Year A 27th Sunday: Matthew 21:33-43

21:33   'Listen to another parable.

There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard;

he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower;

then he leased it to tenants and went abroad.

21:34   When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce.

21:35   But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third.

21:36   Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number,

and they dealt with them in the same way.

21:37   Finally he sent his son to them thinking, "They will respect my son."

21:38   But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other,

"This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance."

21:39   So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

21:40   Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?'

21:41   They answered, 'He will bring those wretches to a wretched end

and lease the vineyard to other tenants

who will deliver the produce to him at the proper time.'

21:42   Jesus said to them, 'Have you never read in the scriptures:

The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

this is the Lord's doing and we marvel at it?

21:43   'I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you

and given to a people who will produce its fruit.'


We remember: Jesus had his royal entrance into Jerusalem. There he cleansed the temple. Then he taught in that temple. First the High Priests and the Elders showed up to ask him on what authority he did the things he did. They were not able to understand that his authority came from heaven. After that Jesus illustrates their situation with parables. Last week he told the parable of the Father with two children who asked them to work for him in his vineyard. One said ‘No’ but did ‘Yes’ after all (they were the former sinners who converted); the other one said ‘Yes’ but did ‘No’: they were the High Priests and the Elders who stood right before him. How courageous! Today Jesus tells another parable with the same message.


Now Jesus cites the song of the vineyard - again a vineyard - from the prophet Isaiah (5:1-7). In the text of Isaiah the vineyard is the Holy Land, prepared by God as a place where the virtues of God (‘fruits’) grow well: love, mercy, justice. But God waited in vain for fruits. So the Land became a desert. That means: the Land was conquered by mighty enemies and the population was transported far away, in exile.

Jesus changes this parable a little bit. Now the vineyard is God’s grace and his promise that merciful people will share his life in heaven. At several times God sent his messengers (prophets) to yield fruit: that is: to see if the population bore fruit by living according to his Law. They didn’t. Finally the landowner sent his Son. They killed him assuming that their way of life was the right way and would last (‘taking over his heritance’).

Now the vineyard, God’s assistance and grace, will go to others: the ones who do live according to God’s Law by practising love, mercy etc. They are the former tax collectors and prostitutes, the former sinners who repented and converted and by doing so lived according to God’s Law: Jesus’ disciples.


Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23 to illustrate his story. The stone rejected by the builders is Jesus, killed by the religious authorities of his days. But he became the fundament of a totally new temple: the congregation of his disciples.

Picture Meditation

The artist places Jesus in the lower left corner with Peter behind him and some disciples. In the opposite lower corner we see the religious leaders of his days at whom his speech is directed. Here they are pictured as a pope, a bishop, a cardinal, a vicar and a religious sister. In the central triangle we see the parable Jesus is telling.

In the upper left corner the landlord is looking at the vineyard he made for his people. In the upper  right corner he is residing and sends his employees - in red, the colour of the landlord(!) and with briefcases- to collect the fruits. But arriving in the vineyard their colour changes into blue, the colour of heaven. They are victims of the violence of the workers in the vineyard.  But the one who is pushing the stone - in the centre - is still in red. He pushes the stone over the edge where the religious notables are gathered. The stone is marked with a crucifix. It will crush them. And below them... a little child. Sign of a new generation which will bear fruit...?

We remember Jesus’ words: ‘Unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingship of heaven (Matthew 18:3).

Looking at the picture I ask myself when and where the Lord asked me to work in his vineyard; or did he send me as one of his employees to collect fruits? Or were there moments when I looked like the aggressive ones, longing to possess what was not mine or jealous of others who had what I longed to have? Or am/was I the pope or one of his companions?

Or am/was I the little baby...?

Finally I have a talk with one of these figures, with Peter, with Jesus himself.


Meditation by Fr Dries van den Akker S.J