Parable of the Wicked Tenants

Posted by Thaddaeus

Matthew 21: 33-44

Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people: “Hear another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a tower.  Then he leased it to tenants and went on a journey.  When vintage time drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants to obtain his produce.  But the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned.  Again he sent other servants, more numerous than the first ones, but they treated them in the same way.  Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’

But when the tenants saw the son, they said to one another, ‘This is the heir.  Come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.’  They seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?”  They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”  Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?  Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God ”


Background:  The Parable of the Wicked tenants is an allegory.  Almost every detail has deeper meaning about something in God’s dealing with His people.  The vineyard is used frequently as a metaphor for God’s people.  In 1867, a site known as the Garden Tomb was discovered by archeologists near the Damascus Gate.  It contains all the features mentioned in the biblical account of Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.  There was an extensive garden of vineyards, a winepress and a water cistern holding 250,000 gallons of water.  The archeological evidence indicates that the vineyard’s owner is a wealthy man.  Joseph of Arimathea was one of the wealthiest men in the world.  He owned many quarries.  At one end of the garden is a cliff face of a nearby quarry with features of a human skull (Ara., “Golgotha”).  The Bible confirms that Jesus is crucified at “the place of the skull” and laid in Joseph’s own garden tomb.


The Parable of the Wicked Tenants:  The site is also known as Solomon’s Quarries.  Solomon used the quarry to provide building stones for Solomon’s Temple, the First Temple.  It is the sacrificial place where Abraham brought Isaac.  The allegorical landowner is God; the vineyard is Jerusalem, or the Chosen People of Israel; the servants are the OT Law, the Psalms and the Prophets; the son is Jesus who is put to death outside the walls of Jerusalem; the tenants are Scribes and Pharisees; the wretched men are the faithless Jews; the wretched death is the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.; and, the kingdom represents the Catholic Church that will be entrusted to the Gentiles.  Here Jesus makes clear the Catholic teaching on merit.  Through Baptism we are let into the vineyard, which is the Church, but we must cultivate the vineyard, or it will be taken away from us and given to a people that will produce its fruit.