Matthew 21.33-43, 45-46
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’
Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is amazing in our eyes”?
‘Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom.’
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet.
The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
Have you ever struggled with a really difficult jigsaw? The sort of jigsaw that has many, many pieces that all seem to be the same colour. The sort of jigsaw that makes you want to give up. The sort of jigsaw that takes great determination to complete. Do you remember the feeling when the piece that you have put to one side time and time again suddenly slots into place? Do you remember the times when the most inconsequential piece turned out to be the one that unlocked the mysteries of that really difficult jigsaw? Today’s reading presents us with a similar situation in our spiritual lives.
Jesus speaks to the chief priests and elders of the Jewish community about a landowner who entrusted his vineyard to tenants. He clearly gave them the freedom to use his land in the way they perceived to be the best for themselves. When the harvest came and the landowner sought his share of the output from his land his messengers were attacked and killed. Even the landowner’s own son was killed in the misplaced belief that this would leave the tenants in possession and control of the land.
Those who heard Jesus’ parable would have understood that the landowner’s messengers represented the prophets, whilst being less certain about who Jesus was referring to when he spoke of the ‘son’. Of course, we know that the ‘son’ in the parable was Jesus himself, the Son of God.
Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus was rejected, and yet he was the very piece missing from the confusing and complicated jigsaw of human life. Like the cornerstone that fixes the other stones in place, despite its odd shape, Jesus is that final piece of the jigsaw that completes the picture.
We may feel that we know all the answers and that we can stand on our own two feet. We may feel that it doesn’t matter if we throw up our hands in despair and pursue our own aims and ambitions in our own way but, in reality, it matters a lot. God has given humanity the most amazing creation in which to live out its mortal existence. But, God expects to see that creation make a difference to our spiritual selves. God wants us to continue struggling with the jigsaw of life until we complete the picture in joy and thanksgiving.
Let us pray for the perseverance to continue on our Lenten pilgrimage. Let us also pray for the humility to recognize that even the oddest and most challenging of words from God may be the very one that completes the picture and brings us into his divine and consoling presence.