Reading about Vineyards - what is authority?

This week’s gospel reading from Matthew 21:33-46 is well known. Bad tenants doing bad things to the land owner’s slaves who came for the rent. And then they kill the son. All a great metaphor for what was about to happen to Jesus and the Jews. All the bad people get what they deserve in the end. Stories like this have been have been used to justify horrendous violence against our Jewish brothers and sisters. Sadly we miss the point of what Jesus is talking about. To get that we have to put the story back.

The Chief Priests and leading Pharisees ask, “Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to teach here?” This is the third part of Jesus’ response. He tells a story with so many layers it’s hard to keep track. Talking to absentee landowners about bad tenants is one way to get them to lower their guard. And they are outraged and invoke the ways of all empires and the entitled wealthy. The fruits of their authority is violence and death, hardship, poverty; the enslavement of those they were to protect. Is this God’s way? Compare that to Jesus and the fruits of his authority? Compare that to our fruits? The fruits of true authority are compassion and generosity, restoration and aroha.