Jesus continues his merry way, deliberately giving further offence. At least to his people's leaders, if not to all of them; to their religion & culture as a whole. Politically incorrect this may be today, but Jesus, quoting Isaiah & the Psalmist, is speaking in the Spirit of True Prophets gone before. Those who, almost in procession were sent to to the vineyard's tenants & rejected by them. (Those who promulgate & practise a particular style of so-called 'prophecy' in today's church as a 'sign' of the Spirit's presence, beware! Among our Hebrew spiritual forbears, only false prophets were so welcomed!) The case Jesus makes against his nation & its leaders is watertight. Or will be made so when it's fulfilled in his, the Son's Passion. The ordinary people who hear him from their margins have a pretty shrewd idea of about whom he's talking, even if they don't yet get where he himself comes into the story.
The landlord's looking for a return on his investment. As entrepreneur he's as much at work in this project as those to whom he leases the vineyard. Don't let the tale fool us into an impression of an absentee landlord. It is a tale, & we're not to read into his absence from the day to day workings of the vineyard any God's-in-his-heaven-all's-right (or, wrong in this case!)- with-the-world deism. Jesus' own presence among us gives the lie to that. Life in the vineyard of the world is meant to be an ongoing co-operative joint-venture with God. A labour of love. The end return of the vineyard is meant to be one big ongoing joyous celebration. Celebration as an aim of Jesus is something we frequently overlook.
But in this yarn, the return God gets is gratuitous, dis-graceful. Pain. The one 'full of grace & truth', who's telling his own story, of his own mission, is usurped, rejected, destroyed, forced from the very centre out into the margins of life & death with all the other little people. What irony! The story's not just about the rejection of Jesus, but in him a rejection of God's purpose(s) for all of us in the Big Picture. The Vineyard.
If the Christians are those who replace the Hebrews who've previously leased, operated & usurped the vineyard, wouldn't we have to admit that many of us & our leaders haven't shown any marked improvement over the outed management we in turn have usurped? Isn't the way we also mismanage the vineyard crying out for our replacement, too? Despite the lip service we pay to Vineyarder, Son, & Spirit, does God really have much if any more to show for his investment in Creation than under the old regime?
How's the vineyard we're working in? What shape's it in? Have we shown the door, or worse, to any who've tried to point another way lately? Usurped the management lately? Are we enjoying & celebrating our role as co-creators with God, or just trampling the grapes of wrath?
Can a true prophet survive in today's church any more than under religious heavies of earlier days? Most of the true prophets I discern today (or, recently) operate outside the churches rather than inside them. Out there in the margins, where they are listened to & respected. If a 'prophet' continues to operate within the system, maybe we should be more than a little wary of their bona-fides?