Monday, June 01, 2015

Last of All

Tobiah went out to look for some poor person among our kindred, but he came back and cried, “Father!” I said to him, “Here I am, son.” He answered, “Father, one of our people has been murdered! He has been thrown out into the market place, and there he lies strangled.” I sprang to my feet, leaving the dinner untouched, carried the dead man from the square, and put him in one of the rooms until sundown, so that I might bury him.  Tobit 2:3-4

He had one other to send, a beloved son. He sent him to them last of all, thinking, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they seized him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.  Mark 12:6-8

The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, "He became obedient even unto death."  (Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 7, “Humility)

Allegory or more?

The parable of the tenants (or the parable of the vineyard) has parallels in Isaiah.  The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, the people of Judah, his cherished plant; He waited for judgment, but see, bloodshed! For justice, but hark, the outcry!  (Isaiah 5:7)

However, in both cases, these parables are more than allegorical.  Jesus is the stone that was rejected.  Jesus is the farmer’s son.  Delivered in a highly charged political environment where the plot against him has already advanced, by speaking this aloud, Jesus has called out his opposition and they retreat to reorganize for another day.

Ched Myers reminds us that the story of the tenant farmers also was an accurate depiction of the life of workers who had to hand over “the fruits of their labors to the agent of the absentee landlord, and so decide to resist violently all who come to extract the surplus.” (Say to This Mountain: Mark’s Call to Discipleship, p. 160)

Myers points out that Jesus reverses the roles at the symbolic level.  He casts the rulers (landlords) as those who are planning to resort to violence to kill the vineyard owner’s son.  He convicts them of conspiring to 9658control God’s gift to all.  With popular support for Jesus’ critique of the leadership, they cannot arrest him…yet.

Today’s story reminds us of the conflicts between people and their leaders.  Control of something (land, money, resources, phone records, etc.) is usually at the heart of such conflicts.  Jesus reminds us that the humble servant-leader will endure rejection even to the death in order to show his obedience and humility. 

What conflicts and controls are you struggling with at home or at work?  How can the stone that the builders rejected help you to reframe to issue in seeking reconciliation? 

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