instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, November 26, 2007

The twist ending

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants is a straightforward condemnation of the religious leaders who were plotting to kill Jesus. A self-fulfilling parable, in a way, since "[t]he scribes and chief priests sought to lay their hands on him at that very hour ... for they knew that he had addressed this parable to them."

But it's not a self-contained parable. In the story, the owner's son winds up a corpse in a ditch outside the vineyard, and that's the last anyone hears of him. And in real life, the "wicked tenants" did exactly what was said of them in the parable. They killed Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem and left His body in a hole in the ground.

The unexpected thing -- and who, after all, would have believed it -- was not how God reacted to this, but how He acted through it. The Cross is both the sign of the chief priests' victory (any old prophet can be stoned, but how often can you get the Romans to crucify one?) and the throne from which Jesus offers His mercy to those of His subjects who will accept it.

With His parable, Jesus doesn't tell the whole story -- though He does hint at it, by quoting the Psalm:
"The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes"
There doesn't seem to be much of a cornerstone to be made from a body lying in a ditch, nor is it all that wonderful for a rich man to avenge himself on a group of poor people.

But Jesus is not just the son of a vineyard owner. He is the Son of God, and He came into the world to obtain our salvation. It's not that He became a king through His passion and death; He is eternally King. Rather, His passion and death were the means by which He revealed Himself, in a formal and public manner, as king of this rebellious province.

Through prayer and meditation, we might come to understand why the Cross, of all things, was the proper way for the Son of God to reveal Himself to humanity as our eternal King. Such understanding, though, is not just for the sake of piety or intellectual satisfaction. We ourselves, each of His subjects, are commanded to go out and reveal Him to the world. Which means we ourselves, each of His subjects, get to be crucified, too.