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40. The Parable of the Wicked Tenants.

Speaking in the Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ turning to the high priests, scribes, and elders of the people told them this parable.

There was a Landowner, Who planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country.

When the season of fruit drew near, He sent his servants to the tenants to get His fruit; and the tenants took His servants and beat one, killed the other, and stoned another. Again, He sent other servants, more than the first, and they did the same.

Afterward, He sent His only Son to them saying, "They will respect my Son."

But when the tenants saw the Son, they said to each other, "This is the Heir. Come, let us kill Him, and have His inheritance." And they took Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard, and killed Him."

Having told the parable, the Saviour asked them, "When, therefore, 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 let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give Him the fruits in their season."

The Lord Jesus Christ emphasized their answer, saying, "Therefore, I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation which will produce the fruits of it."

Then, the chief priests and Pharisees with the elders understood that the Saviour was speaking about them. In a rage, they tried to arrest Him, but they feared the multitude because the multitude considered Him to be a prophet.

The explanation of this parable is thus: The Householder is God. The tenants are the Jewish people chosen by God to preserve the true faith. The hedges around the vineyard are the commandments of God given through Moses. The wine press where the juice of the grapes flows is the sacrifice in the Old Testament covenant prefiguring the death on the cross of Jesus Christ; the tower is the Temple in Jerusalem. The overseers are the chief priests, scribes, and elders of the Jewish people. The servants of the Householder are the holy prophets. The Son of the Householder is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. Standing at the head of the Jewish people, the chief priests, scribes, and elders had received the power to prepare the people to accept the Saviour, but they used this power only for their own benefit. God sent prophets to them, but they persecuted and killed them. Thus, they turned out to be murderers of prophets and then murderers of the apostles. Their Saviour they rejected; and leading Him out from their city, they crucified Him. Therefore, the Kingdom of God was taken away from them and given to another people; the Church of Christ was opened to all nations.

The Question Concerning Tribute to Caesar.

The Lord Jesus Christ continued to teach in the Temple, and the Jewish elders took counsel among themselves how to entangle Him in His speech in order to accuse Him in front of the people or before the Roman authorities.

Having thought up a crafty question, they sent several Pharisees to the Saviour from among their young apprentices and Herodians, recognized lawyers of Roman authorities. Pretending respect, they began flatteringly to say to Him, "Master, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and favour no man, for you do not regard the position of men. Tell us then, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

The enemies of Christ who thought up this tricky question reasoned thus: if Jesus Christ answers that it is appropriate to pay the tribute, then he calls upon Himself indignation among the people, as the Jews recognized only God as their king. They considered it to be unlawful and against God’s will to be subject to a foreign king, moreover a heathen, and only by coercion they did render tribute to Caesar. If Jesus Christ answered that it was not necessary to pay tribute to Caesar, then in that case, He would immediately be guilty before the Roman authority as one who stirred up the people against the Roman powers, against Caesar.

But Jesus Christ knowing their malice said to them, "Why do you tempt Me, you hypocrites? (Hypocrites — people who affectedly, for some advantage, try to present themselves before others as pious and virtuous) Show me the money for the tax."

They brought Him a denarius, a Roman coin.

The Saviour asked, "Whose likeness and inscription is on it?"

They said, "Caesar’s."

Then, Jesus Christ said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s." This means, give back to Caesar that what you receive from him, pay tribute to him for that which you use from him (money, armies, etc.), submit to him in everything that is not against God’s commandments, paying taxes is a sign of submission, a legal obligation and necessity. But at the same time, steadfastly fulfil everything that God requires from us in His commandments and lovingly serve Him; for to God, you owe your existence, your very life.

The answer of the Saviour amazed them all by the wisdom and unusual simplicity, so that the questioners fell silent and went away in shame.

The Question Concerning the Resurrection.

After this, having beforehand composed their argument, some Sadducees, those who say that there is no resurrection, came to the Saviour. They thought that they could catch Him with a question and said, "Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother must marry his widow and raise up children for his brother.’ Now, there were seven brothers among us. The first married, and died, and having no children, left his wife to his brother. So too, the second and third, down to the seventh, did. After them all, the woman died. In the resurrection therefore, to which of the seven will she be wife? For they all had her."

But Jesus Christ answered them, "You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection, they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in Heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living.’ "

In that time, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were no longer living on earth; it followed that if God still nevertheless called Himself their God, that meant they were alive for Him, or He would be calling Himself God of the nonexistent.

Again, when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at the answer of Jesus Christ. Some of the scribes answered, "Teacher! You have spoken well."

About the Divinity of Christ the Messiah.

The Pharisees, standing at that time at some distance, now gathered together and came closer to Jesus Christ, but they did not dare to ask Him any question. Then, Jesus Christ Himself turning to the gathered Pharisees asked them a question saying, "What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?"

The Pharisees immediately answered, "David’s."

The word "son" in Hebrew meant not only son in the proper sense but also line of descent. Therefore, the expression "Son of David" meant in the lineage of David.

Jesus Christ again asked, "How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him Lord saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at My right hand, till I put Thy enemies under Thy feet?’ If David thus called Him Lord, how is He his Son?"

No one was able to answer Him a word. The Pharisees, not understanding the Scriptures in spirit and truth, did not understand that Christ as God-man was of the lineage of David only by His human nature; but by His divine nature, He always existed, for He is, as Son of God, existing from eternity.

From that day, no one dared to ask Him any more questions. Thus was the scholarly pride of man disgraced before the divine wisdom of the Saviour. Multitudes of people listened to the Lord with rejoicing.

Then, Jesus Christ turned to His disciples and the crowds; and in a formidable speech before them all, He clearly exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes and predicted woe to them.

Jesus Christ with grief said, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the Kingdom of Heaven against men, for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint, and dill, and cumin (things of little worth) and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice, and mercy, and faith. These, you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You are blind guides straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel!" This means that they painstakingly care for trivial things; but important matters, they leave unattended.

"You outwardly seem to the people to be righteous; but inwardly, you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness... "

This was the last admonition of the Lord, the last attempt to save them from the terrible judgement. But on their faces there was no repentance; but rather, there was repressed anger toward the Saviour.

Note: See the Gospels of Matthew 21:33-46, 22:15-46; and 23; Mark 12:1-40; Luke 20:9-47.

The Widow’s Coin.

At the entrance to the Temple of Jerusalem, there was placed a treasury, that is, a collection box, in which worshippers put their freewill offerings for the Temple.

Jesus Christ sat down opposite the treasury and watched the multitude putting their offering into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.

A poor widow came and put in two copper coins, which make a penny, the smallest denomination of money. Such a gift might seem to people scarcely worthy of notice. But the Lord, who sees into men’s hearts, pointed out to His disciples precisely this humble gift of the poor woman. The Lord valued her gift for its internal worth. Having called His disciples to Him, He said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living." She contributed her last coin and, by so doing, consecration to God everything that she had.

Note: See the Gospels of Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4.

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