The Wicked Tenants

Matthew 21:33–46; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19

Works of art by Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Unknown artist, and Brothers Dalziel, after John Everett Millais
Commentaries by David B. Gowler

Matthew 21:33–46; Mark 12:1–12; Luke 20:9–19

Bible passage (Revised Standard Version)

Matthew 21

33 “Hear another parable. There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 34When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; 35and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. 37Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ 39And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41They 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 seasons.”

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures:

43Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”

45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. 46But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet.

Mark 12

12 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a pit for the wine press, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. 2When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3And they took him and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. 4Again he sent to them another servant, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5And he sent another, and him they killed; and so with many others, some they beat and some they killed. 6He had still one other, a beloved son; finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8And they took him and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard. 9What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants, and give the vineyard to others. 10Have you not read this scripture:

‘The very stone which the builders rejected

has become the head of the corner;

11this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

12 And they tried to arrest him, but feared the multitude, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them; so they left him and went away.

Luke 20

9 And he 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. 10When 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. 11And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. 12And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. 13Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him.’ 14But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others.” When they heard this, they said, “God forbid!” 17But he looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:

18Every one who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one it will crush him.”

19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people; for they perceived that he had told this parable against them.