THE CHIEF PRIESTS and the Scribes and elders stood baffled and confounded before Him whom they had sought to entrap. But Christ had not attempted to embarrass them; His question had not been intended as an uncomfortable conundrum but as an indirect reprimand, as a reminder of their dishonesty with themselves and of the blind distrust that they had shown in the case of John the Baptist.
Relentless in His love, even of these sinners, Christ continued His efforts to bring these desperate hypocrites to face the truth and accept His gift of faith. Profiting by the present occasion, He told them three parables illustrating His judgment and warning of the fate which threatened them and all Israel-exclusion from His kingdom.
PARABLE OF THE TWO SONS
“But what do you think? A man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in my vineyard.’ But he answered and said, ‘I will not’; but afterwards he regretted it and went. And he came to the other and spoke in the same manner. And this one answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the father’s will?”
“The first,” His listeners answered; obviously, it is obedience in deed that counts, not mere promises of compliance. Then Jesus explained the application of the parable, reminding them that the outcasts and pariahs, who had broken God’s commandments, had nevertheless accepted the message of John, while they, the pillars of Jewish society, had refused to believe in him.
“Amen I say to you, the publicans and harlots are entering the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him. But the publicans and harlots believed him; whereas you, seeing it, did not even repent afterwards, that you might believe him.”
PARABLE OF THE VINE-DRESSERS
“Hear another parable. There was a man, a householder, who planted a vineyard, and put a hedge about it, and dug a wine vat in it, and built a tower; then he let it out to vinedressers, and went abroad. But when the fruit season drew near, he sent his servants to the vine-dressers to receive his fruits. And the vine-dressers seized his servants, and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent another party of servants more numerous than the first; and they did the same to these. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the vine-dressers, on seeing the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and we shall have his inheritance.’ So they seized him, cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When, therefore, the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-dressers?”
The priests and Scribes replied:
“He will utterly destroy those evil men, and will let out the vineyard to other vine-dressers, who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus continued speaking:
“Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone; by the Lord this has been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’? Therefore I say to you, that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people yielding its fruits. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but upon whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
Recognizing themselves as the disobedient son and the vicious vine-dressers of the parables, the Scribes, priests, and Pharisees grew angry. They would have attacked Jesus then and there, but they feared the vengeance of the people, who regarded Him as a prophet.
PARABLE OF THE MARRIAGE FEAST
Continuing with another parable, Jesus said:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who made a marriage feast for his son. And he sent his servants to call in those invited to the marriage feast, but they would not come. Again he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatlings are killed, and everything is ready; come to the marriage feast.’ But they made light of it, and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business; and the rest laid hold of his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them.”
“But when the king heard of it, he was angry; and he sent his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy; go therefore to the crossroads, and invite to the marriage feast whoever you shall find.’ And his servants went out into the roads, and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; and the marriage feast was filled with guests.”
“Now the king went in to see the guests, and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how didst thou come in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet and cast him forth into the darkness outside, where there will be the weeping, and the gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Meditation: The marriage banquet is the Church, the Messianic Kingdom on earth. The first ones invited to enter the Church were the Jews; they refused, some even killing the prophets sent by God to give them His message of invitation. Then the Gentiles were invited to enter. Fortunately, we are among that chosen number who have accepted the invitation; we belong to the true Church of Christ. But at the royal marriage feast some of the invited guests were unworthy; and some of us may be unworthy members of Christ’s Church. Are we wearing the wedding garment of sanctifying grace?
Information from The Life of Christ “Our Lord’s Life with Lesson in His Own Words for Our Life Today” The Catholic Press, Inc. 1959. 203-206. © 1954 edited by Reverend John P. O’Connell, MASTD and Jex Martin, following mainly A Chronological Harmony of the Gospels by Stephen J Hartdegen OFM NIHIL OBSTAT John A McMahon; IMPRIMATUR Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago August 1, 1953. Print. Drawing by Albert H Winkler.