Verse: Matthew 21:33-46
When I first read this passage I sat still for a minute, and then reread it. I said to myself “Wow. This is a lot to chew on.”
I reflected on where we are now in relation to the time this story took place. In this busy tech-filled time how in the world can this farm story be applied to us today?!
As I read this passage several times it occurred to me that there are certain human traits that seem to stick around, unfortunately.
First, people often lean toward giving in to their selfish wants regardless of its affect on others believing that they will somehow gain something from it. In this parable, the tenants truly thought that by harming the owner’s servants they would gain something in the end. No matter whom the owner sent, they met their demise at the hands of these selfish tenants, even his own flesh and blood was killed by them. Yet somehow they still thought they would be deserving of the son’s inheritance!
Second, people lean in toward their anger when wanting rectification for injustice and they pursue harsh retaliation. Here, the listeners of the parable reply that the owner “will bring those wretches to a wretched end.” And to puff themselves up, the listeners carry on saying the owner will then rent out the field to new tenants and the “better” tenants will give the owner their rightful share of the crop. The listeners here were the “better tenants,” the chief priests and Pharisees (men who thought very highly of themselves and their position with God) and they felt they were due their fair portion for being “better” people.
Which brings me to my third point, that people who believe themselves to be righteous miss the mark of what Jesus is really saying: the kingdom of God and all that comes with it is for those who love like He did. Those who produce “fruit” in the work field of God.
Jesus loved with wisdom, compassion and discernment. He met people where they were in all their mess and self-righteousness and He simply said to leave their selfishness behind and to “come follow Me.” The convictions of the heart that follow after this choice are between God and the follower. He simply said “follow Me.” The fruit is the change within a person that leads to actions that go beyond human selfishness and self-righteousness. The righteous people of Jesus’ day felt they were justified in their anger. They saw their goodness and purity as what would get them into God’s good graces.
Then Jesus recites scripture mentioning a stone builders reject that then becomes a capstone. A capstone is defined as “the finishing stone; the crowning achievement”. Yet what the Lord has made the capstone was rejected by the builders. The ones who are creating the structure tossed the capstone aside as if it wasn’t necessary to the establishment! The very stone that defines the apex of achievement, and is placed the highest on the wall.
This stone represents Jesus in such a beautiful way: a rock that many will be either broken or crushed by. Jesus tells the listeners “he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”
As believers we are those “broken” by the capstone, falling at his feet as we reflect on our humanity and ask for forgiveness. We see where we need Jesus so that we can be better, and He becomes the foundational rock of our lives. Those crushed by the capstone, are blinded by their self-focus and self-righteousness and can’t see what is coming: judgement. In the end Jesus’ gift of salvation (and consequently a change of heart) will be taken by some, yet those who refuse it will be crushed by their own choices and the judgment ahead.
What I think I’m trying to get at is that we must reflect on how we are loving others. That is the fruit that comes from how we open our hearts to the Lord changing us, showing what God can do. Looking honestly at the fruit in our lives, gives God an opportunity to change us so we are pleasing God with what we do or say.
My prayer is that the Lord will remind us that He is our Rock. That He will show us where we need improvement. And that He can teach us to love like He does. Through our brokenness, where we land on that rock over and over, would we be made stronger standing on Him as the foundation of the improved version of ourselves.