Ps. 80:7-19; Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46.
Reign, Jesus said to [the chief priests and Pharisees], “‘…the very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner…’ On account of this I say to you that the reign of God will be taken from you and will be given to a nation which produces its fruits” (vv. 42a, 43).
The point of the Wicked Vinedressers parable is, God will reign over his vineyard by his Son over which Isaiah rhapsodized, “Let me sing for my beloved my love song concerning his vineyard…” (Isa. 5:1a).
The Lord’s patience toward the “tenant farmers” of Jesus’ parable is extraordinary. The farmer’s abusive history of treating God’s vineyard as their own possession was an on-going evil in Israel.
JB came in the “way of righteousness” (Mt. 21:32); he was God’s collect prophet, who at the end of the OT regime recapitulated the former prophets having confronted the religious class with God’s intent to send his Son to receive his fruit (e.g., Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7).
Still, only when the tenant-farmers exerted their final disrespect, the murder of his Son, does God pronounce judgment; guilt and innocence in his Son’s sending, i.e., “division” and “judgment” (Lk. 12:49-56).
Those who believed Jesus’ sonship (Mt. 3:17) and JB’s proclamation, Jesus is “God’s Lamb” for forgiveness of unbelief (Jn. 1:29, 36), are judged without guilt; but those rejecting the Son are already condemned (3:18).
Earlier a certain rich young man departed from the company of disciples, when Jesus required he divest his substantial wealth; this gave pause for Peter to inquire, “Lo, we have left everything to follow you. What then shall we have?” (Mt. 19:27).
And today Jesus, as well puts Israel’s chief priests and Pharisees on notice of coming loss, “the reign of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a nation which produces its fruits.”
But who, instead of the chief priests and elders, would reign in God’s vineyard? Jesus had already given his answer, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of [new] Israel” (Mt. 19:28).
The congregational Apostolic faith is the fulfillment of end-time Truth, witnessed by Moses and the prophets in the former age. In consequence the tenant farmers’ Vineyard reign would be given over to the Torah teachings and judgments of Jesus by the enthroned Apostles.
Apostolic authority coheres with JB and Jesus come in the “way of Righteousness” (21:32); their authority orients the NT church’s belief and right practice. Jesus crucified through murderous elevation was meant for evil; but God made it his glory (cf. Gen. 50:20).
If, the Twelve enthroned Apostles with Christ in these last days co-adjudicate in the Vineyard for good fruit, then we importantly must identify God expectation of good grapes vs. wild ones? (Isa. 5:2, 4).
On earth the Apostles were hardly “beatified”; rather they were fully enmeshed in the venality man’s sin nature. Putting a fine point on the matter, the Apostles, but for repentant hearts worked by the HS, were indistinguishable from their brother, Judas Iscariot, who would later in the Resurrection choose “his own place” apart from Christ (Acts 1:25).
The Eleven remaining would judge Judas, replace him to again fill their office reign for the congregation’s faith and constitutive identity, her fidelity to the purity of God’s word and sacrament.
In the Resurrection the apostolic Office exists to cultivate church doctrine and judge faithful application, aligned with Jesus, her foundational corner-stone; instructing in Holy Thursday’s Supper, Good Friday’s death, and Easter’s Resurrection.
The Supper applies by Gethsemane’s Passion and Golgotha’s cross for the church; there Jesus taught his koshered-flesh and drained blood is given for the vineyard’s nourishment (cf. Lk. 13:6-9). Today the NT church remembers and proclaims by her Eucharistic faith and practice Jesus’ death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:26).
But horror of horrors; less than three days following Jesus’ meal and cross, Thomas denied it all, the reason d’etre for the Life of the church, Jesus’ crucified and risen body and blood. Thomas said of his bothers’ witness to the Resurrection, “I will not believe” (Jn. 20:25b)!
Not believe what; that Jesus rose, certainly that; but more, unbelief in all implied by the truth of the Resurrection; everything Jesus conveyed for the church’s faith in his Supper and Passion; his final words for reign in the NT. Thomas denied it all, chiming more closely with Judas Iscariot, than even Peter’s thrice denial of not knowing the Man.
Jesus would privately Absolve Peter later (21:15-19); but first, on the Second Sunday of Easter Jesus came to Thomas, baptizing him with the HS by participation in his death wounds, admonishing him, “do not be unfaithful but faithful [i.e., in the things entrusted]” (20:27), new Torah teaching governing Baptism and Supper, apostolic dénouement for judgment in the congregation.
God desires fruit from his vineyard; but how can it be rendered of ourselves, when by our nature we only produce wild grapes? This is the point of Baptism and Supper in the congregation; Jesus is our good fruit.
St. Paul explains; Baptism has “made [us Christ’s] own” (Phil. 3:12b); and his Supper, he presents us as offering in his flesh and blood to God, returned for consumption as faithful Thanksgiving. Amen.