Friday, March 10 | Matthew 21:33-43

The Rev. Canon Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan

Jesus is pulling no punches in the last days before his death. He teaches in the synagogue, and the children rejoice; people believe, but the Pharisees and chief priests are huddled in a corner, angry and making plans.

Jesus tells the Pharisees about a vineyard, the wall to protect it, even a wine press for the grapes, and a watch tower. This vineyard had it all; the owner seemingly gives it over to tenants. The farmhands are not lazy or idle and have a bountiful crop. They receive word that the owner is returning to collect the pro􀀁its of his vineyard, and from the watch tower gaze at the harvest and grapes being pressed into wine, they become angry– the pro􀀁its should be all theirs; they did all the work!

They know how to deal with those who come to collect: beat ‘em up, kill ‘em, stone ‘em, and repeat. (Who is this landlord who would give workers so many opportunities to pay?) Finally, in the distance, they see the heir and son. They plot to kill him, so all of it may be theirs–and then they do.

Jesus asks the Pharisees what the owner and father should do. Kill the farmhands! And hire honest, faithful farmhands. Jesus reminds them- the stone once thrown away is now the cornerstone. Pharisees and chief priests begin to understand that they are wicked tenants given the beautiful vineyard to tend and grow grapes—Israel—who ignored and killed the servants–prophets preparing the way for Jesus–so that when the awaited son–Jesus– does arrive, they neither accept him nor confess their unbelief and plot to kill him.

This is the crux of the matter: the parable is charged with judgment-on-the-refusal-of-grace-overtones. And that is the judgment of God: belief or unbelief. The whole plan of salvation is that we would believe in Jesus. He has already forgiven you; he has already reconciled you.

As the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus, they still don’t understand that Jesus takes up his life to give it away in death and resurrection.

Canon Bonnie-Marie Yager-Wiggan has served at Trinity Cathedral since 2021. She and her husband, Jamie, enjoy exploring Pittsburgh with their Scottish terrier, Greyfriar.