The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.10.08
Propaganda and Apologetics
Today’s reading is a piece of pure propaganda.
It is an apology.
It is an attempt by the writers of Matthew’s, in the first generation after the Roman conquest of Palestine, and the destruction of the Temple, to explain to the largely Jewish audience, the divine purpose behind those events.
While Matthew’s community was predominately Jewish, there were gentile converts among them, and the warning to the readership is this, if you do not give up your insistence on retaining your distinctively Jewish traditions, you will be destroyed, and the gentiles among you will take your place a heirs to the promises that God, the creator of the universe, made to your ancestors.
The narrative is one that they borrowed from the early prophets, such as Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Daniel, whose books were also written in the apologetic mode, to explain the destruction of Israel by the Assyrians, the destruction of Judea by the Babylonians, and the invasion of the Holy Land by Antiochus Epiphanes.
The basic move that the writers make is to explain current events, through the lens of past events. In this case they are putting a prophecy in Jesus’ mouth to explain the Roman invasion of Palestine and the destruction of the temple, along with the ongoing persecution of the Jewish people.
The lesson is this.
Everything unfolds according to God’s plan. If you resist God’s plan, you will be destroyed, and all of your hopes will be dashed. It has happened before, and it will happen again.
All good things come from God.
Nothing you have belongs to you, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.
Jesus said to the chief priests and the elders of the people, ‘Listen to another parable. There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard; he fenced it round, dug a winepress in it and built a tower; then he leased it to tenants and went abroad. When vintage time drew near he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third. Next he sent some more servants, this time a larger number, and they dealt with them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son” he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, “This is the heir. Come on, let us kill him and take over his inheritance.” So they seized him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?’ They answered, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will deliver the produce to him when the season arrives.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures:
It was the stone rejected by the builders
that became the keystone.
This was the Lord’s doing
and it is wonderful to see?
‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’
27th Sunday in Ordinary Time