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Matthew 21:33-42

Patristic commentary:

overview; Many themes are interwoven in this parable: God's providence, the ingratitude of the covenant people, the great care the owner exer­cised over his property and the extraordinary re­calcitrance and violence of the people. The husbandman planted the vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a wine press in it and built a tower. He left little for them to do but care for what was there and preserve what was given to them. But there was little effort made by them to work the land, even after they had enjoyed such great blessings from him. They killed the owner's son, casting him out of the vineyard, that is, Israel. The stone that the builders rejected has thereby become the head of the corner.

The priests were restrained by the fear of the multitudes. Little attention was paid to the prophet's testimony, their own sentence or the disposition of the people, so entirely had the love of power and the lust for glory blinded them, together with the pursuit of temporal things (chrysostom).

Christ is called a stone because his founda­tion is solid, and the wicked cannot overcome him. Even so, any evil done is done against God. The punishment for evil is proportional to the evil done. Likewise, the glory for good is pro­portional to the good done. God is unlimited in his range of punishment and glory (incomplete work on matthew). The chief priests and Pharisees determined to put Jesus to death but still feared the crowd. Such crowds are fickle and easily swayed (jerome),

21:33 A Householder Planted a Vineyard

hear another parable. chrysostom: This parable suggests many things: God's providence had been at work toward them from the outset; their disposition was murderous from the be­ginning; nothing had been neglected of what­ever pertained to an attentive care for them. even when prophets had been slain. God had not turned away from this people but had sent them his very Son; it is now clear that the God of both the New and the Old Testaments is one and the same; we know that the Son's death will effect great blessings; we here learn that they were to endure extreme punishment for the crucifixion; here we learn of the calling of the Gentiles and the turning aside of the unbeliev­ing Jews.

He presents this parable after the previous one that he may show the charge to be even greater in this case and highly unpardonable. In what way? Although the Jews had received so much care from God, they were now found to be worse than harlots and publicans, and that by a wide margin. the gospel of matthew, homily 68.1.

he set A hedge around THE vineyard. chrysostom: Observe the great care that the owner took with this place and the extraordi­nary recalcitrance of the people. He himself did the work the tenants should have done. It was he who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it and built a tower. He left little for them to do. All they had to do was take care of what was there and to pre­serve what was given to them. Nothing was left undone but all accomplished. But they made little effort to be productive, even after they had enjoyed such great blessings from him. For when they had come out of Egypt, he gave a law, and set up a city, and built a temple and pre­pared an altar. Then he "went into a far country." He was patient with them. He did not always keep a close account of their sins. The meaning of "going into a far country" is God's great patience. the gospel of matthew, homily 68.1.

21:34-36 The Tenants Kill the Landowner's Servants

he sent His servants to get His fruit. chrysostom: He sent his servants, that is, the prophets, "to receive the fruit." By fruit he referred to their obedience, demonstrated through their works. But even here they exhib­ited their wickedness. They not only failed to give the fruit, after having enjoyed so muchcare,thus displaying their laziness, but also were angry with the servants who came. For those who did not repay what they owed should hardly have been indignant or angry. Rather, they should have asked for the householder's forgiveness. But they not only were indignant; they even bloodied their hands. While deserving punishment, they themselves inflicted punish­ment. Therefore he sent a second and a third company of servants both to show their wicked­ness and the love toward humanity of the One who sent them. Why didn't he immediately send his Son? In order that they might repent and condemn themselves for the things they had done to the others. He hoped they would set aside their anger and reverence him when he came. the gospel of matthew, homily 68.1.

21;37 Afterward the Landowner Sent His Son

they will respect my son. chrysostom: But what does it mean that "it may bethat they will have reverence for my son"? This is not the language of an ignorant man. Away with the thought! Rather, it is the language of one desir­ing to show the sin to be great and inexcusable. For though he himself knew that they would slay him, he sent him. When he says "they will respect," he states what ought to have been done, that it was their duty to have reverenced him. Elsewhere he says similarly: "whether they hear or refuse to hear."4 He is not ignorant of their motives. But lest any of the obstinate should say that his prediction was the thing that necessitated their disobedience, therefore he frames his expressions in a particular way, using indeterminate terms like "whether they will" and "it may be," For though they had been obsti­nate towards his servants, yet they ought to have reverenced the dignity of the Son. the gospel of matthew, homily 68.

21;38 The Tenants Kill the Heir

let Us kill him AND have his inherit­ance. chrysostom: What then do they do? While they had time to ask for pardon for their offenses and whereas they ought to have run to him to do so, they persist even more stronglyintheir former sins. They proceed to add even more to their previous pollutions. They always surpass their former offenses by their later ones. This is what he himself declared when he said, "Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers."For from the first the prophets used to charge them with these things, saying, "Your hands are fullofblood," and "They mingle blood with blood,"and "They build up Zion with blood."

But they failed to learn self-control. They had already received the commandment: "You shall not murder." They had already had been commanded to abstain from countless other of­fenses. They had already been urged by many and various means to keep these command­ments.

Yet, for all that, they did not put aside their evil ways. What did they say when they saw him? "Come, let us kill him." With what motive and for what reason? What possible charge could they lay against him, either small or great? Is it that he honored you, and being God became a human being for your sakes and worked his countless miracles? Or that he pardoned your sins? Or that he called you into a kingdom?

But observe that their disregard for bad was accompanied by great folly, and the cause of his murder was filled with madness. "For let us kill him," it says, "and the inheritance shall be ours." the gospel of matthew, homily 68.1.

21;39-41 What Will the Landowner Do?

the householdbr AND THE vineyard. epiphanius the latin: The householder in this parable is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The vineyard he planted represents the Jewish people who were begotten from Abra­ham, Isaac and Jacob, multiplied like the stars in the sky and the sand of the shore, liberated from the land of Egypt and the yoke of slavery, and led through the sea to the promised land, as the prophet said: "You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it."" The Lord planted the Jewish people in the promised land, flowing with milk and honey, so that they would bear the fruit of the commandments of God. "He surrounded it with a hedge" means that God fortified it with the protection of angels. The wine press he dug signifies the holy church, where the fruits of righteousness and holiness are gathered; just as the grapes are pressed only with great toil and effort, so also the holy martyrs are crushed like grapes and shed their blood only through great persecu­tions and tortures. The tower constructed in the middle of the vineyard is our Lord himself, who appeared like a strong tower in the midst of the holy church through the Virgin. Because of his presence, all the saints and martyrs are pro­tected with spiritual weapons from their most wicked enemy, who is the devil. "When harvest time drew near, he sent his servants," that is, the prophets, "to the tenants," who were the teach­ers of the law, "to collect the fruit of the vine­yard." He had already sent the prophets to them repeatedly to collect his fruit, but they were dis­dainful and rebellious toward the Lord and greeted his prophets with swords, beatings, stonings and other persecutions. They killed Isaiah, stoned Jeremiah, pursued Elijah and beheaded John the Baptist. Every nation that persecutes its teachers and fails to produce the fruit of the gospel is an accomplice to the Jews. "Finally, therefore, he sent his only son to them, saying, 'surely they will respect my son.'" The "only son" of the householder is the Lord, the Son of God, who came by the will of the Father to his vineyard, which is the Jewish people. "But when the tenants," who are the teachers of the law, "saw his son, they said to themselves, 'this is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inherit­ance will be ours,' and they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him." They also crucified our Lord outside the city, while they shouted, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" Yet they did not in fact come to possess the inheritance of the law;

instead, they sentenced themselves to death, for the Lord asked, "What will the owner of the vineyard do to the tenants when he comes?" They responded, "He will destroy the evil ten­ants and give the vineyard to other tenants who will produce its fruit in a timely manner." They condemned themselves by their own words,as the Lord implies when he speaks about himself and their faithlessness: "The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;

therefore, I say to you that the kingdom of God will be removed from you and given to a people producing its fruits. interpretation of the gospbls 31.

they cast him out OF THE vineyard AND killed him. chrysostom: And where do they wish to kill him? "Outside the vineyard." Do you see how he prophesies even the place where he was to be slain? Well, they did cast him out, and they killed him.

And Luke indeed says, "He declared what they must suffer." When they heard this, they said, "God forbid!" He then asks them to re­member the testimony of Scripture: "He looked at them and said, 'What then is this that is writ­ten: The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.' Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces."Matthew's account does not contradict Luke's. They passed the sentence against them­selves, as Matthew says, and again, when they perceived what they had said, they added, "God forbid." By the words of the prophet against them, he sought to persuade them that this cer­tainly would come to pass.

He signified only in a hidden way that he would "give the vineyard to others," not men­tioning the Gentiles and not affording his oppo­nents a handle to use to attack him. It was for this reason that he spoke in parables, that they themselves might pass the sentence. the gos­pel of matthew, homily 68.2.

21:42 The Lord’s Doing Is Marvelous

christ THE great stone. incomplete work on matthew: Christ is called a stone for two reasons. First, because his foundation is solid and no one who stands upon him will fall victim to deceitful charms or be moved by the storms of persecution. Second, Christ is called a stone because in him is the ultimate destruction of the wicked, for just as everything which col­lides with a stone is shattered while the stone itself remains intact, so also everyone who opposes the Christian faith will himself be ruined, but Christianity will remain untouched. This is the sense in which Christ is the great stone. "Whoever falls on it will be broken to pieces, but it will crush those upon whom it falls."17 It is one thing to be broken but some­thing else again to be crushed, for sizeable pieces of whatever is broken remain, but whatever gets crushed is reduced to dust and utterly elimi­nated. The stone does not break those who fall upon it, but they break themselves who fall on the stone. Their destruction therefore is not attributable to the stone's strength but to the violence with which they fall upon it. homily 40.

21:43-45 The Kingdom of God Will Be Taken from You

killing god to sin with impunity. incom­plete work on matthew: The man who commits a grave sin is likely to commit an even worse sin because he no longer hopes in God, as Solomon suggests: "When a wicked man enters the depths of evil, he becomes contemptuous."19 The sick will abstain from potentially harmful foods until their fever moderates and they begin to have hope that a cure is imminent, but if they are convinced that their disease is incurable, they will eat whatever they like. Likewise, as long as a man sins only venially and retains some hope for salvation, he will abstain from evil as far as possible, but if he begins to despair as a re­sult of committing serious sins, he will come to have no doubt that he has already been done in by the judgment of God, Pathetic is the man who does not realize that there is a gradation of punishments for the evil, each one receiving his punishment according to the measure of his evil, just as there is a gradation of glory for the good, each one receiving a reward according to the measure of his goodness. For God is as unlim­ited in his range of punishments for the evil as he is in his rewards for the good.

The priests of the old covenant who had already ceased to have any hope in God because they were filled with every evil raised their hands against God himself, inasmuch as they knew Christ to be the Son of God, because they had given up on abstaining from evil. Does this astonish you? Truly every evil man, insofar as his will is concerned, raises his hand against God and kills him, for whoever does not hesi­tate to provoke God's wrath, or despises his commandments, or treats his name with con­tempt, or utters blasphemies against him, or murmurs against him, or looks toward heaven with an angry countenance or raises his arrogant hand against God in anger, would certainly also kill him if it were possible, just in order to be able to sin with impunity. homily 40.

21;46 The Multitudes Considered Jesus a Prophet

they feared the crowd. jerome: Although [the chief priests and the Pharisees] were hard of heart and on account of their unbelief and wickedness blunted in their understanding against the Son of God, nevertheless they were unable to deny Jesus' straightforward state­ments and understood that all the judgments of the Lord were directed against themselves. So they determined indeed to kill him but feared "the crowd, for they considered Jesus to be a prophet." A crowd is always easily moved, not persisting with their will in their resolution. Additionally they are like waves and opposite winds blown to and fro. The one they now honor and revere as a prophet they later shout against: "Crucify, crucify" such a man. com­mentary on matthew 3.21.46.

 


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