To show the way

Jesus returned to the temple courts and began teaching. But the chief priests and the elders came and interrupted him.

“What authority have you got for doing these things?” they demanded. “And who gave it to you?”

“I’ll tell you,” said Jesus, “if you can tell me something first. John’s baptism – did it come from heaven, or was it a human idea?”

They discussed this among themselves.

“If we say it came from heaven,” they said, “then he’ll ask us why we didn’t believe John. But if we say it was a human idea, we’ll be mobbed by the people because they believe that John was a prophet.”

“We don’t know,” they said.

“Then I won’t tell you by what authority I’m do these things,” said Jesus. “But here’s something for you to think about. A farmer had two sons. One day he said to the first son, ‘Can you go and work in the vineyard today, please?’

“‘Sorry,’ said the son, ‘but I’m too busy.’ But later he changed his mind and went.

“Meanwhile, the farmer had gone to speak to the second son.

“‘Can you go and work in the vineyard today?’ he asked.

“‘Of course,” said the son, but he never went.

“So, which of the two sons did what their father wanted?”

“The first,” they said.

“Well,” said Jesus, “that explains why the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God before you. John came to show you the way, but you didn’t believe him. Yet the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And then, even when you saw what they did, you carried on as before and refused to admit John was right.

“Now then, listen to this. A landowner planted a vineyard, built a wall round it, dug a winepress and erected a watchtower. Then he rented out the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved away to another place.

“When harvest time came, he sent members of his staff to collect his share of the produce. But the farmers grabbed them. They beat one, murdered another and stoned a third. Then the downer sent a larger group of men to collect his share of the produce, but the farmers treated them just the same.

“Eventually, the owner sent his own son.

“‘Surely they will respect my son,’ he said.

“But when the farmers saw the son, they said to each other, ‘Here’s the heir! Let’s kill him! Then the estate will be ours!’

“So they grabbed hold of him, took him outside of the vineyard and murdered him.

“Now, tell me, when the owner of the vineyard will do?”

“He’ll bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they said, “and rent out the vineyard to people who will give him his share of the produce.”

“Can I remind you of something?” asked Jesus. “There’s a place where it’s written: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvellous in our eyes.’

“Listen, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to people who will produce some good fruit.”

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they suddenly realized he was talking about them. They would have arrested him there and then, but they were afraid of the crowds, because all the people thought he was a prophet.

Matthew

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