Isaiah 43:16-21; Philippians 3:4b-14; Luke 20:9-20.
Time, “When the time came, [the Owner] sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty handed” (v. 10).
When conditions or circumstances alter, it is axiomatic that “timing is everything”. Failure to account and adapt to change results in ruin. This is true of all endeavors; investors encouraged to buy bull market dips will be bloodied when markets turn bearish; restoring loses of 50% requires all but impossible gains of 100%.
Ignorant or pigheaded insistence on outmoded ways when new times and conditions arrive is delusional and often tragic. This was the case with Israel’s religious establishment upon Jesus’ Baptism.
God had given warning of a coming change, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old [the Red Sea exodus]. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”(Isa. 43:18, 19a).
In today’s Gospel Jesus had entered Jerusalem for his new exodus and wept because they “did not know the appointed time of [Divine] visitation” (Lk. 19:41-44; cf. 12:56); the result: the Holy City would become the City of God’s wrath.
Before our Palm Sunday entry with Jesus into Jerusalem we discern that one either enters with eyes open to “the appointed time” of God’s “new thing” of Jesus’ exodus; or we reject it, clinging to the old; specifically, the Law, and so, fail to participate in God’s “new exodus” in Christ.
On the day of Resurrection, prior to his ascension that morning, Jesus warned Mary Magdalene, “Do not cling to me (i.e., in the old way of knowing him)” (Jn. 20:17). God does not move the goal posts; rather Divine intent is from eternity; what God accomplished in the past is prologue to his “new way” in Christ, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” of God among men (Lk. 20:17).
Timing is everything; failure to employ new wineskins for new wine guarantees loss. By the new thing God has done in Christ, truth and life are obtained in grace; but insistence on old ways and old notions of a work-oriented repentance, courts judgment (12:57, 58).
What is the “new thing” to perceive in our Lenten Jerusalem entry and approach to the cross? The Transfiguration introduces Lenten time and provides the hint; Jesus’ transfiguration revealed his coming resurrection glory in conversing with Moses and Elijah about his “exodus” (9:31).
Setting aside old and familiar for new and coming is not easy. Our new exodus comes through the water and the blood issued from Jesus on the cross; it is the moment in time of God’s visitation; God’s Corner-Stone for salvation in the apostolic church. One either accepts Jesus through his water and blood as the church’s constitutive reality or Jesus is rejected as the Risen One.
After a cleansing decommission of the old temple, Jesus spoke against its authorities who refused John’s baptism of repentance, telling the people today’s parable, “The Wicked Tenant Farmers”.
The vineyard Owner leased it into the care of Israel’s religious establishment for expected fruit to be given over, the good sweet wine of repentant faith.
Appropriate to the Owner’s patience, he repeatedly sought his fruit by way of rebuffed prophets. In these last days he sent his Son by whose death we participate in sacrificial food for repentance, the water, the flesh, and the blood.
In the desert Moses was to speak to the Rock that accompanied the people for water and life in a hostile environment (Num. 20:8-12; cf. 1Cor. 10:4). In this way Moses would deliver gospel; but instead, Moses thought the old way of striking the Rock (Ex. 17:5, 6) better in keeping with the Egyptian exodus.
The problem was that God wanted Moses to lead the people out of the desert into the Promised Land, the new place of gracious Presence. For Moses’ allegiance to the old exodus ways, he was denied entry into the Land.
Elijah conducted himself in much the same way. After killing 450 Baal priests, Elijah, for fear of Jezebel fled Israel, scurrying to the security of God’s old place, Mt. Horeb. God directed Elijah to depart the old and return to the land of Presence and comfort his remnant people in prophetic Voice.
On Mt. Transfiguration, Jesus, Moses, and Elijah conversed about the new thing God was doing in Jesus, a new exodus. Through the Egyptian exodus God commanded the death of every sacrificially unredeemed “firstborn son”; but in God’s new exodus, Jesus is the one and only unredeemed “firstborn” of Mary and Beloved of the Father, who on the cross would be the redemptive sacrifice for the sin of the world.
Unlike Moses and Elijah, Jesus would not disobey his Father’s will nor seek to save himself through the old places of substitutionary sacrifice; rather Jesus set his face toward passion and death, God’s new way of salvation.
On the cross, God’s glory and new exodus was revealed through the water and the blood released from Jesus’ body (Jn. 19:34), a hidden glory; but revealed three-days hence in the power of the Resurrection. In God’s prophetic word, “now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
If we follow Jesus, as new Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12), the fruit God desires, then we must locate the time of Jesus’ visitation with us now. Jesus has shown the cross’ new way; suffering before Joy, thus we “fix our eyes of Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…” (Lenten Gradual; Heb. 12:2).
St. Paul gave boast in his old ways; but now by gospel grace he urges our upward call in Christ, to count personal worthiness and suffering as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus in the power of the Resurrection (Phil. 3:4b-10).
Here then is the new thing of the new exodus to which we are called: hearing God’s word we follow suit with Jesus, the Baptized and Risen One; we sow in tears over our sin and the world’s unbelief, that Christ might reap for God our repentant faith through his body and blood.
For this harvest offered to God, we raise Eucharistic shouts of joy at being the sheaves out of Jesus’ granary presented as the Father’s due fruit (Ps. 126:5, 6). Amen.