Please comment: Luke 20.9-16

Then Jesus began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out.

“Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be that they will respect him.’

“But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.

“What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others.”


3 responses

  1. I see no essential difference between this and Mark’s version. The comments on that

    and on Isaiah 5

    may be good starting points…

  2. The Talmid Rebbe | Reply

    I see two major differences at first glance: in Luke’s version, three servants are sent. In Mark’s version, many servants are sent. i think Prophets are implied, certainly in Mark’s version? in Luke’s version, the implication is all the tenants conspired to kill the son. In Mark’s version, only “some.” Big differences when you think about it.

    Luke offers a finite number of “strikes” (four, one more generous than baseball) before murder forces the owner’s hand. Mark offers a near-infinite number of strikes (“many others”). Both are consistent with the teaching to “give others the benefit of the doubt” or “judge others on their merits” (different translations of the same mishnah) up to the point of murder or rape, so both establish that there is a limit to leniency. Mark makes it by degree. Luke adds “keeping score” to the issue. As humans, how far can/should we go placing limitations on God’s mercy? Do we have the right to do this at all? For me, the God of the Second Chance is more present in Mark.

    The second difference, “some” versus “all,” is simpler to say but no less profound, I think. Mark accepts the possibility of the righteous remnant among the tenants, who recognize justice and aren’t among those who take the son and kill him. So in Mark, after “But some tenants said etc.etc.”, “And they took him and killed him etc. etc.” can be taken to mean the “some tenants.” Luke doesn’t make this distinction. Are we supposed to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Or should we all argue for the innocent as Abraham did? What would Jesus have done?

    Would he give the vineyard to those tenants who didn’t prevent the murder? Perhaps yes. Perhaps no. Is keeping them on for not participating a second chance? Is sending them away (but not destroying them) for not trying to prevent injustice a second chance?

    Both stories make clear the dangers of transgressing the Ten Utterances backwards, starting with coveting your neighbor’s field in the Deuteronomic version (implicit in the Exodus version)

    This is one of those “problem” passages for Jewish readers, as you can well imagine. What should we read into it? Has the vineyard been taken from us on account of what “some” Jewish and Roman people did two thousand years ago, as some people say? Are we all “has-beens” as a polemic reading of Luke would suggest? Or only some of us? The Temple Cult is gone, and so is the Roman Empire.

    The questioning thing is, those sorts of people still exist. What does that mean?

    Forrest’s comments (If I had to take a guess, I’d say that was you in a previous life) raise the important point that, after the second strike, the owner should have been looking for new management. Do our children need to die before we take appropriate moral action?

    1. This could just be a more developed, “Three Bears” version (via a more narratively-hip teller?)

      Today (stopping at Anne’s Episcopal Church’s Bible study en route to Meeting) we were reading Samuel: “And I tell him that I am about to punish his house, forever… that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.” Yet there’s some undisclosed amount of time that elapses between this and the actual delivery of retribution; so it seems to me that all these ‘forevers’ are kind of conditional, not so much saying “I refuse to pardon” as “These people are locked into bad ways and aren’t going to change enough to let Me pardon.”

      I would say that “vineyard keepers” refers to the then-contemporary management and their faction. Those who became the first Christians — and those who later established the Rabbinical schools elsewhere — were delivering their share of the “justice” and “righteousness” that Isaiah said this ‘vineyard’ was supposed to produce. Those with responsibility — were not ‘putting out’. Furthermore, their response to this ‘pay-or-vacate’ notice was in line with the parable: kill the bill collector. And the retribution doesn’t even seem particularly personal: ~”If this goes on, [in forty years] there’s going to be trouble. [as in Jeremiah’s time, and on the same calender day!]”

      Now I see that, as you say, in Mark’s version it is “some tenants” who actually conceive & implement the murder. If this were about a human owner sending a punitive expedition from a far country, that expedition could conceivably give everyone in the place a fair trial. But that ain’t the way to bet.

      Stephen Gaskin: “Now people say, ‘You hear about innocent little kids getting wasted, what kind of karma is that?’ Here’s the thing about karma: Karma is not about deserving; karma’s about cause and effect. And if a puppy runs in front of a truck and gets wasted for it, it’s hard to say that a puppy gets wasted for being dumb enough to go in the street. It’s a hard thing to say that. But it is most definitely cause and effect. Well, cause and effect is how everything works. That’s the name of the interaction. And that’s karma.”

      I don’t find him saying this explicitly; but I think he’s implying: If the conditions in a place get to be like hanging out in a warehouse full of armed monkeys, being personally good offers some protection. But when those guns start going off, anybody in there is likely to get hurt.
      —– —– —–

      “Problem passages for Jewish readers”? I think what we’ve really had were problem passages for some Christian readers, who didn’t work the problem right. If they’d read their Ezekiel they’d get the poop on inherited “collective guilt”, that God doesn’t work on that basis. No matter what people believed earlier.

      No karmic back-debt for rulers of present-day nations. Good behavior: good karma. Misbehavior? “I fear for my country when I remember that God is just.”
      —- —- —- —-

      [Yup, “forrest” at became “treegestalt” when I moved the blog here.]

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