An ECCA Parish
In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order
Homily preached at Winmalee
Br Andrew on Sunday 28th September 2014
Gospel Matthew 21:23-32
“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”
Authority is a wonderful thing to have when differences are to be settled and people are to be put in their place, yes authority can be useful. As a citizen of Judah both Civil and Ecclesiastical Bodies held authority over Jesus, just as they did every other citizen. Shortly in (Matthew 22:21) we will learn that Jesus even acknowledged the right of the Roman overlords to exact their taxes. Remember also the time that the collectors of the Temple Tax approached Peter to discover whether Jesus paid that tax, a four drachma coin was found in a fish’s mouth and the tax was paid for both Peter and Jesus – whether the Son of God had to pay it or not. (Matt.17:24-27) Today the Roman Church calls this payment Peter’s pence.
The record in today’s Gospel gives us another incident illustrating one of those situation in which a citizen was required to comply with both Civil – the Elders of the People and Ecclesiastical – the Pharisees; Courts These two Bodies of Law had come out in force to arrest this imposter who recently had disrupted a very lucrative money spinner when he threw the money Changers out of the Temple.
They wanted his piece of Paper – that authorized him to preach and teach.
The Son of Man had no piece of Paper! AND they knew this!
Every Rabbi had his right to practise as an Instructor presented to him by the scribes, or their chief representative, after they had finished their studies at the feet of some great teacher and been solemnly admitted (the delivery of a key, as the symbol of the right to interpret, being the outward token) to that office.
The second question made sense of the first. Could He name the Rabbi who had trained Him, or authorised Him to teach?
As a human being Jesus had not gone through the usual educational and study process to obtain the necessary qualifications, his knowledge and Authority came from his heavenly Father. The Authorities knew he was a paperless Rabbi because they did not have his name in their records, they knew he could not name the Rabbi who had trained him, because there wasn’t one and therefore could arrest him at the very least as an imposter.
Jesus responds to their question “I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 John’s baptism—where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or of human origin?”(21:24,25)
All in a tizz they deliberated that, although they had investigated John the Baptist and found him, let us say satisfactory as a Prophet. To say that John received his authority from God would mean that they must also acknowledge that Jesus’ Authority also came from God. To deny the former would cause the people to riot, because the people believed John was a prophet, this would be disastrous so they lied and said that they didn’t know. So they made fools of themselves implying that experts as they were supposed to be they could not determine the Authenticity of any prophet.
27…. Then (Jesus) said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things”
To the ears of the people of his time his parables were easier to understand and probably held greater depths of meaning as well as any word play that doesn’t come through to translation. For instance – as well as this being a parable it is also a metaphor.
What then did the parable of the two sons say to them? Let’s look at these Old Testament Metaphors:
· Firstly for the Israelites the “Vine” is a symbol of (Israel's) Spiritual privileges.
· Secondly the vineyard was a symbol of (Israel) and its promised prosperity.
Jesus, however is speaking of the Vineyard of the Kingdom of Heaven wherein he is the Vine, (John 15: ) in this Parable I am going to use the symbolism to represent both the Mission field and the Kingdom of Heaven.
Firstly the Parable itself intends the Vineyard to be the Kingdom of Heaven, the place wherein we shall finally attain our perfect spiritual relationship with Jesus. AKA the promised prosperity of Israel
The Sons represent two classes of people, the first: those who erstwhile were tax collectors and sinners but who received the Baptism of John and were converted, his/ their “NO” represents their former lives of sin and their Going to work the Vineyard their conversion and entering first into the kingdom.
The second son represents the second class of people, who were full of self-righteousness; who even after hearing John’s call to repentance had ignored it because they didn’t believe him, or that his call applied to them, the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. Yet after seeing this, they did not repent and believe him. Hence prostitutes and sinners shall enter Heaven before they do.
Later we will read that after the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they realized that he was speaking about them. And in public too!
Now let us compare the vineyard to the Mission field of the world we inhabit, we live in it, we work in it to bring others to know the love of Christ and the reality of the Kingdom and as we do so we grow in spiritual intimacy with him. Jesus is never far away because we are developing an intimate relationship with him that spurs us to do his will gladly.
If we were one of those who, like the Pharisees, only pretend conversion, who have not yet believed in the call to repentance we would soon discover that the Vineyard was too uncomfortable a place to be until we could face up to the darkness within us and believe, until then we try to conceal ourselves with our new clothes and good deeds.
It is not chic to be a Christian, not even a fashion statement, and small communities such as ours must explain our raison d’etre to some of the more innocent members of the Body of Christ that do not realise the necessity for safe havens. Ours, then is a double Mission - not only to seek out the lost but perhaps to make known to the greater Church Community that there is a safe haven for those who do not pass muster, even to show others that they may need to be here too.