Father Santosh Madanu: The Parable of Wicked Servants

Sermon delivered on Trinity 17A, Sunday, October 4, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast for today’s sermon. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 20.1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3.4b-14; Matthew 21.33-46.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you said I am the vine and you are the braches, apart from me you cannot bear fruits.  Thank you Jesus for your grace and love.  Bless us with your Holy Spirit to be obedient to you, to be faithful to you. Never to reject your warnings against sin. And bless us to witness and proclaim that you are only the promised messiah. In Jesus name we pray.

When a man who says SORRY, when he is wrong.  He is called honest. When a man says sorry, he is not sure about wrong. He is called wise.  And when a man says sorry even he is right, what do you call him?  Husband.


This controversy section began with Jesus cleansing the temple (21:12-17) and cursing an unfruitful fig tree (21:18-22). The chief priests and elders asked Jesus, “By what authority do you do these things?” (“These things” meaning the cleansing of the temple). Jesus countered by asking, “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” When his critics refused to answer him, Jesus refused to answer them. He then responded with three parables of judgment, where Chief Priests and Israelites should know that Jesus is promised messiah, the Only Son of God and going to come to judge.

• The Parable of the Two Sons (21:28-32) this we have seen previous Sunday.

• The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mt21:33-46) referring to Isiah 5:7 Isiah wrote the vineyard song in 700 BC and destruction took place in 500 BC. By Babylonians. In this parable Jesus Himself personally involved. It is about Himself.

• The Parable(s) of the Wedding Banquet (22:1-10) and the Wedding Garments (22:11-14). These are often counted as one parable because of their common setting, but verses 1-10 and verses 11-14 make different points, and may therefore be considered two parables.


Greek: kurios—Lord

Greek: karpous—fruits

 “Hear another parable” (v. 33a). This is one of only three parables to be found in all three Synoptic Gospels (see also Mark 12:1-13; Luke 20:9-19)—the other two being the Parable of the Sower (13:1-23) and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32).

The Parable of the Tenants is an allegory—has a hidden or symbolic meaning:

• The landowner/Lord is God.

• The vineyard is the nation of Israel.

• The tenants are the people of Israel or its religious leaders.

• The servants/slaves are the prophets.

• The son is Jesus.

• The other tenants are gentiles, most likely followers of the Lord all over the world. The church outside Israel.(New Tenants.)

• God established a covenant with Israel (planted a vineyard).

• God sent the prophets (his servants/slaves) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed (see 1 Kings 19:10, Prophet Elijah says… the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, torn down your alters, and put your servants to sword.

The Jews stoned    Habakkuk in Jerusalem.

The Jews stoned Jeremiah in Egypt, because he rebuked them for worshipping idols; and the Egyptians buried him by the side of Pharaoh’s palace.

Zechariah the son of Berachiah, the priest, was from Jerusalem. Joash the king slew this (prophet) between the stepsand the altar, and sprinkled his blood upon the horns of the altar, and the priests buried him. John the Baptist the last prophet was beheaded.

• God sent his Son (Jesus) whom the tenants (the Israelites) killed.

• God put the original tenants to death (pronounced judgment upon Israel). From Matthew’s perspective late in the first century, this means the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. by Romans, which took place several years prior to the writing of this Gospel.

Jesus himself lament over destruction of Jerusalem in the Gospel of Luke 19:41-44 Jesus wept over Jerusalem for enemies encircle Jerusalem and destroy it.

• God leased the vineyard to other tenants (the church) who will “give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41).

“There was a man who was a master of a household, who planted a vineyard, set a hedge about it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower” (v. 33b). The people to whom Jesus was speaking would recognize the vineyard imagery from Isaiah 5:1-2 where the landowner planted a vineyard, built a watchtower, and hewed out a wine vat. Jesus uses each of these elements in his story:

This landowner must be wealthy. He spends money freely to make this an excellent vineyard.  This landowner, however, does everything right—everything! He spares no expense in making this a first-class vineyard—a vineyard that lends itself to efficient operation—a vineyard that gives the tenants every advantage.

• In Jesus’ story, the outcome is not the destruction of the vineyard but is instead its transfer to “other farmers, who will give him the fruit (karpous—fruits) in its season” (v. 41).

This means that God has done everything possible to give Israel every advantage. He has established an everlasting covenant with them—has led them through good times and bad—has given them the Promised Land as their inheritance—has given them the law and prophets to guide them.

 “When the season for the fruit drew near” (v. 34). The triple emphasis on “fruit” in these verses reflects the importance of the word throughout this Gospel (see also 3:8; 3:10; 7:17-18; 12:33; 13:23 and 21:19). For Matthew, fruit connotes the produce of one’s life. The Jewish leadership, which failed to produce good fruit, is being disenfranchised, and the vineyard is being given to the church, which will produce good fruit.

: The tenants agreed upon giving the produce. They know they supposed to pay lease rent. The Land belongs to the land owner.  Why should they attack the servants?  Don’t you think they are declaring the war?

 “The farmers took his servants, beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first” (v. 35-36). 

Israel’s treatment of God’s prophets. They killed Zechariah by stoning him (2 Chronicles 24:21)—beat Jeremiah and placed him in the stocks (Jeremiah 20:2)—killed the prophet Uriah (Jeremiah 26:21-23)—and “killed your (God’s) prophets that testified against them to turn them again to you (God)” (Nehemiah 9:26). (See also Matthew 5:12; 23:29-37).

“But afterward he sent to them his son, saying, ‘They will respect my son’” (v. 37). The son, as the father’s heir and official representative, acts with the father’s authority and is entitled to the same respect as these tenants would show the father.

The author of Hebrews expresses the same thought, saying, “God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things”(Hebrews 1:1-2).

“But the farmers, when they saw the son, said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and seize his inheritance’” (v. 38). The tenants, however, see an opportunity to inherit the vineyard by killing the heir. 

Jesus is telling this story to make a point—that he is God’s son sent to redeem the world, and that the Jewish authorities are going to kill him.

 “When therefore the lord (kurios—Lord) of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?” (v. 40). The landowner (oikodespotes—master of the house) of verse 33 becomes the Lord (kyrios

“They told him, “He will miserably destroy those miserable men, and will lease out the vineyard to other farmers, who will give him the fruit in its season” (v. 41). In this verse, the chief priests and elders pronounce judgment on themselves as they tell Jesus how unfaithful tenants should be treated. 

Because they did not produce the fruits- the righteousness, holiness, obedience and honor and glory God with the gift of Promise land, gift of life, gift of everything that they have.  They chose the judgement of God.  And God is just judge.

Matthew writes this Gospel after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., and surely associates this judgment with that event as well as the call of the Gentiles.

However this parable serves as a warning to the new tenants – to all of us.

The Holy Spirit brings about the birth of new churches that, although they might seem unattractive to us, are nevertheless faithful and fruitful. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit breathes new life into the old bones. 


42Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures,

‘The stone which the builders rejected,
the same was made the head of the corner.
This was from the Lord.
It is marvelous in our eyes?’

43“Therefore I tell you, the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation bringing forth its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but on whomever it will fall, it will scatter him as dust.”

“The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the head of the corner” (v. 42). Jesus quotes Psalm 118:22-23. The rejected stone—the crucified Christ—will become the cornerstone (Greek: “head of the corner) of God’s new edifice. In a physical building the “head of the corner” could refer to a stone that supports two walls at a corner—or it could refer to the headstone in an arch or it could mean the cornerstone supports the whole building from falling down.

In Isaiah, God uses cornerstone metaphorically to assure Israel of her secure future (Isaiah 28:16).

In Ephesians, the author speaks of “the household of God” (the church) “being built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19)

Where do we fit in this story?

We fit in the story as new tenants- new believers in Christ- all Christians. You and I are replacement of tenants.  We are given good news of salvation through precious blood of Christ Jesus.  Therefore God expects from us good produce of our life, our God given talents, God given wealth.  This is not our world.  The life does not belong to us God has given us freely as a gift.   Everything that we have gift from God the Almighty. If we don’t bear fruits of righteousness and honor God the vineyard (the kingdom of God) will be taken away from us and given to others.  The story continues.

What is the fair share of a gift?  How can we complain against God? Can you go against God and live?

What might happen if we fail to produce fruits of obedience and honor God?  God would treat us in the same way he treated Israelites.  We are dealing with God.

Never resist God’s warning, 

Never resist God’s voice/word never to mistake the grace of God.

We can never go away with the sins and unholy life. We cannot have kingdom of God without Jesus Christ death and resurrection.

God is looking for people who will bring forth fruit. What kind of fruit? Holy lives—lives lived in accord with God’s will. God won’t judge us based on the number of sermons we have preached or the number of people we have baptized. He will count us as fruitful if we have been faithful.

Verse 44 warns us that the cornerstone becomes a stumbling stone for the unfaithful. It has been said, “You can’t break God’s laws; you can only break yourself on them.” 

This should serve as a warning for us. The day will come when God will demand an accounting, and the stone, intended to provide us a strong foundation, will crush those have failed to position themselves in proper relationship to it.

Prayer: Father God our life is your vineyard.  This is your kind gift to us.  May we always take the keystone –Jesus Christ seriously and be grateful and faithful to Him for His sacrificial love that saved us.  Amen.