spring time, Jerusalem opened its twelve doors to thousands and thousands
of Israelites from all parts of the country. Everyone wanted to take
shelter within its walls to celebrate the great feast of the Passover...
The caravans of pilgrims also included junk dealers pushing their carts,
vendors selling their wares of sweets in baskets on their heads, roving
teachers, prostitutes from the neighboring towns, the Bedouins who were
experts in buying and selling sheep, professional beggars and the old
sitar players seated at the street corners who earned their money by
playing old songs.......
Zither Player: Itís the story of my friend / that Iím going to sing
to you / let me begin: / my good friend had / a vineyard which he treasured
/ and loved without measure. He weeded it, sowed the land / and
built a tower / and a wine press / in anticipation for his grapes /
to fill the buckets with wine / which he also made.
††††††† As we entered the city through the Water Gate,
a lot of people recognized Jesus and followed us. By this time, the
Moreno was already known in the whole of Jerusalem.
a beautiful song, grandpa.
Zither Player: Beautiful and old, my son. Itís seven times older than
I. They say the prophet Isaiah used to sing it right here, beside the
A Man: Now,
Israel has her prophet and Messiah!
A Woman: Yes, sir! Long live Jesus of Nazareth!
live Jesus!.... Long live Jesus!
Zither Player: You mean, the great prophet is here...? Where is he....
turn around, old man.... Itís this bearded guy before you who was praising
Zither Player: Howís that?..... You...? Oh, my son, Iím almost blind,
Another Man: Long live the prophet from Galilee?
††††††† The uproar of those around us was getting louder
and louder. Soon, a group of priests and magistrates from the Sanhedrin
was seen coming out of one of the doors of the Temple in their elegant
tunics and tiaras. From the steps of the Temple, they continued watching
us. They despised Jesus, yet, they also feared him, most especially,
they feared the great mass of people who were gathered around us...
Jesus, who saw them at once, raised his voice...
grandpa, why donít you sing more songs about the vineyard?... Iím sure
the people will listen to you, and surely, youíll be earning some dinarii.
Zither Player: Oh, my son, I donít remember the lines anymore.... How
about you? Maybe youíre a singing prophet, like Isaiah or like our king
I sing worse than a toad.... but let me tell you the story without music...
I think the people up there want to hear it.... Listen... all of you....
There was a master who owned a vineyard. His name was Michael....
Jesus: Michael loved his land very
much. Since it was good land for grapes, he planted a vineyard. He cleaned
his land very well, put a fence around it, put up a wine press beside
it and built a tower where he could see his entire land...††††††††
Michael: Look, son.... What do you think? Isnít this the most
beautiful land of all?
had a son. He loved him very much, more than anything else, more than
his vineyard, so to speak....
Michael: This is your inheritance, son. Take good care of herÖ
The land is like a woman. You have to attend to her, pamper her and
watch over her.... In time, she will give her best fruit.
and his son had to go on an urgent trip. So they decided to lease the
land to a group of tenants...
Michael: My friends, I trust in you. Take out the bad weeds, sprinkle
some fertilizer, water the vineyard, prune the shoots and then at harvest
time gather the grapes and press them in the winepress. On that day,
we shall have a grand celebration!... So long, I leave everything in
your hands. Okay?
A Tenant: All right, master. Donít worry, we shall take care of
the land like it were our own child.
Michael: Thank you, my friends. So long! Horse, letís move, címon!
month had passed and another and another. Then came harvest time.....
A Tenant: Look how beautiful the grapes are, guys!... Theyíre as
big as melons...!
Another Tenant: Yeah, letís cut the bunches and have them made into wine!
Another Tenant: Then letís all drink and have fun!... Yippee!... Iíll
get drunk tonight like old Noah! And let the deluge come, for all I
care... Ha! Ha!
harvest was abundant. The clusters of big sparkling grapes were pressed,
filling the buckets with sweet and foamy wine.
A Tenant: Hik! Hey, you, Acaz, thereís a guy looking for you...
He wants to see the foreman of the vine growers... Hik!
Another Tenant: Iím the foreman here. Hik!... Let him in, and let him
stuff himself with all the grapes he wants. Thereís enough for everyone
A Messenger: Good morning..... SeŮor Michael, the owner, sent me...
He sends you his greetings....
Another Tenant: Well, send him our greetings too....
Messenger: .....and he wants me to tell you to collect your salaries
as agreed upon, since the grapes must have been sold already, and that
the rest of the harvest must be given to me...
Tenant: Howís that again?.... Hik!..... I didnít quite hear you....!
Messenger: ......since the grapes have already been sold, and.....
Tenant: Sold?..... We have drunk and eaten them, thatís it, but
nothing has been sold....! Ha, ha, ha.....!
Another Tenant: Hey, donít be a killjoy.... go away and leave us in peace...
Messenger: But.... I....... what shall I tell my master?
Tenant: Master or no master!... Tell him not to bother us, please...
for weíre too busy.... and sleepy too...... Ahuuuummmm!
the messenger told his master about it....
Michael: Itís my fault. I sent you without a letter signed by
me, and of course, they must have thought that you were a smooth talker
Messenger: Maybe sir, they have a story to tell....
Michael: Okay, donít worry. Iíll send another messenger next week,
to collect the money from the harvest...
the other messenger arrived in the vineyard....
Messenger: SeŮor Michael, the owner has sent me. Heís sending you
his regards. You may look at his signature on this tablet.
A Tenant: Well, send him our greetings too...
Messenger: ...and he asks me to collect the proceeds from the sale
of the harvest....
Another Tenant: There goes the same old story again! Pff!.... What a
bore! Doesnít he have any other story to tell?
Messenger: Well, since the land is his, he wants....
Tenant: His?.... Did you say ďhisĒ?...... Ha, ha, haha! Did you
hear, fellas?.... This is his!.... Ha, ha, hahay!....
Messenger: Wait a minute...! Ahggg...! Wait! Look at his signature
Tenant: Eat that tablet, yourself!...... and enjoy it too!
owner of the vineyard could not believe what happened...
Michael: But how could that be possible...
Messenger: But it happened. Look at my bruises, sir....
Michael: I donít get it! There must be some confusion. Iíll send
another messenger, and the third time will be lucky, as they say.
another messenger went...
Messenger: I came on behalf of my master, SeŮor Michael, the owner
of this farm and he says that.......
Tenant: Hey, fellas, hereís another one!..... Come, letís give
him a nice beating! Ha, ha, ah.......!
Messenger: But, I.....
Another Tenant: No
buts. Here take it, snoopy! Donít pity him...!
enough Michael learned about it.....
Michael: What the hell is happening here? Who do these tenants
think they are? We made a pact, but they broke it.
Messenger: Itís my ribs, sir, they have broken.... I donít think
I have any bone left in place....!
Michael: Iíve had enough of it. Right now Iím sending my son to
put things right.
Messenger: Be careful, sir.... these men are not only thieves, they
are also murderers...
Michael: Donít worry, they will respect my son, of course!
A Tenant: Hey,
look, isnít that the masterís son coming?
Another Tenant: This
is the height of it!.... Either the master is stupid or he is nuts!
Another Tenant: Wait, wait a minute.... Letís all be rational. Heís the
heir of all this land.... If we are not nice to him, then we lose all
this food and our work.
Tenant: Ha, ha, ha! What an imbecile you are, blondy! Hasnít
it occurred to you yet? This is our chance! Heís the heir.... if we
get rid of him, then no one will remain in this land except us...! Do
you get the point, idiots?... We shall be the owners of the land!...
So, fellas, letís do it fast and clean!
the tenants lay hands on the ownerís son who was insulted and spat upon,
beaten and kicked out of the vineyard. After inflicting such brutalities
on him, they cut off his head with a sharpened knife, like they do to
A Woman: Has this thing ever happened before? Where?..... in the north?
the north and in the south. Itís happening right here.... Címon, grandpa...
try to remember.... the last line of your song is something like this....
ďHear the end of my sad song...Ē
Zither Player: Oh, yes, now I remember! Wait a minute, prophet, itís
now coming back......
†††† Hear the last part / of my sad song / God entrusted
his vineyard / to the leaders of Israel / he expected justice / but
reaped only abuses. So Iím suing them / and taking the vineyard from
them / to be given to the poor / because the others have been corrupt
tenants / and now they will know who I am!
good, grandpa, very good. So there goes the end of the story. Yes, God
is the owner of the land and will demand an accounting from this band
of robbers, the leaders of our country; and the vineyard shall be handed
over to us, the poor people of Israel.
A Priest: Are you insinuating something, you cheating Nazarene?!
new, my friend. The old songs of our country are as clear as the morning
sun. You know the song we sing during these holidays. The stone rejected
by the builders was chosen by God to strengthen the corners in the topmost
part of the building. The builders did not see the value of the stone.
The tenants did not listen to the messages of the owner of the vineyard.
You, leaders of Israel, are like them: blind and deaf. You donít forgive
those who criticize you. When the prophets came, you beat them and persecuted
them, and even ridiculed them. John came and you silenced him, until
finally, you had him beheaded. And now...
Another Priest: And now what?!
now you want to do the same with the son: you want to kill him.
††††††† The silence that ensued was broken by a shout
of one of the priests:
you hear him?! He says he is the son of God!... Everyone has heard the
blasphemy!!..... Thatís blasphemy! Thatís blasphemy!!!
††††††† The priests rushed toward us, screaming like
mad. With stones they picked up in the street, they began to hurl them
at Jesus, who was covered by the crowd as it retaliated against the
Sanhedrin leaders and members. Stones rained on all sides. It was a
moment of great confusion. Finally, we were able to mingle with the
swarm of foreigners who were beginning to engulf the streets, and left
††††††† Inside its walls, in the Street of Doves beside
the Temple, the old zither player with the white beard continued with
Zither Player: People of Jerusalem / inhabitants of Judas / come and
tell me: / what else could I do / for the vineyard that I sowed? / what
more could I offer it?
In the Old Testament, the vineyard was a symbol used oftentimes to represent
Israel, the people of God (Is 27:1-6; Ps 80:9-17). The song sung by
the old zither player in this episode is the ďsong of the vineyardĒ
(Is 5:1-7), a poem composed by the prophet Isaiah before he started
his preaching, probably on the occasion of the harvest. It is one of
the major literary texts in the entire Old Testament. Grape planting,
which is typical of Palestine and the neighboring countries along the
Mediterranean Sea, demands special care. Isaiah speaks of this special
care in his poem. The clearing of the land, the construction of the
watchtower and the winepress, etc., are symbolic of Godís care and affection
for his people.
Aside from the official singers and musicians serving in the Temple
of Jerusalem, from the religious class (Levites), experts in various
instruments (flute, harp, drum, trumpet, etc.), there were also street
singers in Jerusalem, like the old man in this episode. Even to this
day, this group still exists in many towns and villages. The songs and
poems eventually become the collective memory of the people. Through
these verses, they transmit from one generation to another the life
and sentiments of the people. Before these were written, a number of
great literary works in the ancient times were sung and orally transmitted
by roving minstrels.
The parable of ďthe evil tenantsĒ may be read as an allegory where each
of the elements of the story has a meaning. God is the owner of the
vineyard, which is Israel. The messengers send by the master to collect
the fruits of the harvest are the prophets. Jesus is the son of the
owner. The tenants who rejected the messengers are the religious leaders
of Israel, who seek to defend their sole interests, under the guise
of false fidelity to religion. In order to attain this, they vilify,
defame and even murder the prophets who expose their misbehavior.
Jesus often stressed the difficult mission that the messengers of the
Kingdom had to face. He said they would be like ďlambs among wolvesĒ
(Mt 10:16). He warned them of doors being shut in their faces, of their
being accused as heretics, of their being charged in tribunals, and
their being killed. This had been the fate of the ancient prophets,
and will continue to be so for the artisans of justice of the Kingdom.
Not all persons vilified and persecuted are prophets, but all true prophets
are always vilified and persecuted. Such persecution is a guaranteed
sign of the authenticity of working for justiceís sake. The contrary
Ė a road full of roses and comfort Ė would mean a betrayal of the gospel,
no matter if proclaimed in the Lordís name (Lk 6:26). Up to this day,
the prophets are still being persecuted, tortured and murdered. This
unjust world rejected by them is ďnot worthy of themĒ (Heb 11:35-38)
and the hope in the new world which they are fighting for sustains them
amid all their sufferings (2 Cor 4:7-15).
This parable speaks of the inconceivable patience of God, which is due
to end. The time has come Ė Jesus says in this story Ė when the limit
has been reached and God will seize the vineyard from the leaders of
the country and give it to ďothers.Ē These ďothersĒ are the poor, despised
by the religious institution, those who matter only because they are
many in numbers, those who pay their tithes, and comply with oppressive
laws. They will be the heirs of the vineyard. Isaiahís song is a sad
one, something that reflects betrayal. The religious leaders of Israel
have been unjust, have oppressed the handicapped, resorted to violence,
and monopolized the harvest... So the Lord had to decide: the leaders
are out and the heirs shall be the poor.
The title ďson of GodĒ attributed to Jesus marks the continuity of his
mission along the same line as that of the great prophets of Israel.
He presents himself before his people and before the religious as Godís
final messenger Ė the son of the owner, who fully knows the ownerís
will Ė who likewise affirms, in a definite manner, the plan of the Father.
Godís patience is over: God shall relinquish the vineyard to the poor,
who in turn will sow, and collect the harvest, so that they may live.
In talking about the stone chosen by God to become the cornerstone of
the building, Jesus makes reference to some verses of the solemn psalm
of the Passover (Ps 118). The psalm tells us how God is able to change
things: the stone rejected by the builders is given the most important
place by God. Jesus, the poor man, is the cornerstone. The poor are
the stones for the building (1 P 2:5). The psalm ends with an expression
of marvel: ďThis is the work of God, and we marvel at it.Ē Godís decision
is amazing. It is the very essence of the gospel: The last shall be
the first, the outcasts shall be the chosen ones.
21:33-46; Mk 12:1-12; Lk 20: 9-19)