel values in a world that seems to be producing so many ‘rotten grapes’? History shows that we betray one another in the blink of an eye. It seems to be the norm.
Even today, these parables are designed to make us think and question our own actions and their consequences. The psalmist saw hope as he cried out to a God whom he knew could restore and save them and us. This God had nurtured His people and had protected them into their prosperity, but they had incurred His anger and His apparent abandonment because of their devious ways.
They had rejected Him, but scripture has shown that restoration is possible, indeed it is inevitable – therein lies our hope today. When all around us seems to be crumbling we must hold fast and know that the stone which the builders once rejected has become the chief cornerstone, and it is wonderful in our eyes.
In troublesome times like these, Paul urges us to be anxious for nothing, rather we should seek to be one with Christ so that the overwhelming peace of God could dwell within our hearts and minds, thus laying to rest the anxieties of our day. What an encouraging disposition of spirit that we could adopt today!
Let us seek to elevate our minds to greater heights and open ourselves to God’s precious spirit so that His love and His peace could enfold us, bringing release to a troubled world. To God be the glory!
The Gospel reflections for October are by Anne Marie Richardson, a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired educator of the parish of Santa Rosa, Arima.