To Build Up and To Destroy: Day 17

nature countryside grapes vineyard

Photo by mali maeder on


‘Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watch-tower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, “They will respect my son.” But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.” So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.’

 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
“The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
   and it is amazing in our eyes”? 
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.’

 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. They wanted to arrest him, but they feared the crowds, because they regarded him as a prophet. – Matthew 21:33-46

Jesus’ primary opposition was the religious establishment.

Let me say that again…

Jesus’ primary opposition was the religious establishment.

Jesus’ primary opposition remains the religious establishment.

I’m convinced of this more and more everyday… nothing keeps people from experiencing God like religion.

Jesus compares the religious leaders of his day to renters on someone else’s land. When workers come to collect the fruit the land has produced, they are attacked and killed by the renters.

I had to put this in my own terms. It’s as if I asked a friend to house sit for me, but I also asked a neighbor to water my garden while I was gone. When the neighbor comes over to water the garden, they are attacked by my friend who is housesitting who is assuming that they are doing a good thing, protecting my house.

The point isn’t to protect the vineyard. There’s a fence and a watchtower for that. The job of the tenants is to collect fruit or at the very least not get in the way of others collecting fruit.

But Jesus sees the religious leaders of his time as actively working against the aims of the landowner, God.

And I see religious leaders doing the same today.

I say this as someone who was once a religious leader. Too often we think that our job is to protect the institution. We can easily become hindrances to ministry in the name of keeping the doors open. And we can become envious and hostile towards those who are doing good in the world because they’re not doing it by our rules.

We miss the point so easily.

The answer to this problem is not the reform of the tenants. This is hard to hear. It is finding new people to do the work. Once we’re in, we’re often too entrenched, too invested to see anything beyond the maintenance and security of what we think to be important. In the meantime, we miss out on relationships with the very people who need to hear the good news that we supposedly offer.

Jesus was trying to build something that looked markedly different from the religious structure of his day. To thank him, we built something that looks surprisingly like the religious structure of his day in His name.


Jesus is building with the rejected stones, the people we find expendable. And unless we find ourselves building with and among them, we’re likely just contributing to a system that bears no fruit.

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